Teaching Engineers to Be Business Leaders

A year ago, UC-Berkeley’s College of Engineering launched a leadership program for Silicon Valley engineers who wanted a deep dive in business and management but didn’t want to commit to an MBA program. Meeting every Monday night for six months, Berkeley’s Engineering Leadership Professional program has attracted engineers from Facebook, Cisco, Yahoo, Applied Materials and Network Appliances, among others.

The $12,500 program has been a big success, drawing 45 participants last year and 48 this year. “This is a hidden gem of a program,” says Ikhlaq Sidhu, the curriculum designer and academic director of the program. “The first year they liked it. This year they love it. The goal is to help engineers and scientists lead and innovate.”

And now two prominent business schools—IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology–are partnering with Berkeley to bring a version of the program global. The schools plan to launch the new program, which will combine three weeks of in-person sessions with six months of online learning, in March of next year.

“Today, so many technical decisions are also business decisions,” adds Sidhu. “Our curriculum offers both real life technology leadership perspectives and proven academic frameworks.”


One of the unique aspects of the $22,000 global program is that graduates of the program will earn six months of credit toward an IE Business MBA degree. If they chose, they can enroll in IE’s blended in-person and online MBA program and get an MBA with another ten months of study. They’ll have up to two years to exercise that option.

“Most engineers are struggling between doing executive education or getting an MBA,” believes Paris de L’Etraz, a professor of entrepreneurship at the IE Business School and the executive director of the new program. “If they do an executive education program, they are paying a lot of money and not getting academic credit for it. If they go for an MBA, the opportunity costs of leaving their jobs is enormous and they think they will leave a technical position and do a lot of stuff that isn’t of interest to them. This program kills two birds with one stone.”

The program will help engineers influence top-level strategy as a technical leader or senior manager, lead and manage technical teams, and increase the value derived from research and development and technical operations.


The new program begins with a week-long session in Silicon Valley, then morphs into online mode for three months of Internet study, followed by a week in Hong Kong and then three more months of online work. It concludes with a weeklong residential session in Madrid at IE Business School. Then, participants will be given two years in which to decide whether they want to pursue IE’s blended global MBA program.

“For the week in Silicon Valley, we actually have lined up a set of faculty from Stanford and Berkeley and industry people from the valley,” adds Sidhu. “In Hong Kong, there is a whole different set of faculty and industry people who can talk about how to do business in Asia. And in Madrid, the IE Business School professors plus people we will fly from Silicon Valley will address the leadership and culture building issues. The blended stuff in between will be done by IE professors.”

The idea for the new program was triggered by de L’Etraz who had heard about the success of the Berkeley program. “Why not do a blended version for students who can’t come to Silicon Valley?” he asked. “I had been looking at programs that take engineers and open their minds to business.”

The schools will begin to accept applications for the new program within a couple of weeks.

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