Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave the world something to Tweet about earlier this week when she said in a Quora interview that an MBA isn’t important in the tech industry.
Specifically, Sandberg – who is a Harvard Business School graduate – wrote:
“… MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry.”
Well, I never!
As an MBA and Facebook alumnus who had a great career in tech,* I’m not going to just sit here and let her defame the beloved degree that keeps my self-esteem warm at night.
So, I hereby go on record as taking great exception to her words for three important reasons:
- I have a book coming out next year titled You Should Totally Get an MBA: A Comedian’s Guide to Top Tier Business Schools,
- Contrived outrage is good for publicity (just ask those brats at Yale). And, most importantly…
- If she’s right, then my entire professional self-concept is a wretched, hollow fantasy.
To get clear on the message here, let’s look closely at Sandberg’s words:
“I don’t believe MBA <degrees> are important for working in the tech industry”
I guess I can understand an HBS alum saying something like this. But what if she had attended a really good program, like Dartmouth’s Tuck School? Perhaps she would consider the degree more than just résumé frippery for bankers, trust fund d-bags, and the next Jeffrey Skilling.
Truth is the tech industry needs business schools – especially HBS. Where else would it get business development people? From Peter Thiel’s kinder-preneurship camps? I don’t think so. One needs more than pleated khakis and a drab personality to do Business Development – one also needs a driver’s license!
Further, modern tech BD droids can’t just be the same ol’ Wall Street and McKinsey flunkies they were a few years ago. Today’s business development professionals requires specific skills, such as:
- Taking good notes,
- Saying “net-net” a lot, and…
- Pretending that they’ve closed a deal when they get an NDA signed.
Guess where one acquires these critical skills? That’s right – business school.
“… MBAs are not necessary at Facebook”
These words hurt my heart, but they do explain some of the experiences I had as a Facebook employee.
When interviewing for a job on the start-up’s sales team in 2007, I spoke with a young product manager, naturally dropping into conversation multiple times the fact that I had an Ivy League MBA. When done by HBS students and alumni this is called “dropping the H-bomb.” We didn’t have an equivalent at Dartmouth because “dropping the D-bomb” sounds creepy. (Also because when you tell a normal, non-MBA person that you go to Tuck, they generally say, “What the hell is a Tuck?”)