Cornell University’s MBA Class of 2018 began their studies in 2016, well before either of the two major developments that have the Johnson Graduate School of Management poised to become a major feeder of MBAs to the tech sector in the coming decade. Nevertheless, the data suggest that we are in the early stages of some kind of ramp-up in tech interest at the school.
According to Cornell Johnson’s just-published employment report, 50% more MBAs from the 2018 graduating class took tech jobs over the year before. Given the location of the school’s New York City campus — which sits a literal stone’s throw from the spot where Amazon recently announced plans to build half of its vaunted new HQ — we knew the tech era would be dawning sooner or later at the Johnson School. So maybe it’s sooner, not later.
Of Cornell’s 283 graduating MBAs in 2018, 18% went into the tech sector, up from 12% in both 2017 and 2016. Meanwhile, 16% of Class of 2019 interns worked for tech companies, too, up from 14% in 2017. Amazon was in the top three of employers this year and last, says David Capaldi, director of the Cornell Johnson Career Management Center, saying that the school doesn’t release numbers of actual hires but citing overall “additional outreach by the school to tech companies.” Capaldi says the tech jobs numbers “presumably” will rise as ground is broken on the massive new Amazon site in Queens, across the East River from Roosevelt Island where Cornell Tech’s campus was unveiled in fall 2017.
“We did see a very significant ramp-up in tech this year,” he tells Poets&Quants. “I think it’s a number of small things. We now run three different tech treks, one to New York, one to Boston, and one to the West Coast — so increased exposure to companies across the country. The digital tech immersion is in, I think, year three, so that has continued building from an academic side. And there has just been greater interest and outreach.”
‘DIVERSIFIED SET OF INDUSTRIES & COMPANIES THAT PEOPLE GO TO’
At graduation, 80% of Cornell MBAs had job offers; three months later, that number jumped to 94%. Ninety-one percent had accepted jobs. These metrics are comparable to 2017, and so is salary: Cornell has marked a slight increase in average base salary, to $126,353 from $125,578, or less than 1%. What may be troubling is that last year’s number was a 3.5% increase over the school’s 2016 base. What is promising, however, is that Cornell MBAs saw a 9% increase in signing bonus to $33,503 — and that both the salary and bonus figures are the school’s highest levels to date.
“If you look at our program overall, it’s a pretty diversified set of industries and companies that people go to,” says Capaldi, noting that Cornell’s career management team held nearly 200 corporate meetings and hosted 97 companies, a 12.7% increase from 2017. The school also hosted a record 226 events and welcomed 17 new on-campus recruiting companies during the fiscal year. About the slower salary growth, he says, “You have people going into brand management versus consulting and banking, and that leads to a (salary data) swing. I know last year we had more people than the prior year doing nonprofit stuff. So in a smaller program, when you get a couple people switching the makeup of where people end up, it’s just a matter of the difference in where people landed.” He says a large percentage of Cornell MBAs, who come to the school with an average of five years’ experience, switch careers, though the school doesn’t track the actual numbers. “I would say anecdotally, a large percentage of our students are career-switchers. The important thing is, we’re not seeing jobs declining.”
Circling back to Amazon: This year, among all of the new Cornell MBAs, 12% went West, while the largest segment, 55%, remained in the Northeast. In future those looking to enter the tech industry won’t necessarily have to relocate to the coast — thanks to Amazon’s expansion they will have one big, shiny option to stay in the region.
“You see that a lot of our students like to stay in the Northeast, so having a major tech employer headquartered in D.C. and New York City, we’ll see some interest from people who didn’t want to go to the West Coast to that company,” Capaldi says. “It should help but I don’t know if it’s going to be a huge jump. I guess we’ll see.”
TOP SALARIES IN INVESTMENT BANKING
In a somewhat unusual development, consulting hires out of Cornell Johnson dropped from 25% in 2017 to 22% this year. Most elite schools saw an increase in consulting hires, or at least maintained their status quo. Capaldi says the rise in tech is the main reason consulting saw a drop-off. Finance, meanwhile, remained strong, he says, even with a one-year drop to 29% from 33%.
“Big picture, our finance placement remains very strong, particularly in banking,” Capaldi says, pointing to the 19% of MBAs who went into investment banking, up from 16% in 2017, making a class-second-best average base salary of $137,738. “Our banking number was really quite strong as a percentage of the class. So, very strong penetration into Wall Street.”
Capaldi’s other two takeaways: “We did see a very significant ramp-up in tech, and a lot of that came at the expense of consulting. And then my other takeaway is how diversified we are: There are many different career paths now that have more than 15%, so we’re not a school where everyone is heading into consulting or everyone is heading into finance. It’s a really nice mix of industries.”