How an MBA Can Lead to a Successful Technology Career

Discover how an MBA can launch your career in technology

Careers in technology are calling MBAs in ways they had not in the past. The MBA degree has grown more versatile over the years. More employers from different industries are recognizing the usefulness of those with MBA training. On the other side of the equation, cultural and economic shifts have made MBAs, once lured almost exclusively by investment banks and consulting firms, more open to other careers.

This change is best demonstrated by looking at recent career data from the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business. In 2017, 30% of the graduating class entered a technology job, which for the first time outpaced the percentage of those going into consulting.

An air of excitement surrounds technology because of the impact and influence it wields on modern society – and will continue to wield into the future. Technology – from the internet to artificial intelligence – has changed the way we live. The revolution continues apace. Businesses are keen to maximize their use of technology to create new products, increase efficiency, and innovate. Of course, they also want to correctly market and sell these big ideas. Enter MBAs.

 

Technology needs management

“Managing in the tech space requires nimbleness of thought, confidence, and the ability to anticipate your competitor’s next three moves,” says Stacey Rudnick, managing director of MBA career management at McCombs School of Business. “An MBA equips students with the education, training, and work experience to make fast and impactful decisions in businesses that [must] move quickly or be overtaken by competitors.”

In recent years, more engineering and IT staffers have been heading to business school. They are often drawn to programs at universities with strong STEM reputations, such as MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At Sloan, 29.3% of the Class of 2016 went into the tech sector. In 2017, 40% of Tepper graduates seeking employment entered the technology industry. In fact, it was the school’s largest industry segment, and Tepper boasted that 58% of the women in the graduating class took on tech roles, which have traditionally been dominated by men.

 

MBAs play pivotal role in the tech sector

Some of the jobs MBAs perform in technology include finance, operations, sales, strategy, or business development roles. The biggest segment is represented by product managers or product marketing managers, says Stephen Rakas, executive director of MBA Career Services at Tepper. The latter role in particular requires MBAs to be au fait with the ubiquitous big data.

“Many companies are focused on drawing strategic insights from the consumer behavior data gathered on their customers,” adds Rakas. “This has created an emerging set of opportunities in data analytics, which is a hallmark of the Tepper MBA program.”

Indeed, big data is a big deal, particularly with technology companies. Eric Batscha is an account executive for Google in New York. He graduated from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business MBA program in 2012. In his role at Google, he constantly uses data analytics skills he picked up at school.

“The advanced data analysis I learned in data analytics at Darden help me to better model out dependencies and assumptions that might impact my client's business,” says Batscha. “As a result, I'm better able to plan for how to help my partners and to focus on areas of growth for their business.”


 

How business schools will evolve

To keep up with the fast-moving technology industry, business schools will have to move just as quickly. Cristian Rennella, vice president of Human Resources and cofounder of oMelhorTrato.com (a loan comparison site for Brazil, Mexico and Colombia), has hired nine MBAs in nine years. MBAs help with strategic vision based on their ability to better manage administration and assess finances, skills often lacking in those with a purely technology background, says Rennella. Moving forward, educators need to spread knowledge about freemium pricing strategies, subscriptions, infoproducts, and software as a service (SaaS), to name a few of the digital world’s up and coming trends, he adds.

Business schools are already trying to address the needs of recruiters in their offerings. At McCombs, the priority is developing relationships with those in the tech sector in Texas and other parts of the United States, particularly in Silicon Valley. Up to 40 first-year MBA students go on a career trek to Seattle, Washington and California’s Bay Area every year. During this trip, students get acquainted with the alumni base from organizations such as, “Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks and T-Mobile in Seattle or Adobe, Apple, Google, HPE, and Salesforce in the Bay Area,” says Rudnick.

In addition, the Bay Area for McCombs Advisory Board is in its third year. Composed of alumni executives from partner recruiting firms, such as Google, Intel, and Salesforce and leaders in the Bay Area banking, consulting and venture capital firms, the group offers advice on the strategic investment in the area’s high tech industry, Rudnick adds.

 

B-schools offer experiential learning opportunities

The University of Arizona Eller MBA places an emphasis on providing students with hands-on learning opportunities. For example, through the Consulting Projects course, students have worked in teams to help companies, such as Microsoft, with a real-world challenge it is facing. The curriculum focuses on business communication, both oral and written. The school encourages students to improve their ability to use data to tell a story.

In 2017, about 40% of full-time MBA students entered the tech industry, says Jen Maiorany, director of MBA Career Management at Eller. The school also offers a concentration in Management Information Systems for MBAs, and a dual degree MIS/MBA program.

 

Broad application of the degree

“An MBA provides students with a broad business acumen that allows them to understand general management and various functional business skills,” says Maiorany. “When students combine this business acumen with highly-sought after tech skills, they have a unique skillset to design and implement solutions as well as the ability to be the communication bridge between IT and the business community.”

Indeed, an MBA with knowledge of technology is useful in all sorts of companies, not just those in the tech sector. Brice Wu is vice president of Engineering at Komodo Health, Inc. in San Francisco, California and a 2008 MBA graduate of Darden. The MBA made him a, “more well-rounded decision maker,” he says. Wu recognizes how the skills of an MBA can be applied in a number of ways in the tech sector. There are a couple of ways to approach this kind of work, he says, to conclude.


“Spend some time trying to understand if you want to be a technologist who understands business, or a business person who understands technology,” suggests Wu. “There are a surprising number of options for people with MBAs within the IT/technology space, and understanding the difference between the two will not only help identify which roles are better fits, but also where greater job satisfaction can be found.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

See related categories:

0 Comments
Log in from the top right-hand corner or click here to register to post comments