Of the top-five most-attractive employers for business graduates, three are tech firms, according to a survey conducted by Universum last year. Google is at the top, Apple is at No. 3, and Amazon at No. 5.
As someone said, the admiration is mutual: tech companies, too, can’t seem to have enough of MBAs. In 2016, the average increase in MBA hires among tech firms was 4.71 percent. Amazon led in MBA hiring in 2016, with 35 MBAs from INSEAD, 34 from Michigan Ross, 23 from both MIT Sloan and Northwestern Kellogg, 19 from Chicago Booth, and 15 from Duke Fuqua. Google tripled its number from Booth from four, five years ago, to 12.
According to a Poets & Quants (P&Q) report, three firms—Amazon (445), Google (199), and Microsoft (222)—hired over 850 MBAs from just six schools: Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Columbia, Ross, and Fuqua. Over the past five years, Amazon has recruited 49 MBAs from Columbia, about as many as Morgan Stanley, which has hired 51 MBAs and has been the biggest recruiter of Columbia MBAs for many years.
The phenomenon of tech companies hiring more MBAs than before was also seen in Europe. At the IE Business School in Spain, tech firms became the largest employers of MBAs in 2016, surpassing finance and consulting.
P&Q analyzed the 2016 US employment reports of 32 elite US and European schools and found that the biggest year-over-year increases in the percentage of MBA graduates going to tech were at Notre Dame’s Mendoza (16.1 percentage points to 27.1 percent) and Texas-Austin’s McCombs (16-percentage-point jump to 33 percent). The biggest drop was at Vanderbilt’s Owen, but it was only 6 percentage points, from 19 to 13 percent.
Washington’s Foster sent more than half of its MBAs (52 percent) to tech firms. But Stanford sent the largest number of its MBAs to tech firms—272—one-third of all its MBAs. Sloan sent 119, and Berkeley Haas 95.
What MBAs do at the top technology companies
So, confirmed, tech firms love MBAs, and MBAs love them back. But what do MBAs do at these companies? Do b-school grads actually use all what they learned at business school, or do they mainly use their science/tech background gained from their undergraduate days and apply only a dash of their management skills?
Apparently, MBAs use their knowledge of business and finance in great measure to bring substantial advantages for their organizations. An official of the career management services at Berkeley Haas points out that MBAs work in strategy, business development, and corporate development in technology firms. They use their expertise in product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing. They also work closely with finance, operations, supply chair and procurement, and sales, and HR. That’s already more than a dash.
Of course, tech firms hire MBAs with a firm grounding in technology gained from their undergraduate studies—many have computer science, software, and engineering degrees in various tech disciplines. They may be mainly engaged in management, but they also know what their organization’s engineers do.
For example, many MBAs possess coding skills, which give them an added advantage, especially in product management and product marketing, as they work with engineers who devise products. Technological awareness helps MBAs better understand the product development process.
Moreover, nowadays, b-schools impart additional technological skills to their MBAs. For example, Berkeley Haas has been teaching an “Introduction to Code for MBAs” course to help students analyze difficult problems, learn to communicate clearly with their tech colleagues, and build Web applications.
Seeing the big picture at Google
At Google, MBAs work on projects in the areas of product management, sales, finance, marketing, and operations. Many rise to top positions: for example, Director of Product Policy with an annual salary of around $175,000, a big-picture thinker and strategic leader who draws upon his/her technical, sales, and customer-service acumen to protect Google users. The incumbent works globally and cross-functionally with product managers and developers to manage online safety and abuse and fraud cases. Or Strategic Vendor Manager for professional services (over $100,000), who manages relationships with service providers in the areas of financial audit, IT deployment, and M&A due diligence.
Other top MBA jobs at Google (from LinkedIn job postings referred to by P&Q) include the following.
|Role||Annual Salary Range|
|Director, Product Policy, Monetized Products||$150,000 – $202,000|
|Director, Product Policy Enforcement, Ads Products||$148,000 – $202,000|
|Director of Product Policy Enforcement, Search & Platforms||$128,000-$191,000|
|Director of Cross Product Enforcement||$128,000 – $191,000|
|Shopping Campaign Management and Tools Lead, Global Performance Solutions||$131,000 – $182,000|
|Strategic Partner Development Associate||$67,000 – $257,000|
|Head of Strategy and Operations, Brand Studio||$95,000 – $196,000|
|Google Aps Solution Management Team Lead, Enterprise||$108,000 – $185,000|
|Global Sales Partner Program Lead||$89,000 – $206,000|
|Pricing Strategy Principal||$127,000 – $176,000|
The minimum qualification for most of these positions is generally a BA/BS with five or six years’ work experience. The preferred qualifications include an MBA/MS with relevant experience.
The attraction? Spirit of innovation
Technology is not just information technology but also science and enterprise, points out F. W. Olin Professor Anirudh Dhebar. Focused applications of science and technology are changing the way business is done in every sector from energy to medicinal research; that’s why MBAs are attracted to tech. Today, technology offers opportunities to create, giving young professionals a chance to work in fast-paced, innovative environments, says Foster School Professor Naomi Sanchez.
Modifications in school curricula indicate what tech companies expect from MBAs and what MBAs can do for companies. Foster School has, for example, expanded electives that address areas like data analytics and social media marketing. Students use their knowledge gained from a marketing course to enable firms to integrate their in-store and online shopping facilities effectively, and skills learned from an operations course to help firms use brick-and-mortar stores for online fulfilment.
Workshops on software and discussions with alumni who are in roles such as product management enhance students’ experience with tech. Academic and extra-curricular activities held jointly with companies give exposure to tech for career changers and students interested in the sector.
A foundation technology course at Babson College, along with core classes in marketing and business analytics, equips students to tackle management issues in technology or science enterprises.
MBAs certainly use their tech skills at the workplace, but they also use their communication and collaboration skills and ability to tackle ambiguity and take informed risks, picked up from b-school. They can also take different parts of a problem and put them together cohesively as an integrator. They use their inquisitiveness to ask questions and boldness to conduct experiments when they don’t know the answer.
Websites topmba.com and businessbecause.com narrate the story of Itamar Snir, who, after four years in the Israeli defense forces and four years in machine learning and big data analytics at Intel in Tel Aviv, left for NYU Stern for an MBA. Later, after a 12-month internship at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, he got a full-time-job and is now Product Manager for Google’s search engine in New York.
In an interview to Business Because, Snir said Amazon, IBM, and Google were among companies that recruited on the NYU Stern campus. He said Google had a “cool culture,” with its free food and perks, and also a transparent and laidback environment where people are really open. One doesn’t need to work hard to impress.
A technical background is required for some jobs, according to Snir. NYU Stern offers coding classes to students who don’t have a technical background. Skills such as coding help land a job.
Interns are no outsiders
Interns, too, have a great experience in tech companies. Robert Thelen, Tuck 2016, who was Captain in the US Air Force and joined Dartmouth Tuck, interned at Google in the summer. He was with Google for Work in its sales operations and participated in diverse projects. He got to meet distinguished visitors, including Nobel Prize winners, learn SQL, produce surveys, and interact with “super smart” Googlers.
Thelen says Tuck’s reputation opened doors for him at Google and gave him the vocabulary to do well in interviews. It was Tuck that taught him about profitability and competitive strategy, which were not concepts that the Air Force used very much. Google MBA interns help tackle some of the most difficult business challenges in the technology sector, says an article on metromba.com.
Google looks to hire MBAs who have a certain something called the “Googley factor.” Google’s career site explains: “Googlers thrive in small, focused teams and high-energy environments, believe in the ability of technology to change the world, and are as passionate about their lives as they are about work.”
MBAs at Google use their general cognitive ability (how well they learn and acquire new skills), leadership skills, culture fit (shared sense of curiosity), humility (open to new ideas), and a desire to have an impact on the world, besides their management skills.
Helping Amazon deliver excellence
MBAs are encouraged to do something rare, big, and memorable at Amazon, says a P&Q article. They are called upon to solve problems that have never been solved before, Miriam Park, Amazon’s Director of University Programs, told the portal some time ago.
At Amazon, MBAs secure leadership roles ranging from technical product management and business development to operations and rotational programs in retail and finance. MBAs can rise to the c-suite such as Senior Vice-President of Business Development, Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Operations and Customer Service, and Senior Vice President of Amazon Web Service, Senior Vice President of North American Retail, and Vice President of Worldwide Supply Chain and Process. MBAs from Wharton, Tuck, Sloan, and Ross are favorites for Amazon’s recruiters.
Amazon MBAs are expected to take ownership of their projects and make an impact on their firm. Analytical thinking, problem-solving ability, and proficiency in local language and English are in demand. In the Web Services business, MBA technical product managers are expected to be “wicked smart and technically conversant.” They propel ideas from the planning stage to completion, and own products from end to end.
B-school graduates at Amazon understand the company culture and leadership principles and translate them to their experiences. They learn what drives a product so that they have the context to provide suggestions and alternatives.
MBA hires are given charge of high-priority projects with tough deadlines. For example, when Amazon Fresh was launched, Amazon put an MBA the job of expanding the project to ensure same-day and early-morning delivery to customers.
MBAs come into Amazon as a cohort and draw support from their peers. Every MBA goes through an onboarding process. A new position involves a career launch plan evolved with the help of colleagues and other stakeholders. MBA recruits learn to be curious and to connect with their colleagues and other employees across the company.
Supporting the Microsoft transformation
Microsoft relies on MBAs for its transition from an old-style IT organization to a company that produces new-age devices like the Xbox.
Microsoft, among the top five hirers of MBAs, is no longer solely dependent on the PC market, and has broadened its service offerings since Satya Nadella took over as its Chief Executive in 2014. It now provides a broader range of services such as cloud platforms, enterprise software, and artificial intelligence, giving MBAs a wider selection of jobs, FT quotes Chuck Edwards, Head of Global Talent Acquisition, as saying.
The multinational tech giant hires MBAs from 150 schools worldwide, about 100 of them in the US and Canada, and sends them across to world to work in divisions such as finance and business development to marketing and HR. They are given positions such as finance managers, product marketing managers, and business program and strategy managers, with salaries of over $160,000.
Microsoft recruits MBAs, including from INSEAD, Stanford, and Wharton, who can reflect the company leadership’s principles of creating clarity, generating energy, and delivering success. Many new employees attend training events and alumni get-togethers at the Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH).
Safiya Miller, an MBA from Cornell Johnson, who joined Microsoft in 2015 as an accounts executive, was assigned two mentors as part of a MACH program when she joined the company. She feels indebted to the program for opportunities she received as a new employee. After her first year at Microsoft, she helped the company organize a diversity event for 150 recent MBA hires from ten tech Silicon Valley companies, “as part of a spirit to want to give back,” Miller says.
Tech companies other than the biggies in the field like to deploy their MBAs in divisions where they can use their educational/work experience previously gained. Companies specifically want their product managers to have a background in computer science and their other MBAs to have some experience for the roles they are assigned. For example, Airbnb requires its brand marketing hires to have some agency experience.
Apart from Airbnb, among the top tech employers of MBAs are Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, eBay, LinkedIn, Pandora, Salesforce, Workday, and Facebook, according to breakinto.tech, a website that helps MBAs launch a career in the technology industry.
Being creative at Facebook
Facebook COO and Harvard MBA Sheryl Sandberg may have said that FB doesn’t really need MBAs, and that degrees are secondary to skills. But tapwage.com, a job site, finds that FB once had 75 job postings with a preference for MBAs, 9 percent of the total openings. MBAs seem to be in higher demand in the tech sector than they are on Wall Street. In fact, MBA hiring at Facebook is three times more than it is at Goldman Sachs.
Adam Ward, Facebook’s Head of University Recruiting, told CNN that FB looks for “MBAs who can roll up their sleeves and build things, take risks, and be creative with problems.”
Facebook’s internship program is considered the best path to a full-time career. A software engineer intern at FB, Javier Fraire, noted that many product ideas came from hackathons. Devon Porter, a business operations intern, said Facebook gave interns the same kind of work that it assigned to full-time employees. Autonomy and responsibility are a given from day one, and interns benefit from a rich experience.
The Apple attitude
Ever since Tim Cook, a Fuqua MBA, took over as Apple CEO, the company has been hiring more MBAs, says metromba.com. The MBAs invariably have a deep understanding of consumer products and are passionate about Apple’s in particular. Apple looks for attitude, not aptitude, in its job candidates and wants them to help people discover products that can change how they live, work, and play, according to the book “The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Consumer Loyalty,” by Carmine Gallo.
MBAs at Apple, who are hired from top b-schools including Harvard, Stanford, Tepper, Fuqua, and Haas, are deeply involved with the functions of the corporation. They help chart the company’s business strategy in areas ranging from design to finance and merchandising. Apple employs MBAs who are driven to push their own boundaries, which appeals to MBAs.
Google’s Larry Page, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may not have an MBA. But there was surely some special spark that drove them. For others who want a small piece of the tech pie, there are programs at top b-schools.
– Best MBA Programs in Technology
– Amazon job offer after internship for Indian MBA student on a full scholarship
– Apple job after MBA from INSEAD
– Types of jobs in Technology after MBA
– Experience of a candidate who competed with top-tier MBA students to make it into Google
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19