A culture of innovation is luring MBAs to Silicon Valley as the disruptive tech groups behind driverless cars, wearable technologies and the sharing economy turn to top business schools for talent.
“The relentless commercialisation of technology products and services has seen opportunities [open] for MBAs to apply their skills across technology, strategy and operations,” says Paul Schoonenberg, MBA careers head at Aston Business School.
As businesses increasingly harness the power of tech to stay competitive, the recruitment machines in Palo Alto have begun to turn.
“Finding the right people for the right position at the right time is the most important thing,” says Phil Libin, chief executive officer at Evernote, the digital note-taking company, at an Oxford Saïd Business School event. Like many Silicon Valley start-ups, as Evernote grows and edges ever closer to becoming a public company, having the right team becomes more important.
While most budding tech leaders are enthusiastic about Silicon Valley, those closest to the eye of the storm have the pick of the litter. “The Bay Area is a huge centre of start-up activity and innovation,” says Kimberly MacPherson, an associate director at Haas School of Business in California, which has a campus on the Valley’s fringes.
She says Haas supports MBAs by engaging with emerging local entities. 43% of the Haas’ class was hired by tech companies last year. Among the biggest recruiters were Google, Facebook, Adobe and PayPal – all based in Silicon Valley.
Sue Kline, senior director of the Career Development Office at MIT Sloan School of Management, says technology firms have been drawn to the school and hire MBAs for roles in business development, product management, marketing and finance.
“The combination of understanding the technology and developing a strong business skill-set is a powerful asset for an organization,” she says.
More than half of recent graduates from the MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business stay in the San Francisco Bay Area. One-quarter of its alumni – around 7,500 people – live there.
Michael Goul, chair of the Information Systems Department at W. P. Carey School of Business, says demand is coming from everywhere in the tech industry – big corporations as well as nimble start-ups.
The trend for tech companies to jump on the business school bandwagon stems from the desire among MBAs to work at innovative businesses.
In the UK at London Business School, Amazon was the third-largest recruiter in 2014, ahead of Citibank and Deloitte. At INSEAD, Microsoft hired more MBA students than both Accenture and PwC. “They still need the brightest and best minds to drive the commercial business, and are seeking new thinking and innovation,” says Paula Quinton-Jones, director of career services for Hult International Business School.
Eric Young, assistant dean of Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Career Center, highlights Silicon Valley-based businesses Uber and Airbnb as newer enterprises forcing established companies to innovate in order to compete and survive.
Older companies are perceived as having a culture that is slow, formal and old-fashioned. Silicon Valley offers an attractive alternative.
“[MBAs] seem eager to explore careers in organizations that are tech-savvy, innovative [and] nimble...And might have the potential upside of soaring financially,” Eric says.