AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Tepper Dean Robert Dammon says the rise of the female tech MBA is the result of a greater emphasis on diversity in recruiting over the last five years. “Technology companies,” he says, “recognize the Tepper School as an ideal place to recruit outstanding and diverse talent.”
Nodding to the 33% of women from Tepper’s last five graduating classes who went into tech, Dammon says the trend “has been several years in the making,” adding, “Our expectation is that the demand for individuals with strong business, analytical, and leadership skills will continue to grow across industries as the role of technology in business expands.”
Dammon, who sat on a roundtable discussion on “Leveraging Advanced Analytics” before students and alumni at VMware in Palo Alto, California, last week, says Tepper saw the lay of the land years ago and positioned itself to take advantage of the tech boom. Gradually, the San Francisco Bay Area has become home to the third-largest concentration of Tepper grads in the country. In 2015, Tepper was second in the country — behind only the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business — with 38.2% of its MBAs finding employment in tech.
“The Tepper School’s MBA program provides an ideal education for individuals interested in careers in the technology industry,” Dammon tells Poets&Quants. “Our strengths as a school lie at the intersection of business, technology, and advanced analytics. These strengths are reinforced by Carnegie Mellon’s outstanding programs in the STEM fields and the strong campus culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.
“Technology companies recognize the value and relevance of a Tepper School education and target our students for leadership positions within their organizations,” Dammon says, adding that for the more than 30% of the Tepper Class of 2016 who accepted jobs within the technology industry, common job functions included product management, operations management, general management, marketing, and finance.
TREK HAS BEEN ‘A GREAT SUCCESS FOR US’
Dammon points to the West Coast trek as key to Tepper’s rise in the tech feeder school ranks, for women as well as men. The trek, he says, “provides opportunities for our students to engage with both established and start-up technology companies, build relationships with these companies, and learn how these companies are developing products and services that are changing the world.” As Shweta Aladi says, “As we have more students graduating and going into the tech industry, we have the opportunity to visit more and more companies — I’ve heard feedback that our trek schedules are getting busier and busier as we are able to plan more visits. I foresee this trend continuing in the future. As a future alumnus, I know the value of this trek and would love to host future Business and Technology students at whichever company I’m at post-graduation.”
Dammon and the Tepper COC’s Stephen Rakas both acknowledge the trek’s evolution and expansion since its inception in the mid-1990s, both in terms of the number of students involved and the number of companies, many of which have become recruiters for Tepper’s MBAs. “The trek has been a great success for the Tepper School,” Dammon says. “It has expanded the school’s visibility in Silicon Valley, provided numerous employment opportunities for our students, and provided the recruiting companies outstanding leadership talent.”
Rakas, who has joined every trek since 2003, has seen the number of students as a percentage of the class going into tech double in that time, which he attributes in large part to a changing market. “Back in the day, the early 2000s, financial services and consulting was the huge industry,” he says. “We’re still very strong in consulting but tech as an industry is a good fit for us.”
The fact is, Rakas says, “Carnegie Mellon is known for excellence in tech” — a fact that will only become better-known when the Tepper Quadrangle, a 305,000-square-foot tech and entrepreneurship hub in the center of the CMU campus, opens in the spring of 2018.
‘A NICE NICHE’
There’s an important difference, Rakas says, between the current surge in tech and the one that happened 15 years ago: Now, everything has technology in it. It’s the “Internet of Things”: smart homes, smart cars, the devices we carry.
“So this is where our students and all MBAs interested in tech can be poised to help bring all these industries up to speed,” he says. “It’s a great niche for us because our students are smart, analytical, and if they don’t have a tech background, this generation is tech-savvy to begin with and they’ve got a good head start. It’s a nice niche.”
Adds Aladi: “Every company has a technology component. From the IT department to having a website, every company is impacted by the tech industry in some way, and this trend should be reflected in our MBA education.”