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Better route? Business or Technical?

Dear Office Politics,

Amongst the companies I’ve worked for (all have been petrochemical), the professionals that chose the technical route seem to have less opportunity than those professionals that chose the business route. Even women that get engineering degrees tend to go the business route or they can get boxed in.

What trends have you observed amongst the professionals you have talked with?



susan bulkeley butler

Dear Trainer/Mentor,

This is a good queston. I believe that some technical professionals “let themselves” get boxed in because they don’t know where they can go in the business (operations) route. I think more about business operations as these are generally the positions where the senior leadership team generally comes from. Most people in business have technical skills as well as business skills.

More importantly, technical professionals don’t know where they want to go even in the technical route (to be senior leaders there) and how to make that happen. What skills and responsibilities are needed to go up the ladder. I advise technical professionals that they may want to get an MBA to provide more opportunities for career growth. Combining technical and business skills are what the leaders across the board really need.

And lastly, I recommend that everyone asks for what they want. In an annual review, I suggest that you talk about your career aspirations so your career counselor knows. Everyone needs to have others on their team to make something happen. I finally had to ask for the position that I wanted in order to make sure that I was considered. After I did that, I found out that I probably would not have been considered, because there was a move that had to be made and they assumed that I wouldn’t move. Another woman didn’t get the promotion she wanted because her bosses didn’t know that she wanted it!

Remember — Bosses are not mind readers. Ask for what you want.


Susan Bulkeley Butler
Author, Become the CEO of You, Inc.
Your Virtual Mentor

What's your advice?

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