MBA Recruiter Interview: Amber Daniels, VMware

MBA jobs

While consulting and finance usually win the popularity contest for MBA jobs, the tech industry is becoming more and more popular with MBAs. Need proof? Look at the 2014 employment reports from the likes of MIT Sloan, Michigan Ross and Kellogg, where tech is the second most popular industry.

There’s definitely room for MBAs in tech, even those without an engineering background, says Amber Daniels, university relations manager at the cloud computing company VMware. As an MBA employer, VMware has something of an edge, in that it is a seemingly rare example of a US recruiter that is able to hire international students who are in the country on F1 and J1 visas. While VMware has only been recruiting MBAs for about five years, it is already a popular MBA employer, making Universum’s Top Ideal 100 MBA Employer Ranking (currently standing at 89th).

You may not be aware that VMware hires MBAs for product marketing and product management roles. Daniels, who has been with VMware for over five years, discusses what the company looks for in its business school recruits and why MBAs shouldn’t be afraid of tech.

How long has the MBA program been in place?

I've been at VMware for over five years and we have been recruiting MBAs for longer than I have been here. Our university relations program in general is about seven years old; we still think that it is sort of in its beginning stages. I think that seven years is probably a good estimate as far as MBAs and new college recruitment in general goes.

Which programs are on offer to MBAs at VMware?

For MBAs, it's not that we limit them to these positions, but the majority of our MBA positions are in product management, product marketing management, and corporate finance. We are working on a rotational development program, but right now, the majority of our roles for MBAs are 12-week summer internships. We also have a co-op, which is a longer, 16-week program. These can be worth college credit. And then we also hire MBAs, of course, for full-time roles, not just for intern programs. Our intern program is a great feeder for our full-time MBA positions, though.

VMware is ranked 89th in Universum’s Top Ideal 100 MBA Employer Ranking. Why do you think so many MBAs want to work for VMware?

At VMware, we have established ourselves as a pretty hot place to work over the last several years. I think one of the reasons we are attracting so many students – both MBA students and engineering students – is because we have a really top notch internship program. Once students get to experience the intern program, word travels quickly and students tell their friends who want to experience the intern program too.

The program is unique. We have challenging projects, we definitely have competitive compensation, and we provide housing and transportation. Most of our internships are in Palo Alto, at our corporate headquarters.

Another great thing about our intern program is the overall experience on a social level. Students are able to connect with people in their respective fields and make lifelong connections. It’s a breeding ground for really cool things. We have a really incredible campus in Palo Alto and we host TechTreks for a lot of MBA programs like CMU Tepper, Michigan Ross, Georgia Tech, Booth, UC Irvine, and Cornell. We host them typically during the winter time and we have already hosted a few this year. The Tech Treks provide students with an opportunity to see the campus and the culture and the students love it. We usually do a Q&A and a campus tour and a networking event. It’s a really cool opportunity for them to see up close and personal what VMware has to offer.

I think in general, VMware has really established itself as a brand on campus over the past couple of years. A couple of years ago, many students, even on the engineering side, weren't really sure about VMware and what we do. But it has been really telling the last few years, and really cool to see how much we have exploded. Every career fair, every event, we have hundreds of students at our booth. It’s been really phenomenal to see the growth. I think that it’s just spreading and people are really interested in the company and the culture that we have to offer here.

Can you give an overview of the MBA recruitment process?

Sure. Students from any university are encouraged to apply. We have a website were we encourage them to apply, the VMware main career portal. The recruiters continually funnel through the student applicants online.

We would love to get out and visit every MBA program, unfortunately time constraints don't allow it, but we do conduct on-campus interviews at some predetermined campuses every season. Students apply through a university portal for their specific university and they have a deadline to submit their résumé and cover letters. On the date of the deadline, our VMware recruiters and hiring team review the applicants and select the top picks, and then our interviewers fly out to the college campuses to interview the student in person.

It is a multipronged approach; the online process is certainly a key part of our recruitment strategy. If we are not able to make it out to a certain university, I would encourage those students to apply online. While on-campus interviews are great, they are not the only way we hire MBAs. It’s just an additional tool.

Which business schools you recruit from and why?

The schools vary every year, we actually do a reevaluation every summer during our off season, but we research the top MBA schools in the country and build a recruiting strategy from them. We consider proximity to our VMware offices and the concentrations that MBA programs offer.

For our on-campus interviews, we target Sloan, UCLA, Booth, and Tepper, but we also have strong relations with Georgia Tech, Ross, and USC.

The reason we do our on-campus interviews at those schools is based on the research that we have done. In large part that is due to student success of the people that we have hired from those particular campuses, but again, they are reevaluated every season so it is not that we are tied to one or two schools and not able to add others to our roster.

What do VMware’s MBA internships entail?

For product marketing, interns are working with the team that is helping to drive more products into the marketplace, by understanding the current market and developing strategies to drive customer awareness. The internships and also the new college graduates basically define the go-to market plan for our solution, and help the sales team to deliver. Some of the examples for recent projects for product marketing have been mining customer product usage behavior to develop recommendations from the data to inform product decision making.

For product management, interns are the CEOs of their product, so they are defining and driving execution of the vision for the product line. They usually work cross functionally with product marketing and engineering and also sales and corporate marketing and alliance partners. So, those are two different kinds of roles.

What technical skills do MBAs need in order to work at VMware?

Students with engineering backgrounds tend to excel in product management roles, while product marketing roles are a really good place to start to build technical knowledge for those without that background. Technical skills are obviously not required for our finance opportunities.

What do you look for when evaluating a candidates resume and experience?

For the technical roles, we are looking for students who are passionate about technology. While direct technical experience is not a requirement for all of the groups, we do like to see candidates who are actively involved in the tech clubs on campus and at least are familiar with virtualization. For finance opportunities, we look for students who have roughly three to five years of corporate finance experience in some capacity.

Are you looking for the same number of years of experience for product management and product marketing roles as you are for the finance roles?

Yes. Of course, with the product marketing there’s a little less emphasis on the technical experience.

In terms of product marketing where you are mining data, does it help to have a data background for that?

I definitely think that helps, but I wouldn't discourage someone that doesn't have a really heavy data-driven background to apply. A lot of times, we find that product managers and product marketing managers apply for the same types of roles and many times in our on campus interviews we will interview one student for both positions, because we can see that that person might easily transfer over into a different role. If they aren’t the perfect fit for product management, we might consider them for product marketing instead.

What should MBAs do in order to make a good first impression on recruiters? What should they avoid doing?

I would encourage MBAs to not be afraid to ask questions about the roles and the hiring teams they are interested in. It is really important for us to find a team fit just as much as it is important for us to find a skill or experience fit.

I would encourage them to come to the events that we host on campus if they can. It's a great way to interact with our product management and our product marketing management and finance teams while they are there on campus to get to know them on a social level. We also encourage MBAs to connect with alumni, who can give them that additional perspective and experience.

I think that, as far as what they should avoid doing, MBAs need to keep in mind that some of the people they are talking to are professionals and they don't have time address a lot of emails. I think that basic questions like the recruiting processes and timelines and available roles and things like that can be fielded by the recruitment staff usually, but I think they should save those more in-depth questions that aren't necessarily about the recruiting process for on-campus events. That includes really good questions about the roles and the hiring teams and the team in general and the overall size of the team. They want to make sure they are making the best use of the product managers and the product marketing managers we have on campus’ time. Recruitment questions should be reserved for recruiters who are available to answer those questions via telephone or email at any time.

Are most of your MBA hires from the US?

Actually, we have no visa restrictions so we hire an even mix of US citizens and foreign students that are on F1 or J1 visas. We are very fortunate to have the ability to hire the best talent regardless of visa status and we have an excellent immigration team that assists the students throughout the entire process.

I think a lot of business schools, when we first started to develop relationships with them, are sometimes surprised that we don't have any visa restrictions. This is another reason why we have very long lines at career fairs and a lot of interest.

How many interns does VMware hire overall?

In the US, we hire about 230 to the intern program every year; we do not disclose any specifics on the engineering or the business side.

Is MBA hiring up or down this year?

MBA hiring is slightly on the incline, but we are still trying to establish ourselves as an MBA recruiter. For many years we were trying to build our R&D (engineering) programs and now that we feel like we are a top contender on that front, we are starting to shift focus and turn our attention to the business side.

What are some common misconceptions that MBAs have about VMware?

MBAs don't realize there is a place for them in the tech industry and they think that we only hire engineers. That is absolutely not the case. We definitely need strong business leaders to position ourselves in today's market and MBAs are such a pivotal part of that road. Time and time again at our events, we will get a student that walks up and says, “Oh, I didn't know you hired MBAs,” or “I didn't know that you hired for product marketing or product management.” For a long time MBAs didn't know that there were opportunities for them, but absolutely that is not the case. Certainly, there is a high demand for them.

Is there anything that I didn't ask that MBAs should know before applying for jobs at VMware?

I just want to reiterate that MBA candidates should not be afraid of tech, that there is a place for them at VMware and in the tech industry in general and there is definitely demand. That’s the point I would really like to drive home. We would certainly love to get their résumés and love to consider them for the roles we have.

answers edited for length and clarity 

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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