MBAs Increasingly Turning To Jobs In Tech

Tuck technology boot camp participants speak with Silicon Valley angel investor Steve Eskenazi at Facebook – Ethan Baron photo

MBAs Turn To Tech

As tech advances, MBA grads are increasingly competing to secure positions at tech companies. But the tech industry is continuously changing and that means MBA grads need to adapt their skills.

Seb Murray, a writer for Financial Times, recently discussed how business schools are preparing MBAs for a career in tech.

Tech MBAs

At New York University’s Stern School of Business, a new tech MBA will offer students a specialized one-year MBA that focuses on business and technology.

Peter Henry is the dean at NYU’s Stern. Henry tells Financial Times that the one-year format matches the employment model of tech employers since tech companies often hire on an ad-hoc basis due to the industry’s imminent pace of change.

At Cornell Tech, the Tech MBA focuses on experiential learning, where case discussion and lectures provide students opportunities to apply their knowledge.

Experiential learning

Doug Stayman is the associate dean at Cornell Tech. Stayman tells Financial Times that experiential learning can replicate a tech environment, where learning by doing is crucial.

“Some courses, such as business fundamentals, are better suited to lecturing because they are more individualistic,” Stayman says. “But when it comes to building technology products and services from scratch in groups, there is no better way to learn than by doing.”
In Cornell Tech’s Product Studio class, tech MBA students develop solutions to challenges posed by companies.

David Cheng is a previous student of the class. He worked on a project in response to a challenge posed by Google: user biased consumption of controversial news topics. Partnering with computer science and design students, he helped to develop WellRead—an app that “encourages unbiased consumption of news by using machine learning to build an ideological profile of readers, and recommending to them content from a wider range of sources.”

He says the project taught him the importance of working efficiently in a cross-disciplinary team.

“I don’t need to know how to code but, as a product manager, I will need to communicate with developers in order to accurately plan a project’s timing, budget and outcome,” Cheng tells Financial Times.

At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, students can pursue an entrepreneurship and innovation certificate. The program encourages students to launch and develop tech companies.

UC Berkeley’s Haas hosts an annual Haas Tech Challenge, a tech-focused case competition that brings MBAs together from some of the top programs across the country.

According to data by Financial Times, 36% of Stanford and MIT Class of 2013 MBA students founded a start-up during school.

Tech needs MBAs, but MBAs need tech skills

Tim Derdenger is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Derdenger tells Financial Times that tech companies prefer MBAs who have technical backgrounds.

“These companies place a premium on technical expertise because, to be able to build the products which are the bedrock of their business, managers need a deep understanding [of] how technologies work,” Derdenger says.

Quartz recently reported that Amazon is the biggest employer of MBAs in the tech industry. The e-commerce company hires twice as many MBAs as Microsoft, according to US News & World Report rankings.

Yossi Feinberg is Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Feinberg tells Financial Times that MBAs are crucial to the growth and long-term sustainability of tech companies.

“As tech companies grow, there is increasingly a realization that they need managers who can think holistically about how to sustain success in the long run,” he says. “We need to train our students in the skills they will need to be technology leaders of the future.”

Sources: Financial Times, Haas Tech Challenge, Quartz, US News & World Report