A NEED DERIVED FROM A PIVOT
The idea stemmed from a summer internship. Kirby came to Booth with a professional background steeped in healthcare finance consulting. But he spent the summer dabbling in the world of venture capital through an internship at Silicon Valley-based GE Ventures. After his summer, he was uncertain about his post-MBA career path–and he definitely didn’t believe he was alone.
“A lot of people coming into an MBA program are making a decision between two or three career paths,” Kirby explains. “Maybe they are coming from consulting and looking at going back or entering tech or consulting versus banking, or whatever it is. And so they are looking at where people are making money, where people are happy, and what first offers look like.”
However, Kirby did have one company in mind that he thought he’d like to work for. So he did what most would do in his position. He scoured the likes of Glassdoor and sought advice from career services.
“I knew that Boothies had gone there in the past to work,” Kirby insists. “So I went on Glassdoor to see what an offer there would be like and none of the offers on Glassdoor were relevant to someone with an MBA. You couldn’t just go on there and filter to find someone with an MBA at a specific company and see what types of roles they are working.”
And when he looked within the community for help, he found good intentions but not necessarily what he needed.
“Career services gives some great options, but where it lacks is you can generally only see things at the industry level,” Kirby concedes. “You can’t see specific companies. And we also wanted deeper metrics with compensation and satisfaction levels.”
CODING 60 HOURS A WEEK ALONGSIDE EARNING A BOOTH MBA
So when Kirby enrolled in classes this past fall, he did so with the idea to build a game-changing system to fill some of those gaps. He enrolled in Application Development, which is essentially a coding and web development course that uses the Ruby on Rails framework and is taught by Booth Professor Raghu Betina. Within four months of beginning the course, Kirby, who says he spent about 60 hours per week coding and developing the site, had built the platform entirely by himself.
When he launched in January, the feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, he recruited five other team members, three of which are fellow Boothies, to help build the tool. Alyssa Jaffee, who is heading up business development, also saw an immediate need for the platform.
“Like Mitch, I came to Booth wanting to do something that I eventually pivoted out of,” the 29-year-old Chicago native says. “And that process was really difficult for us. It was a lot of ad hoc advice. It was a lot of hearsay about certain companies. It almost seemed like things were more hushed on getting that perspective of career-changing decisions, compensation decisions and it was really isolating at times.”
Jaffee had worked earlier for the Advisory Board Company, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm focused on healthcare, education and tech. Since coming to Booth, she has also focused on venture capital and currently is a member of Chicago-based Hyde Park Angels.
TAKING THE PLATFORM TO CAREER SERVICES
Akin to Kirby, Jaffee was seeing the holes in the resources already available.
“Folks can go over to Glassdoor–we’ve seen our classmates on Glassdoor–but you’re really not getting any ‘look-like-me’ comparisons,” she claims. “You’re just getting a hodge podge of data from people who aren’t really a part of our community.”
Once the platform was proving viable, the team reached out to career services to see what they thought. “We were a little terrified of what career services would say,” Jaffee admits. “But they proactively sought us out and were so excited. Because this is what they want. This is data they are interested in. It’s the type of coaching they want to provide.”
Jaffee and Kirby say that not only did career services support and help with continued student outreach, Julie Morton, the associate dean of Career Services and Corporate Relations at Booth, reached out to her colleagues at other schools to tell them about the platform.
“They (career services) collect data from students and then with the technology they have today, a year later they turn it around in an employment report,” Jaffee explains. “That’s not something that makes them excited. That’s not something that makes them jump up and down and say, ‘we’re so happy we can provide this to students.’ It’s creating a platform of instant gratification that really helps us align with them.”
As Kirby, Jaffee and the rest of the team begin engaging career services offices at other elite B-schools, they claim Morton has helped and “vouched” for the platform. Morton did not respond to a phone call or email from Poets&Quants for comment.
ASSISTING IN THE NON-TRADITIONAL PATH
The current limitations of the site are obvious. Until the user-base grows, job position specifics–especially in the satisfaction metrics–may be unfairly skewed. If a disgruntled intern has a bad experience and scores a company low in satisfaction levels, it may significantly lower a rating until others with the same internship position weigh in. Kirby says requiring users to fill in data before accessing the information will help mitigate this as the platform builds.
Early on, the majority of the positions being reported fall under the “typical” MBA recruiting path such as consulting, banking and tech, Kirby says. Jaffee says she also sees this particular platform as being valuable for MBAs wanting to enter a non-traditional MBA path. “They can get access to information and say, ‘maybe I can actually make money in this field.’ Or ‘people are really happy doing this,'” Jaffee reasons.
She also sees it helping in salary negotiations–particularly at finicky startups.
“Sometimes you’ll go to a startup and they’ll say, ‘alright, how much do you think you should make,'” says Jaffee. “Most people say their go-to resource for that are blogs. Now we can actually have something rooted in longitudinal data that creates some concrete insights for them to answer that question.”
TransparentMBA has made its way into the top 30 semifinalists at Chicago Booth’s New Venture Competition. If chosen as a top 10 finalist, the team will compete for seed money in June. While Kirby assures the platform will continue to run, the team is unsure if they will turn down other offers to pursue it full-time.