Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Career Decisions: Following Tradition

As I sit on a houseboat in Lake Powell I’m vacationing with a well educated group of people. I’ve got lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, PhD’s and educators sitting around me. And as all good houseboat trips include, there are lots of children. As parents, all of us want the best future for our children. And for most people, a college education is a first step in getting a better education.

Looking at resumes and working with wine industry professionals, I see every background in the book. From the career changing self educated salesperson to the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology PhD, every background has its place.

If you’ve come to love the winemaking world, and want to be involved in making wine, the best first step is to work a harvest. Believing you will love it, the next best step is to get a degree in viticulture and enology.

I am a firm believer in going to the best school that you can. But even more important is graduating from the best school possible. Going to community college for two years of undergraduate work and transferring in to a well respected school can save you money on the front end, and allow you to gain the GPA you need to be accepted into the right school. For winemaking, UC Davis is the school to attend. Other good schools in California are CSU Fresno and CalPoly. The professors you will interact with and the research you can be involved with will set you up well for future positions.

I do believe that going to the best school in your discipline is the best thing you can do. Many of my clients will request a manager with an MBA from one of the top 50 US business schools. Going the distance and getting a degree lends a “stick-to-itness” that employers feel will serve them well in the future.
Also, professional degrees including law and medical degrees allow a fall back career to you anytime. Having a professional degree allows you to experiment with different career paths, and find the vein of your profession you enjoy most.

Many job seekers have a law degree but decide to try out production positions. More often than not, they move into the executive circle working on land-use, merger and acquisition, or trademark issues. They are able to marry their love of wine with their professional training—with financially rewarding results.

So, while I think many people can succeed without a degree, there is definitely a place for a degree, and often job security to be had with one.


Unknown said...

Thank you for a thought provoking article on wine industry education.

What advice would you give to a retired federal government employee (age 54) that is interested in going back to school and pursing a degree in the wine industry? I have an undergraduate degree in Business (marketing) and a masters degree in an unrelated field. Thank you in advance for any thoughts you might have.


Amy said...

Dear Randy:

Do you need to work after retirement? Are you interested in learning more about wine and possibly working in the wine world? I think it's good to "get your feet wet" and work at a winery part-time to see if it's something that appeals to you. If you are truly interested, I suggest taking some extension courses in wine marketing, business or winemaking before taking the plunge and getting a full fledged wine degree.

Unknown said...

Dear Amy,

My sincerest thanks for your wonderful blog. I recently shifted from teaching French to a wine sales position. As a new member of the wine community, I find your advice pragmatic and encouraging. I am especially interested in trade negotiations between US wineries and importers with their French counterparts. This particular blog was the only direct answer I could find as to whether an MBA would be useful in my future pursuits in a career. I'm guessing from your article that this would be a real advantage. My plan is to spend at least another year in sales before I enroll as a full time graduate student. Is there anything you would suggest in addition to this?

Thank you again for the awesome adivice.


Amy said...

Dear Sarah:

Thanks for the kind comments. I would encourage you to get any foothold into the wine world now or during your MBA work. If you can do a market research project for a wine or spirits company or distributor, that would give you first hand wine industry experience. That would be a great help when you are looking to use your MBA in the wine industry. Good Luck!