As summer began its eventual wane last month, dozens of incoming MBAs from Dartmouth Tuck’s School of Business had a few last moments of freedom before B-school — but instead of visiting family and friends, leisure traveling, or sipping poolside sangrias, they were bussed all over San Francisco’s Bay Area getting a head start on recruiting relationships and networking.
For the third straight summer, Tuck’s career services office invited incoming first-years to explore the Bay Area and all of its employment potential via the Tuck Career and Insights Exploration (CIX) trip. While the last two years of the trip focused on tech and energy, this year the school decided to add a marketing portion. The added emphasis helped boost the number of participating students from 37 last year to 52. Between the three groups, students spent time with massive established companies like Facebook, Clorox, Microsoft, McKinsey, and Old Navy as well as upstarts like energy-focused Visit Nest and Atieva.
The influx of B-schools visiting tech-rich Silicon Valley certainly makes sense. According to a recent report from the MBA Career Services Employer Alliance, tech is currently the hottest field for MBA hiring, with some 70% of reporting B-schools claiming increased tech placements for their MBAs. According to this summer’s Graduate Management Admission Council’s recruiter survey, 82% of tech companies surveyed hired recently graduated MBAs in 2015 — a tick below consulting at 83%.
The infatuation certainly seems to be mutual. Nowadays, the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook dot the tops of popularity surveys among business students, alongside hiring stalwarts like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Deloitte. According to RelishMBA data of search functions from the MBA classes of 2017 and 2018, MBAs filter for technology jobs more than any other industry. And it’s not hard to see why. According to self-reported data of recent MBA graduates, Microsoft and Apple are two of the most satisfying companies to work for — topping virtually all traditional MBA employers. Meanwhile, recently graduated MBAs make more per hour at Microsoft and Google than almost all other major MBA employers.
FROM CLOROX TO GALLO — ALL IN ONE DAY
So many schools — especially geographically distant ones — are taking pilgrimages to the Bay Area. But none takes their students on an organized trek earlier than Tuck. “If you can expose people earlier to information around the careers, they can be better grounded and have a better context for their two years of an MBA,” says Jonathan Masland, director of career development at Tuck. Masland says the goal of the trip is four-fold. Students get to experience what it’s like to be in the Bay Area and at the various companies for a week. They also are immersed in the culture. It’s a time to build relationships with their fellow classmates, and they’re getting to do all of this incredibly early compared to their fellow classmates and MBAs at other schools.
Tech companies are the most popular, Masland explains, and Tuck tries to cap participants at 30 to maintain a small and more intimate feel. Additionally, 14 students took the energy track and 10 focused on marketing. “The big goal is to show marketing through many different lenses,” Masland says. Indeed, the 10 who took the marketing track saw a diversity of potential employment options. They spent time in Silicon Valley meeting at Facebook, and went on a “day on the job” visit with Clorox. They visited McKinsey’s marketing department and they traveled to California’s Central Valley to visit wine and spirit distributer E&J Gallo. “It gives them a chance to evaluate if this is an industry they want to dedicate a lot of time and resources to,” Masland says of the intentional diversity of experiences.
For incoming Tuckie Emmanuel Onyenyili, the trip was perfectly timed. The former manager at Geico Insurance who chose Tuck because “it just felt like home” is using the MBA to move into marketing — particularly in the consumer packaged goods area. “I wanted an environment that placed a premium on relationship building and being collaborative,” he says of his decision to attend Tuck. Onyenyili used the trip to learn more about on-the-job skills that are actually used by people in the roles he wants to eventually be in. “So now I know exactly what to do during school,” he beams, adding that he can now work backward to focus on those goals.
Masland concurs that the real value of the Tuck trek is in taking time to see what professionals in a wide range of industries actually do, so the incoming students can better chart a two-year course to get the most out of their time at Tuck. “It exposed me to other marketing roles besides working for a CPG,” agrees incoming MBA Emily Martens. A former account executive at Match Marketing Group in New York City, Martens decided to snag an MBA to broaden her previously hyper-focused marketing bent. When looking for a program, the history and English double-major found a community at Tuck. “It was very clear to me Tuck was my optimal school,” she says. “I loved the culture.”
For Martens, the one highlight of the trip was getting to meet alumni in less formal dinners and happy hours. “Sometimes that’s when we had the best open conversations about what it’s really like to live and work in the Bay Area,” she says. Plus, as a former social media manager, Martens was excited for the face-time and opportunity to pick the brain of Kat Thomsen, director of social and digital brand engagement at Old Navy. Martens and her fellow marketing-focused participants went back and forth with Thomsen, asking to provide a cohesive digital plan for Old Navy’s audiences and for information on how brands can optimize Snapchat in their marketing.
TURNING THE TREK INTO A FULL-TIME GIG
Of course, the early access also is of interest to recruiters at the companies visited by the MBAs. “There is an element of recruiting that is associated with many of the visits, where companies and recruiters are marketing through this event,” Masland explains. “Companies like to get early and direct access to the students.” Best-case scenario: the MBAs and companies keep in touch and full-time employment happens after graduation. So far, that’s happened at least once in the short history of the trip. While it wasn’t a direct causation, the trip helped open up connections to West Coast tech for Emily Putze. A former program coordinator and special project manager at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., Putze was able to land a summer internship at Google after participating on the first ever CIX trip. That internship turned into a full-time gig after she graduated last spring. Masland says sometimes the intimacy and uniqueness of the trip stands out more to employers than a traditional campus visit.
Now, to make greater leaps into tech and marketing, Tuck will need to continue to develop these sorts of relationships. According to the most recent employment report from the graduating class of 2015, Tuck remains a consulting- and finance-first B-school, with only 18% of 2015 graduates going into technology compared to 24% in financial services and 34% in consulting. Even fewer took jobs in consumer goods (10%) and energy (2%). In the same class, just 15% took jobs in a marketing function — a slight uptick from 13% in 2014 — while a quarter of the class went into finance and 40% went into consulting. The numbers were pretty much identical to 2014’s employment report, where 18% also went into technology.
Masland says a few other B-schools have inquired about the trek but to his knowledge, no other school has immediate plans to send their MBAs in front of companies before actually stepping foot on campus. Of course, most schools like to get at least a few weeks of “polishing” time before putting their MBAs in front of employers. The question did come up in initial planning three years ago, Masland says, but the professionalism and composure of the participants on the trips has so far been impressive. “Tuck is an intimate community where everybody knows each other,” Masland says. “And it’s founded in a deep need for respect for each other and the school and the brand. So I think most self-select with a greater consciousness.”