In retrospect, the Darden School of Business’s decision last year to open a base in Rosslyn, in the Washington, D.C. metro area, looks nothing if not prescient.
When Amazon announced this month that it had selected Arlington, Virginia, as one of two sites for its new North America headquarters, Darden Dean Scott Beardsley suddenly realized that his school’s Rosslyn site — classrooms, offices, and event space on the top two floors of a 31-story building with expansive views of the capital region, originally intended as the D.C.-area home of some of Darden’s MSBA and executive MBA programs — was a stone’s throw from where the tech and retail giant plans to land in Crystal City.
Did Darden have inside information when it moved to Rosslyn? No, Beardsley says, but they had hopes.
“I’m very excited but I’m not surprised,” he tells Poets&Quants. “I’ve thought from the very beginning that there was a strong likelihood that Northern Virginia would be competitive. It has among the highest concentration of Ph.D.s in the United States, and it also has a very high concentration — if not the highest concentration — of Internet traffic in the U.S., maybe in the world. There’s a lot of talent there. I didn’t have inside information in any way, but I think it’s a great decision by Amazon and we’re delighted.
“Our location in Rosslyn is practically next door to Crystal City. It’s right there. You have to walk a little bit, but it’s very close, and we are looking forward to working with them.”
MORE THAN JUST A TECH COMPANY
Amazon made the announcement of its selection of New York City and Arlington, Virginia, as the locations for its new headquarters on November 13. The company says it will invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two new headquarters locations, with more than 25,000 employees each in New York City and Arlington. The new locations will join Seattle as the company’s three headquarters in North America. At the same time, in a much less ballyhooed announcement, Amazon named Nashville as the new location of a planned Center of Excellence for the company’s operations business, which is responsible for customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other activities. That location is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs.
A handful of ranked business schools are proximate to Amazon’s new Northern Virginia location, including the B-schools at George Mason University, the University of Maryland, American University, and George Washington University. But perhaps none is better positioned to take advantage of the potential windfall in jobs and incoming talent than Virginia Darden, thanks to its Rosslyn location and an already strong relationship with the company. Over the last three years, Amazon has taken on 43 interns and 35 full-time employees from Darden. Overall in that span, 22% of the school’s internship class and 16% of its MBA grads have gone into tech-related roles; in 2017, the last year for which Darden has published employment data (its 2018 report will be out in a few weeks), 14% of the graduating MBA class went into tech — not as high a percentage as, say, Stanford, situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, but higher than, say, Wharton. Those Darden tech grads last year made an average salary of $115,358.
But, Beardsley says, here’s the thing to remember about Amazon: It’s so massive, it’s not just a tech company anymore.
“Amazon in 2017 and 2018 was number one and number two in recruiting at Darden,” Beardsley says. “We have roughly 100 alumni who are working at Amazon, as far as I know. They are a very strong recruiter, along with some other technology companies, across different parts of their business. We have a great relationship with them in the MBA, and the executive MBA that we teach out of our D.C. area.
“Amazon said they are hiring 25,000 people — well, those are usually very talented people. I think this will be good for prospective students, for current students, and for alumni of Darden, but also other top universities. But we need to remember that Amazon is quite the diversified company. We can call them ‘tech,’ but they’re also a retail company, they’re also a tremendous transportation and logistics company. They offer jobs in a wide variety of roles — we call it a ‘tech’ company but it goes way beyond that.”
‘ALREADY A REALLY GREAT RECRUITING RELATIONSHIP’
Greg Fairchild was named Virginia’s first director of Northern Virginia operations in May. Six months later comes Amazon’s news — and it has Fairchild as excited professionally as he’s ever been.
Fairchild, the Isidore Horween research associate professor of business administration at the Darden School, notes that 14% of Darden’s 2017 graduating class took jobs in the mid-Atlantic region — basically, Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. He expects that number will rise in time, and Amazon will be the reason.
“Having them in our backyard will only enhance what was already a really great recruiting relationship,” Fairchild tells Poets&Quants, and what was already the beginnings of experiential learning and the beginnings of opportunities around some of the degree programs we off, like our master’s in business analytics. But it also bodes well for things we would do in cross-conjunction with other graduate schools at the university that would be interested in a company like Amazon. So I’m pretty bullish about the whole thing.”
FROM 288 TO 3 — AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE HIGHEST ORDER
Fairchild, Poets&Quants‘ MBA Professor of 2017, speaking from Darden’s Rosslyn offices, points out that he is only four Metro stops away from Amazon’s location-to-be in Crystal City. That’s about a 10-minute public transportation ride.
“Our ability to go interact with them, have them come in and teach classes, us to go over there and offer programs, is very highly viable,” Fairchild says. “And again, we already have deep relationships with them.”
But Amazon’s arrival is an endorsement of the region, as well.
“If you think about it, to have this juggernaut firm choose among 288 cities around the country and then to decide that we would be the place that they will go — what that says to other companies is that this is in fact a real desirable place for businesses that are in technology space, as well as anyone who serves them. So anybody that is an Amazon supplier in any way is now also a major opportunity for us. You add these up and my anticipation is that we’re going to do more with Amazon, we’re going to do more with Capital One, we’re going to do more with Northrop Grumman, Raytheon is in my building, cybersecurity firms, healthcare, you go down the list. Amazon’s presence and endorsement says Northern Virginia is now one of the tech clusters in the United States.”
Adds Beardsley: “Amazon, like other big companies, recruits from multiple geographries all over the U.S. — our students are going all over the country. No one has a crystal ball, but clearly there is going to be a push by them to recruit talent in New York and in the mid-Atlantic, and that’s our backyard, so I would expect that there will be a number of students looking very carefully and interested by these jobs. I would expect that our tech numbers might inch up, yes — and I expect we may see some alumni switching over and looking at jobs, as well, not just new grads or summer interns.”