When Jake Qian graduated from UC-Berkeley’s MBA program last year he did something that few MBAs would ever do. He passed on a lucrative offer from Google to take a position at baby food company Plum Organics for about half the pay.
Qian concedes that the decision wasn’t easy and that it could have gone either way. “It was close, but this was the job I was more drawn to based on company culture,” says Qian, a product innovation manager. “It was a tough decision but I didn’t feel right taking a post-MBA job that I was less drawn to based on money.”
It turns out that Qian’s decision reflects something of a trend at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which this week published its 2016 employment report. The school reported a surge of interest among the graduates in jobs in consumer products goods and retail, which nearly tripled its take of Berkeley MBAs to 11.5% of the class from just 4% a year ago.
TECH, CONSULTING & FINANCE REMAIN THE TOP THREE CAREER FIELDS
Overall, of course, technology, consulting and finance remained the top three career fields for Haas’ Class of 2016. Technology was again the most popular field, pulling in 39% of those who accepted offers, with Google, Adobe, Facebook and Amazon among the top employers. Some 19% took jobs in consulting, with McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Deloitte Consulting representing the top hiring firms. Another 12% of grads took positions in finance.
Overall, total median compensation–including base salary, sign-on bonus and other guaranteed compensation–amounted to $145,652, a slight dip from the previous year’s $147,457 total. Median total pay–adjusted for the percentage of students receiving signing bonuses and other guaranteed comp–put Berkeley between Chicago Booth at $145,723 and Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management at $143,020 (see What MBAs Make In Their First Year Of Work).
With a class of just 245 graduates, you might even be able to attribute a decline in average starting salaries to Qian. The school says that average salary was $122,488, down slightly from $123,403 a year earlier. Median salaries were exactly the same as the previous year: $125,000. The school said the average sign-on bonus was $24,777, received by 71% of the grads, also down from $27,892 a year earlier.
CHANGING INTERESTS ON THE PART OF STUDENTS
“Every year the students’ interests change,” says Jenn Bridge, senior director of employer engagement & operations Berkeley-Haas Career Management Group (CMG). “This year there was excitement around retail, and we were able to respond to that and hire an industry specialist to help students find those kinds of jobs. We develop workshops and hire industry specialists when it makes sense to help them find the best possible fit.” The CPG/retail trend is continuing among this year’s class, which also shows a big interest in food, Bridge says.
Jake Qian appears to have no regrets about his decision to pass on Google. Though Plum is owned by Campbell’s Soup, it has the feel of a small, mission-driven startup, he says. As a former Target buyer with a quantitative bent, Qian says that working at a small-scale, mission-driven CPG was just one of several possibilities on his radar when he arrived at Haas. “I liked the multiple-bottom-line, B-corp concept,” he says.
But when he found out that internships in the sector were in short supply, he followed his budding passion for design into an internship at IDEO. It was in his second year, in Lecturer William Rosenzweig’s Food Venture Lab course, that he got excited about the high level of innovation driving the food industry. He could see himself as part of it. “This feels like the right industry for me. It’s really interesting, there is lots of positive change in how people eat and how food is delivered, and there are many environmental ramifications,” he says. “My longer-term plan is to go even deeper into the industry, and set myself up as a thought leader.”
AFTER AN APPLE INTERNSHIP, ANOTHER STUDENT CHOOSE TO WORK IN SPORTS RETAIL
Caitlin Fitzpatrick, a retail marketing manager at Lucy Activewear, interned at Apple after her first year at Haas, analyzing education customer engagement with Apple devices and content. While working for Apple was a great experience, Fitzpatrick—who grew up swimming and skiing and now runs, rock climbs, and does yoga—was determined to work in sports retail.
Fitzpatrick began her job search in March 2016, working closely with Wendy Pratt, a CPG industry specialist with CMG. Pratt introduced her to Patrice Christensen, a former marketing manager at both Lucy and The North Face (both are owned by Alameda, Ca.-based parent company VF Corp.).
“Wendy had us practice our pitch before we interviewed every time,” she said. “I had my stories memorized for my first coffee with Patrice. All of that practice and having someone who really takes what you want to do seriously and helps you follow your dream has really helped,” she says.
At Lucy, where she has worked since last July, Fitzpatrick is responsible for the marketing strategy in all brick and mortar stores. She sees it as “an opportunity to create things,” and to market the brand to women of all shapes and sizes. “I love this job,” she says. “It’s strategic and creative and we’re a women-focused brand. It’s a very interesting time to be working on that.”