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Reality IT: Advancing by Degrees

When I decided I wanted to advance to the C-level of the IT profession, I knew I'd need a master's degree. Like many IT professionals, I have quite a few vendor certifications and a bachelor's degree in the technology field, but most of the CIOs I know have advanced degrees. I chose an MBA program that blended technical and management coursework.

Overall, it was a good decision, but I didn't account for the enormity of the challenge. I assumed my practical knowledge and experience would make the technical courses a breeze. I was in for a surprise.

The school required you to take two courses just to apply for formal acceptance in the program. When I saw they had a Network Communications & Protocols course, I thought it would be easy and familiar. In fact, it was daunting, both in terms of workload and technical depth.

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would say, "No TV until your homework is done"? Suddenly I found myself back in that very same position. Every two weeks we had to hand in 10 homework questions: Compare and contrast different router protocols, describe in detail the use of a collision domain, diagram all components needed for VoIP service ....

Ten questions may not sound like much, but the instructor required such extraordinarily detailed answers that I found myself going beyond the three required texts to my own stack of technology books to write satisfactory answers. Each homework set took anywhere from six to eight hours to complete--that was on top of attending lectures and studying for exams, plus completing the workload from the second course, which was on e-commerce.

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