04-800-AG   Business Fundamentals for Engineers

Location: Africa

Units: 12

Semester Offered: Spring

Course description

Participating as an executive in a successful technology business requires familiarity with several fundamental business functions:

  • Strategic planning
  • Finance (including accounting)
  • Product development and innovation
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resource management
Furthermore, it requires understanding that all businesses operate in the context of a larger economy influenced by government regulations.

The goal of this course is to give students the foundational knowledge they need to understand how technology businesses operate and the environment in which they do so. The course will include textbook readings, article readings, class discussions, and hands on exercises using various free digital tools. Although the emphasis will be on technology companies, much of what is learned will be applicable to businesses in general.

Learning objectives

Students will acquire an executive perspective for thinking about technology businesses. They will:

  • Understand the broader economic environment in which businesses operate, and how governmental regulation can affect the business environment
  • Understand basic accounting principles and the key financial statements used to assess a company’s financial performance: the balance sheet, the income statement, and the cash flow statement
  • Know that strategic planning involves analyzing a business’s current situation, developing a vision for the business’s future, creating a strategy to achieve that vision, and an execution plan to operationalize the strategy
  • Understand key marketing concepts such as product positioning, competitive analysis, branding, and pricing strategy
  • Know how to analyze the tradeoffs involved between in-house product development and outsourcing. Know the role of core competencies and how to develop and maintain them
  • Understand the roles of sales, marketing, HR, and operations in an organization
  • Grasp basic managerial principles and appreciate managerial challenges
  • Be able to competently engage in wide-ranging discussions about business issues


After completing the course, students will be able to do the following:

  • Competently engage with employees of diverse technology businesses and understand the business issues they confront
  • Read business literature, such as articles from the Harvard Business Review, and extract lessons from it that are relevant to their business
  • Use Quickbooks or a similar free tool (e.g. ZipBooks or gnucash) to track a company’s financial transactions and generate financial statements
  • Use a free CRM tool, such as HubSpot CRM, to manage customer contacts
  • Create the agenda for a strategy planning session and conduct such a meeting
  • Create a presentation describing a product’s market position relative to competitors
  • Call on a customer and conduct a sales meeting
  • Apply managerial principles in common business situations

Content details

Course content will comprise selections from the following sources (and others):

  • Openstax textbook: "Introduction to Business"
  • "Little Red Book of Selling"
  • Harvard Business Review articles
  • WSJ and other current events sources

Microtopics reinforcing the above objectives and enabling the listed outcomes include:

  • Macro and micro economics and competition in a free market
  • The importance of specialization, productivity, innovation, and trade for economic growth and business success.
  • The role of trade
  • Corporations and the concept of limited liability
  • Organizational structures
  • Employee compensation, training, and managing conflict
  • The production process and operations management
  • Market segmentation, the product life cycle, buyer behavior, and pricing strategies
  • Accounting principles: T-accounts, chart of accounts, financial statements
  • Return on investment, interest rates, raising capital
  • Selling strategies and the role of advertising




Michael Perkins