M.S. in Management of Technology Degree Helps UX Designer Find Untapped Leadership Potential | Technological Leadership Institute
“I never had aspirations to be a CEO. I never thought I could work in a corporate environment. But I’m learning that I can be a strong leader, and I can fit in to a corporate environment, even if my way might be a little unconventional.”
Jen Shaffer first began experimenting with HTML coding as an undergraduate student while working as an intern for the University of Minnesota registrar’s office. She gained important foundational skills in website design, but her creative personality eventually led to her pursue a career in user experience (UX).
“UX is better fit for me and the way I think.”
Shaffer never had plans to continue her education after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. But after nearly a decade working in the industry, she was promoted to a management position at healthcare software company Optum, and she felt she needed to learn additional skills.
“My move into management just kind of happened organically,” Shaffer says. “In my previous roles, I was always focused on the immediate work. I didn’t have a lot of experience in process or strategy.”
Her supervisor recommended the Master of Science in Management of Technology (MOT) degree program, and Shaffer joined the cohort in 2013.
“I decided to take the leap and enroll because I knew it would help me be a better manager. I always felt like I had a disadvantage because I didn’t have the same education as those who had an MBA. I needed an advanced degree to keep up with them.”
Although similar to an MBA degree, the MOT is a management degree with an emphasis in strategic technological leadership, and has distinctions for technology-based professionals like Shaffer. Through the program, she was exposed to different aspects of the technology industry she hadn’t had experience with before.
“The financial aspects, like creating budgets, and the accounting courses, were very eye-opening. I never had that visibility in any of my roles.”
In addition to the business management courses, MOT students also take courses in communication, which stress the importance of presentation skills. Shaffer says that newfound expertise has been invaluable.
“I used to be okay with winging it, but I learned that preparing and practicing makes a difference,” Shaffer explains. “Since graduating, I’ve given presentations to senior management, and I’ve been able to present much more clearly and succinctly.”
Shaffer said the most appealing part of the MOT program was its flexible schedule and short time frame.
“I wanted to get in and out quickly. MOT is designed around working professionals. My job is very demanding so it was important that I was able to maintain a professional career.”
Shaffer has been more than able to just maintain her career as a senior UX manager at Optum. She says her team of 10 designers will soon grow to 15, and thanks to her degree from TLI, she’ll have no problem stepping into the expanded leadership role.
“Before I was a manager, I was in the trenches. I had no idea how to create a road map or integrate what we do into product development lifecycles,” she says. “MOT gave me an understanding of process and strategic planning from an IT perspective. I learned about forecasting and being able to think ahead.”
The M.S. in Management of Technology degree program prepares technology professionals, like Shaffer, to be industry leaders. If you have at least five years of full-time work experience in a science, engineering or technology-related career field, you may be qualified for the MOT degree program.
Before I was a manager, I was in the trenches. I had no idea how to create a road map or integrate what we do into product development lifecycles. MOT gave me an understanding of process and strategic planning from an IT perspective. I learned about forecasting and being able to think ahead.