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At Red Hot Stanford, Tech Fever Slims MBA Pickings For Traditional Companies

Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business   - Ethan Baron photo

Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

For MBA graduates, going into tech doesn’t have to mean taking a job with a technology company or birthing a technology startup. The realities of 21st Century business mean traditional sectors must increasingly focus on technology in all aspects of their operations. This adaptation has created a host of new industries, with names that are usually an abbreviation of the sector of origin with the word “tech” added to the end: “fin-tech” for technology in finance; “ed-tech” for technology in education; “health-tech” for technology in healthcare. Add in the technology involved today in everything from marketing to online sales, and it’s clear that MBAs interested in traditional sectors have no need to exclude themselves from the ever-expanding tech revolution.

“Technology is on fire,” says Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “It’s not only tech companies that offer students an opportunity. It’s also traditional companies just leveraging technology.

“In terms of job function, the adoption of new and emerging technologies into the supply and value chains of most industries has also created new tech-centric career options within traditional companies. Think about the impact of technological advances on big-box retail chains or entertainment companies. These technologies include cloud computing, big data, data analytics, mobile, wireless, mobile apps, social media, content creation and sharing platforms—the list is endless.”


And, adds GSB employer relations and recruiting director Becky Charvat, the booming Silicon Valley economy is creating job opportunities across a spectrum of industries. “It doesn’t have to be technology,” Charvat says. “There has been this proliferation of companies, and companies that are open to MBAs. There is a proliferation because money is easy to come by in the Valley.”

Last year, in fact, the median total starting pay package, including base salary, sign-on bonus, and other guaranteed compensation, pulled down by graduating GSBers was $148,230–just shy of Harvard’s $148,713. The average was much greater: $169,274. And yet that sum does not include the value of stock options which are prevalent in the Valley. A recent survey of Stanford grads, in fact, found that 37% of school’s 2010 MBAs reported getting stock options with a median value of $250,000.

That’s great news for students, of course, but for recruiters seeking talent for traditional jobs in traditional industries, “the pool of candidates is definitely smaller,” Richard says.

Over the past five years, “consulting has had to work a lot harder to attract students,” Richard says. “Tech and finance are kind of neck and neck all the time at the GSB.” It’s not all bad news for traditional businesses, however – the pickings may be slimmer, but they’re high quality, Richard says. Students who remain focused on careers in industries such as banking, consulting, consumer packaged goods, and brand management have a strong passion for their fields of choice, which can be attractive to recruiters, she says. “They’re definitely a dedicated bunch,” Richard says.


And because traditional business is not immune to today’s pace of change or to the constant disruption technology brings to commerce, many companies in traditional industries are looking to innovate, and are seeking MBAs with expertise in tech innovation who aren’t necessarily looking for a career in the industry they land in straight out of business school, Richard says. In the past, employers would say they wanted MBAs who were going to stay with the company for two or three decades, but now they’re often comfortable with hiring those who will only stay two to four years, she says. That evolution in hiring practices means, for example, that an MBA interested in tech can use a traditional industry as a stepping stone to work in a technology firm, while also opening up possible future opportunities through connections made via the initial work.

In the past few years at the GSB, the student population has become increasingly interested in graduating into jobs that require creativity and provide relatively immediate impact.

“They’re really less interested in delayed gratification. They want it right away, so they are hungry,” Richard says.