How America’s Bread Basket Schools Land Their MBAs Tech Jobs

First year Minnesota Carlson student, Priyanka Lamba Nadgiri, interacts with a data board at Adobe headquarters. Photo by Wally Agboola for Minnesota Carlson

First-year Minnesota Carlson student Priyanka Lamba Nadgiri interacts with a data board at Adobe headquarters. Photo by Wally Agboola for Minnesota Carlson


Like Minnesota Carlson, McCombs is ramping up its alumni connections and resources being used on getting their MBAs to the West Coast. According to Mabley, McCombs Dean Jay Hartzell has set a goal “to make the McCombs School a key player in the broader UT-to-West Coast Connection Project.” A piece of that is the Bay Area for McCombs Board, which Mabley describes as “a group created to advance the presence and reputation of the McCombs School in the Bay Area through networking opportunities for alumni, current students, and friends of the school.”

In some instances, the school’s West Coast treks have already paid off. On a recent trek, Silicon Valley-based NetApp passed around McCombs’ resume books to hiring managers and selected students to interview while on the trek. “We received an internship offer out of that visit,” Mabley notes. Companies like Adobe have also “sourced internship candidates” from trek resume books, Mabley says.


At the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, tech was tied for the second-highest industry entered by the graduating class of 2016, at 15% — a slight uptick from 14% in 2015. “A couple of years ago, we made a strategic decision to penetrate and radiate into the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area for our MBA students,” says Karen Heise, the interim director of the Weston Career Center at the Olin Business School. Like Carlson and McCombs, Olin has upped its Bay Area alumni connection and engagement. “The alumni are a very important piece in all of this,” Heise says. Where other schools are sending their students out in droves, Heise says Olin has emphasized bringing alums back to campus, as well as organizing “road shows” for current students.

Heise’s office advises students to research the tech industry thoroughly and “get excited” about it. “Many of the tech firms say — at least, what we hear them say — is, you may not have to have been in the technology industry, but you have to be pretty excited about it,” Heise explains. She also encourages students to tap into the burgeoning St. Louis startup scene to get experience for internship and full-time recruiting. “I think the internship for any industry is becoming critical,” says Heise, noting that Amazon, in particular, puts high value on internships. “The internship is more critical now than it was even a few years ago.”


For many young Midwestern professionals, the journey west certainly isn’t undertaken without hesitation. The obvious elephant in the room is cost of living — something Mari Davis, a first-year Carlson MBA who made the recent trek, asked about right away. “Cost of living in the Bay Area is the biggest elephant in the room,” Davis tells Poets&Quants. “We were able to ask the alums, ‘How was the transition moving from Minnesota to the Bay Area, and is that transition realistic for me?'”

Davis, who comes from a marketing role in higher education, is intrigued but hesitant when it comes to West Coast tech. She often found herself sizing up the roles and companies on the trek. “But, I’m married and I’d like to start a family after I graduate, so it’s taking those things into consideration and understanding how realistic it is,” she says of uprooting from the middle of the country.

Tomas agrees that cost of living often throws a hurdle in the path of Carlson MBAs. “This is a really innovative place,” she begins. “If you want to be in tech, if you want to be where companies are making meaningful, interesting contributions and be around really smart people, this is the city to be in. But, it’s going to be expensive.”

Mari Davis signs in at Adobe headquarters. Photo by Wally Agboola for Minnesota Carlson

Mari Davis signs in at Adobe headquarters. Photo by Wally Agboola for Minnesota Carlson


Another potential hitch in the California dreaming comes down to culture and fit. Davis, for example, says she has never been in tech before and was curious to compare her conception of working at a tech company with the reality. “I’ve done what I can here in terms of researching and talking to people, but the opportunity that Carlson has with this Bay Area trek, where we could go see it in person, was huge and I wanted to take the opportunity,” she says.

Fellow trekker Ram Mehrotra has experience as a system engineer and IT analyst at Tata Consulting Services, an Indian IT company. Still, he says, there is a difference between “old tech” and what newer companies are doing now. “Even the older tech companies like Adobe are transforming their culture and office spaces to more open working spaces,” Mehrotra says, noting the differences in tech’s unique organizational culture and structure. “You don’t get that as much in the Midwest.”

Olin’s Heise, too, sees culture and community fit as an important piece to consider for MBAs.

“Our MBAs, in particular, come from all over the globe,” she says. “If they have never been to San Francisco or the West Coast, they need to know what it’s actually like out there.” One of the biggest challenges Heise says her office encounters is helping students understand what West Coast companies and communities are like. Another challenge: figuring out how having a tech background — or not — helps or hinders students during tech job recruitment. “How their experience and background relates to that space is a challenge for any career seeker,” Heise explains. “But certainly on the West Coast, it’s helpful for them to see what that experience is like.”

Either way, Davis says, being able to visit with alumni is “crucial” to making a more-informed decision on what type of employment to focus her energy and resources toward while in B-school. “It is doable,” Davis says of making the move after being able to talk with alums raising families in the Bay Area. “Definitely, it’s worth applying, and definitely, it’s worth talking to these companies and getting to the point where I have an offer and can then see how realistic it would be,” she continues. “It definitely made me feel like it’s worth going through the process and not just writing it off because I (might) think it’s not doable.”

Davis believes making alumni connections also is a vital part of the recruiting process.

“You can tell a lot of those companies target top-tier schools and California schools and they’re not necessarily coming here to speak with us. So there is a challenge of making a personal connection and getting our foot in the door,” she says. “Applying online is not going to get us there. The personal connections are crucial.”


Carlson’s Tomas doesn’t see the tech craze slowing. “All of the companies we visited had some sort of mission-oriented commitment,” she says. “That is so in line with what today’s job seeker and what today’s MBAs want.”

Not only that, but as McCombs’ Rudnick says, MBAs see tech as the industry with the most potential for growth and innovation.

“Our students,” she says, “believe the trajectory of their careers will be more accelerated in a high-tech field than a traditional field.”


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