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I have a master's degree in mechanical engineering, an MBA in project management and two years of work experience. I am currently working in a technical sales role, and would like to pursue this career path. Ideally, I would like to move into a top management role, making and influencing decisions. I understand, though, that this will take time. In the meantime, I would like to pursue further professional development courses. I considered a management doctorate, but I wasn't able to find a good distance-learning or part-time option from a reputable institute. Thus, I am thinking of qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or the Institute of Cost Accountants of India. I would like your advice on which would be best option. Although I was educated in the United Kingdom, I am currently based in Pune, India.


Where you want to live and work and where you want to end up – in India, the U.K., the United States, Canada or somewhere else – will help you to focus your career development options.

It sounds as if you already have the necessary educational background to move up in your current company or other private sector firms. Often, new graduates think that more formal education will allow them to advance faster when what they really need is more practical work experience.

Be clear on what you want to do with your career and where you want to end up. Determine what area of senior management and in what sector you would like to work. Consider working with a career coach or counsellor to clarify your career vision.

Then research what experience and educational background are required to move into these areas. Speak to senior executives and HR officials in companies that interest you. Ask them about their companies, their career development and educational background. Talk to officials from professional and industrial associations too. Ask them if they were in your shoes, what they would be doing in order to move into senior management.

Do your research on the educational and professional development programs. Talk to the faculty or trainers, students and alumni. Ask them what they liked and did not like about the programs and what they would change about their experience.

Remember that your career path will be unique to you, so use your judgment when applying their advice to your development path.

Be clear on what leadership and management skills you want to enhance. With respect to doctorate-level business programs, they typically have more of an academic and research focus. These programs will help you further develop and hone your research and analytical skills. Private sector firms do not often expect their top executives to have doctoral degrees unless it is in the biotechnology, medical, pharmaceutical or technology sectors. Also realize that doctoral programs require significant investments of time, energy and money. Most highly regarded doctorate programs are full time as opposed to part-time or distance learning at this point.

If you are interested in developing your accounting, auditing and financial skills, then the CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) and ICWAI (Institute of Cost Accountants of India) will allow you to do this. If you are interested in working in countries other than India, you should consider CIMA since this is a globally recognized designation. Often people who take these programs want to move more into the finance, IT and operational side of businesses. You can rise to the level of chief financial officer, chief information officer, chief technology officer, or chief operating officer, which can often be a stepping stone to the chief executive officer level.

Finally, build your network. Find mentors who can guide you and share their experience in rising up the corporate ladder. They can also help you to identify appropriate career paths, professional development courses and career opportunities.

Bruce Sandy is principal of Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting and He works with clients in Canada and abroad.

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