If you had to start your
career over again, what would you do differently?
Sometimes one fantasizes about going back and doing some other
things, such as becoming an expert skier or a Talmudic scholar in
Jerusalem, but in reality everything I've done is working to my
benefit and helping me today, so I probably wouldn't change it.
My early days as a professional symphony orchestra musician taught
me discipline, the ability to perform under battle conditions and
to understand what it takes to strive and succeed. My early tech
days formed a great foundation I fall back on now for being able
to organically decide how things should be put together. My early
ventures taught me sales, marketing and focus and the myriad startups
I've worked with taught me why businesses succeed and why they fail.
Plus my many projects have been useful, especially the failures,
so I know what to watch out for before things go awry.
How do you value educational
vs. job experience?
Ironic question, given I chair the E-Commerce program at Columbia
University. While I have a college degree, the bulk of my knowledge
is self-taught. College is very important to give you a framework
for how to learn, but the real learning is always done on your own,
and that is a gift you either have or don't. Job experience is invaluable
as there are things you just can't learn out of a book. I think
that specific programs, like the one I chair, can help you get jump
started into a new area and fill gaps, so they do have their usefulness.
How important is an
An MBA is good for learning the lingo of the business world and
for making contacts, but the downside is that it isn't a panacea
for how to be successful at business. B-school gives you a very
narrow cross section of how business works, which needs to be widened
and deepened with real world experience. I judged MBA presentations
at NYU a few months ago, and not a single one of these talented
students came up with anything practical.
How worthwhile is it
to formulate a career strategy?
Another loaded question. I was just invited to lecture on that
very subject at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas
at Austin, so this could obviously be the subject of an entire essay.
Everyone wants to know where he or she is going, especially if
you are highly motivated, so it is inevitable that a career strategy
be formulated so that you can efficiently use your time and resources
for achieving your goals. From early high school up until I landed
a job with a major US orchestra (in 1982), I was single minded in
my pursuits of my goals. When I finally landed a major symphony
job, I suddenly realized that I was too much of a maverick to be
in that kind of structure for the rest of my life - one chief and
everyone else an Indian. That was a shock, but it also taught me
that you never know the direction that your life will go, or where
you eventually will want to go. So I always advocate planning tempered
with flexibility so that you can be ready to take advantage of the
gifts that life tosses your way. In fact, that is what I enjoy the
most about what I do now - I never know what will interesting opportunity
or client will come across the transom, and that is tremendously
fun, exciting and satisfying.
To others it is horrifying.
What does management
mean to you?
When I originally interviewed for a project manager job at Lehman
Brothers(the Wall St. firm) back in 1993, that was the only question
my boss asked me. I answered something like the following:
"The purpose of management is to see that your firm's goals and
objectives are met. The manager is empowered to take responsibility
and see that all steps are taken to arrive at that goal. This includes
the management of staff and other managers and project leaders,
acquisition of resources and products, and engendering the cooperation
of others who may control resources you need to achieve your goals."
My upcoming book has a section on Project Management, and I start
that section with that very question: "What is project management?"
(you'll have to buy the book to hear the answer - grin)
Visit Michael Drapkin online at www.drapkintechnology.com