Thinking about his pivot, Jeff Spielberg identified two factors as key in deciding whether to go back to school. Speed was the first.
“I didn’t want to take two years off from my career trajectory, but I did want enough time to take a step back to really think through and investigate this pivot,” says Spielberg, a 2019 graduate of the very first cohort of NYU Stern School of Business’ one-year Andre Koo Tech MBA.
“The second thing was finding a program that was uniquely different from what I had done before. I’d never taken a corporate finance class, or accounting, or marketing. This program checked those boxes.”
In 2012, Spielberg, 35, an engineer with a background in health care, co-founded River Loop with friends from his undergrad alma mater, Dartmouth College. The company sought to solve cybersecurity problems down to the circuit-board level of device hardware for things like industrial systems, medical devices and the Internet of Things. As River Loop started attracting clients with household names – a mix of large companies and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) – Spielberg wanted to devote his full attention to his growing company. But he recognized there were gaps in his business training and industry exposure.
“It just so happened that at just the right time, my wife, who is a Stern alum, saw an announcement for a new tech MBA. I ended up using it as my pivot from a career in product development in healthcare to running my own company,” he tells Poets&Quants.
On April 1, When Two Six Technologies acquired River Loop for an undisclosed amount, it became the first exit for a graduate of NYU’s Tech MBA.
FOR STERN, A NEW TYPE OF MBA
In 2018, Stern launched two brand new, one-year specialized MBA programs: its Andre Koo Tech MBA and its Fashion & Luxury MBA.
The tech MBA was nearly in a class by itself. Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business had launched its own yearlong New York City-based Tech MBA a year earlier, but otherwise many specialized MBAs in the U.S. mirrored their schools’ two-year formats.
The genesis came as Stern was thinking more broadly about the future of graduate business education, and how NYU could differentiate itself in the market, says JP Eggers, vice dean for MBA Programs and academic director of the Tech MBA. While the one-year MBA model has proliferated across Asia and Europe, it hasn’t gathered nearly as much steam in the United States. (Cornell recently announced the closing of its once industry-leading Accelerated MBA due to shrinking enrollment.)
“There was a combination of concerns about broad affordability for an MBA, and one of the best ways to make it more affordable is to shrink the time and the opportunity cost for the students,” Eggers tell P&Q. “We wanted to target areas where the internship wasn’t seen as being as vital, but where we as Stern had great relationships to build experiential learning and exposure that would supplement the lack of a traditional internship.”
Estimated total cost of the one-year tech MBA is $159,733 for the class of 2023, compared to $244,828 for the full-time program. That does not include the opportunity costs to students for being out of the workforce – one year out for tech MBA students and two year’s out for full-time.
At the rate technology changes, two years out of the workforce can be especially costly. At the same time, industry feedback in Stern’s market research revealed that companies wanted more people with a broader range of both management and technical skills. While large firms and tech companies used to have a lot of highly specialized professionals in, say, business or engineering, they had few people who could bridge across the two. Companies have flipped that calculation. Now they want more people who can speak both languages.
“In validating the market, the main industry feedback was that companies have these really great MBAs who can sell and make a profit, and they have these really great engineers who could code, but they can’t talk to each other,” says Bryan Ramos, Stern assistant dean of Experiential & Global Education. “The product market fit of this tech MBA was really to teach graduates how to do both.”
55% WOMEN, 100% EMPLOYMENT
Even as gender parity continues to be an elusive goal for the majority of MBA programs, here, now, is an MBA that has enrolled more women than men – and in tech no less. For the Class of 2023, Stern’s tech MBA is 55% women, up from the 42% it enrolled for its inaugural class.
Meanwhile, it’s achieved 100% employment for 2 out of 3 of its graduating classes. Because of the highly experiential nature of the program, the third cohort which was set to begin May 2020 was delayed to a January 2021 start-date during the pandemic. The employment figures in the table below show combined totals for the January ‘22 and May ‘22 cohorts because they went through the same recruiting cycle.
Average base salaries have risen from $129,458 to $152,601 over the program’s first five years, while average bonuses have gone from $26,345 to $43,712.
Applications have risen from 182 for the inaugural class of 2019 to 407 for 2023. Enrollment has increased from 33 to 47 during the same period. (See class profiles comparisons below.)
At Stern, the typical scaling number for an MBA cohort is around 60 students. The tech MBA cohort is more workable with two blocks of 25 to 30 students, due to its intensive face-to-face and experiential format.
“I think we’re going to be sitting with this two block model until we figure out whether and if we want to try to scale it more to, like, 80 students,” Eggers says. “We’ve certainly seen application demand remain high. I honestly don’t know if that’s the right next move or whether we continue to keep it at this kind of small, higher touch, very elite kind of program.”
NEXT PAGE: A look at NYU Stern's Tech MBA experiential learning + A woman in tech