Trouble in tech? Try again. A Poets&Quants analysis of three years of employment reports from the leading business schools in the United States and Europe shows sustained growth in full-time MBA hiring into technology industry positions, whether from the elite schools or the middle tier.
Sustained, but is it sustainable? Time will tell, but the evidence now suggests the answer is yes.
And if there’s a competition for the school with the highest percentage of MBA grads taking jobs in tech, one school is running away with it. You guessed it: The University of Washington Foster School of Business, with 60% of 2018 grads moving into or returning to the tech industry, is far and away the top tech feeder school.
“I think MBAs are looking for companies that have breakthrough business models that are changing life,” says Naomi Sanchez, assistant dean of MBA Career Management at Foster, whose school has the advantage of residing in the epicenter of one of the country’s top tech hubs, Seattle. “They like the idea of innovation and creativity.”
Moreover, Sanchez adds, “Companies have pushed us to do a better job of preparing our students for this changing tech world that we are in.” Those companies get an early chance to influence the education of Foster MBAs: an astonishing 51% in last summer’s crop of first-years took summer jobs in the tech industry.
BY THE NUMBERS
The 2019 employment reports for most schools will be out this fall, and some won’t be out until winter, so we’ll have to wait to see whether Washington Foster can sustain its hyperactive production of tech talent. But history suggests no let-up. Since 2014, Foster’s tech placement has turbocharged 19 full percentage points, growing from 41% to 52% in 2016, and up to 60% last year. It helps to be located in a city that is home to headquarters from such top MBA-hiring companies as Amazon and Microsoft; it also helps that tech, as a destination, lines up with the interests of an increasing number of MBAs, Sanchez says.
“They want to work for an exciting, cutting-edge type of situation, with smart people,” she says of Foster’s graduating MBAs, of whom there were 125 total in 2018, about 75 of whom went into tech. “They want to be surrounded by this energy. The other thing they are looking for is meaning. We learn in the design thinking model there is money-making and there is meaning-making. And I think that’s a good phrase for what students are looking for — a combination of both, ideally.”
It’s not as though Foster is the only top school with a strong tech focus — it’s just the strongest. (It’s also the best at overall job placement: see here for details.) But four other schools among the 35 examined by P&Q sent 30% or more of their 2018 grads into tech: Stanford Graduate School of Business (33%), Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (32.4%), UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (31.7%), and the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business (30%). In fact, 19 schools saw increases in tech grads in the three years between 2016 and 2018, while four were flat and 12 saw decreases. In this one respect, then, not much has changed: When we examined the field in 2017, of 28 U.S. and five European schools, 18 showed increases in the numbers of Class of 2016 MBAs going into the tech sector from the year before, and 12 showed decreases.
Jumping back to 2018, the biggest increases came at Columbia Business School, which grew its tech talent output by more than 120% in those two years, from 7.1% to 15.7%, followed by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School (77.8% growth, from 9% to 16%) and NYU’s Stern School of Business (71.9% growth, from 9.6% to 16.5%).
Of the 12 schools that saw a drop-off in tech job-takers, Washington University in St. Louis took the biggest hit, falling 46.7%; just 8% of 2018 Olin School grads went into the industry, compared to 15% in 2016. The next-biggest drop was a 20% drop at Spain’s IE Business School, followed by a 19.8% decline at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Of all 12 schools with a decrease, the average drop was 12.8%. (See charts on pages 2 and 3.)
In the top 10 as ranked by P&Q, only two schools saw three-year decreases: a minuscule 0.3% decline at MIT Sloan and a steep slip of 18.3% at UC-Berkeley Haas. Both schools could afford the loss: Sloan’s 2018 tech output was a still-robust 29.4%, and Haas’s total was fourth-highest on our list.
And what about the four schools that were flat, with no growth from 2016 to 2018? That would be Stanford, HBS, Vanderbilt Owen, and HEC Paris.
YES, WE HAVE ACTUAL NUMBERS, TOO
OK, how about some representative examples. In 2012, Google hired just four MBAs at Chicago Booth. Four years later, Google had tripled its Booth hires to a dozen. In 2012, in fact, only one company–Google with those four hires–out of 26 major employers of Boothies was a tech firm. Today, five of 23, and three of the top 10, are in tech.
At MIT Sloan, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft joined the top 10 employers in 2016. Last year, Amazon was the top employer of all at Sloan with 27 hires, and MBAs going into the software and Internet industries accounted for 26.7% of the class, up from 23.9% three years ago — and a mere 4.7% in 2012.
Michigan Ross is another story of tech triumph. Last year, Amazon was Ross’s top employer with 44 hires; overall for the Class of 2018, 27.1% went into tech, a fact trumpeted atop the school’s employment report.
SNAPSHOTS: THE TECH PICTURE AT SOME OF THE TOP SCHOOLS
Several key schools had banner tech years in 2018. Columbia had the biggest jump, 121.1%, which translated to an 8-percentage-point growth in tech hires since 2016. At fellow Ivy Dartmouth, the Tuck School of Business set a record with 24% of MBA grads going into tech — an 8-percentage-point rise in three years. Among all Tuck grads in 2018, nearly a quarter — 23% — went to work on the West Coast last year.
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business also set a record for tech jobs in 2018, with 28% of grads going into or returning to the industry. That’s up 9 percentage points in one year. Meanwhile, Georgetown McDonough’s 17.5% entering tech last year continues a trend of consistent growth over five years, up from 9% in the Class of 2014.
But the biggest sea change may be occurring at Kellogg. Northwestern University’s B-school has seen a tech blowup in recent years, culminating in a 2018 employment statement that reports almost as many actual tech grads as Stanford. In the five years from 2014 to 2018, the school’s tech output jumped 16 percentage points from 12% to 28%, and now sits just 2 percentage points behind consulting.
“The percentage of students in tech is one of the highest among the top seven schools,” says Liza Kirkpatrick, director of Kellogg’s career management center for full-time MBAs. “We are really proud of that.”
AMAZON EARTHQUAKE: BIG IMPACT?
There’s an 800-pound gorilla that we haven’t yet mentioned: Amazon’s decision to open a new HQ in Northern Virginia and a distribution center outside Nashville — and its decision NOT to open a major new site in New York. What will the impact be at the handful of schools in proximity to these momentous developments?
Answer: It’s too soon to tell! However, it’s likely that Georgetown, Duke, Darden, and Vanderbilt, at least, will see positive effects from the move, while Stern, Columbia, and Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management will miss out on a windfall expected from the aborted Long Island plan.
See the next two pages for detailed breakdowns on tech hires, salaries, bonuses, and more at the top U.S. and non-U.S. schools.