“I’m here to learn more about transitioning from a traditional finance business background into technology,” Alves says. “I’d like to leverage my product management experience with my business degree to go into startups in the technical space.”
Alves notes a hurdle she’ll have to leap on her way to to her tech-venture target: “I know sometimes the value of the MBA isn’t easily seen by these companies,” she says. “How do we communicate our value to these companies?”
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE DEGREE
One answer came during boot camp in a talk by Stanford MBA Scott McGaraghan, an energy-tech specialist and enterprise partner at Nest, the home-tech startup bought last year by Google for $3.2 billion. “He really went into how when you’re in the room it’s about showing what you’ve done,” Alves says. “You’re not so much playing up the MBA, but you’re taking about what you’ve done with the MBA.”
Before classes have even started, Alves’ rationale for entering Tuck has been validated. She chose the program because of its relatively small size and intimacy, and its close, effective alumni network, she says. On each of three visits to the school, she had dinner by a fireplace. And alumni have already proven ready to assist.
“They’re helping us with understanding our fit, they’re helping us with what questions we want to have answered,” she says.
Early in the boot camp, Alves learned that networking in Silicon Valley is certainly about who you know, but it’s not a numbers game. “It’s that good people follow good people and that’s how you get known,” she says. “It’s really starting out with knowing that one intelligent driver, one strong worker and strong performer. Then you partner with success. It’s by introduction, it’s by a relationship.”
Alves is looking to start her post-MBA career in Boston or Silicon Valley, with a preference for the latter. “It’s a place that really understands creativity. It is non-traditional and it is what you can make of it. If you have a great idea, no matter who you are or where you’re coming from, the idea is heard first and the market responds.”
Unlike many of the Tuck boot camp participants, Vishnu Malli had already spent a fair amount of time in Silicon Valley. As a client partner in Arizona for Indecomm, a consulting, outsourcing, education, and technology company, Malli’s work took him to the San Francisco Bay Area fairly often. “But I’ve never gotten an in-depth view of companies the way I’m doing now, by spending time in these companies and meeting folks who are working here, and also understanding the kind of roles they are hiring business school students for,” says Malli, 33, who has an undergraduate degree in computer science from VTU Regional University in India.
The Indecomm job, which he held for three years after another seven years with the company, leaned heavily toward tech. Malli’s responsibilities included developing and executing global IT strategies for clients, and establishing a technology advisory group to work with Indecomm’s sales organization on pre-sales. For Malli, the boot camp was filling in gaps in his knowledge about the region’s tech sector, and the opportunities it holds for MBAs. “I think the technology industry hiring MBAs is kind of a new direction, or a new concept. So the information that’s out there is not much. For us to come and see that business school talent or MBAs are really valued in these companies and get an idea of the different roles they are hiring for has been very useful,” Malli says.
‘ARE THEY OPEN TO BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS?’
He and his peers shared similar questions about how business school graduates would fit in Silicon Valley, he says. “That’s been an interesting concern that all of us have had,” he says. “The tech industry is strongly driven by technology and engineering, it’s usually founded by engineers and usually run by engineers. Are they open to business school students? I think the answer is yes, now, because many of these companies are growing much bigger. They need these skills.”
The students’ visit to Google suggested to Malli that one particular quality is necessary for working at the company. “You need to be very agile. People who like structure will not do well at Google. They’re looking for people who are entrepreneurial in the way they work.