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How My STEM MBA Got Me A Job At PayPal In Silicon Valley

Hector Elizondo is now working at the forefront of innovation at PayPal in San Jose, Silicon Valley. He says doing a STEM-focused MBA helped him get there


Thu Nov 7 2019

The moment Hector Elizondo first stepped foot in San Francisco's Silicon Valley, he knew he was destined for a career in tech. 

It was on the Tech Trek, organized by the Technology Club at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, where he was half way through his first term on the MBA program. The trip made its way through California’s digital oasis, meeting and exploring companies like Facebook and Google. 

For Hector, it was a future defining moment.  

“From that point onwards, I fell in love with tech culture,” he enthuses. 

Two years on, with an MBA under his belt, Hector is back in Silicon Valley working for PayPal, making decisions and driving changes to make one of the world’s most innovative companies even more innovative. 

From cement to servers

Reflecting on his career journey so far, Hector (pictured left) feels like he has come a long way.

Originally from Mexico, Hector started out working for Cementos Mexicanos (“Cemex”), Mexico’s largest cement company, as part of his industrial engineering degree. After graduation, he landed a full time role there in strategic sourcing—making the resources and processes of the company more effective. 

A long way from clouds and servers, rocks and minerals were his bread and butter—a job that was practical and firmly resource-based. 

“As the years progressed, I was given more opportunities to grow and learn new things—but I wanted something different,” he remembers. 

He wanted a change of scenery and career, and even more so, he wanted more responsibility. Looking around head office where he was working, all of his superiors had one thing in common—they all had MBAs. 

MBA-wise, the US presented the perfect opportunity. A proximity to home enabling quick visits to come back and see his family, as well as some of the world’s top business schools—including Duke Fuqua, his MBA of choice. 

Making roads towards tech

Hector reluctantly admits that he wasn’t certain about his career path of choice even during his first time at Fuqua. But his previous experience and his passion pointed him in the right direction.

“I have a passion for finding ways of improving a process—making it better from many perspectives,” he reveals, “In tech, this is a big part of innovation.”

He quickly saw the MBA as an opportunity for a career pivot towards working in tech. A significant part of this was the opportunity to take the STEM-designation track (MSTeM) in the second year of the program.

The MSTeM track at Fuqua gives students the skills for pursuing a leadership position in the science and technology fields. The program takes a specific STEM focus on various areas of business, including innovation, transformation, and operations.

“I knew, when I was applying for jobs, that I had little experience in this industry, and I wanted to make the most for the program to be able to work in a tech environment,” Hector recalls. 


Using innovation to solve problems

In terms of building his tech profile, Hector had some serious takeaways from the program.

Skills-wise, the STEM track gave Hector the perfect combination of leadership soft skills with the tech understanding to be able to lead in an organization like PayPal.

“The MBA gives you the framework of how to challenge the status quo in an organization,” he stresses.

This plays a big role in his current job in strategic sourcing, where he currently analyses global data to try and make all aspects of the business more efficient. 

“It involves deploying this highly analytical skillset that requires taking information, analyzing it, cleaning data, and taking it to stakeholders,” he recalls. 

And when he encounters resistance to change?

“The managing innovation track [on the STEM designation] gave me the frameworks of how to address these situations, and how to articulate this change through innovative solutions.”

A dream come true

For an international student like Hector, the STEM track at Fuqua has another benefit—it’s enabled him to extend his optional training period (OPT), usually just one year, by an additional two years. This is a response to demand for STEM jobs, an industry where there is expected to be two million jobs unfilled by 2025.

It has quelled some of the fears he had about finding work in the US, and has given him the time to build experience in the world’s tech center. 

Hector’s dream to work in tech has clearly paid off—and he couldn’t be enjoying it any more. 

“Sometimes I have problems trying to reconcile the fact that I am actually having fun at work!” 

Student Reviews

Duke University Fuqua School of Business




On Campus

Supportive atmosphere

The professors at Duke university exhibit exceptional commitment to the success and well-being of their students by ensuring their academic growth and fostering a supportive social atmosphere. Moreover, the entire community is recognized for its amicability and inclusiveness.




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The people or the students are without a doubt Duke's greatest asset. While all students are driven to succeed, they are also enthusiastic about a variety of hobbies. You run across a huge lot of diversity. It is the ideal example of a school with well-rounded students and the ideal balance of campus life in a metropolis.




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Happy to school

All I could ever hope for is Duke University. That really epitomizes the "work hard, play hard" philosophy that elite colleges frequently pursue. Even though you'll have a lot of schooling to complete over the week, it's simple to keep focused because all of your friends are putting in similar amounts of effort. Many events taking place on and around campus on the weekends provide a great way to unwind. The combination of demanding academics and traditional college fun strikes the perfect balance.




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Good schooling

Living, eating, learning, and developing who you want to be as an adult are all fantastic at Duke. I participated in student athletics, and I couldn't have asked for a better interaction with the faculty and other students. I appreciate all of the help I get from the Duke community more than anything. Furthermore, the teachers take the time to get to know you, and the lectures are diverse and demanding (if you do the same). I'd give it a 10 out of 10.




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Beautiful School, Nice Classes

DU remains one the greatest and best universities that I have ever stepped in. The school is beautiful and neat. The classes are spacious and also very nice. I enjoyed attending my Lectures in those lecture halls. I also loved the Lecturers because of the good work they did. The university also has very good dorms that are given to students on first come first serve basis and they are affordable





Amazing experience

I received my B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Global Health with a minor in Chemistry from Duke University. I was able to grow as a student, scientist, and global health advocate with the help of my friends, professors, and other mentors I met along the way. A lot to learn if you look and ask, a great place to learn for those who want to learn.





whirlwind of growth and change

An amazing 2 years, with covid and everything else happening Duke has been a place of growth for me. The courses , classes were one of a kind, online and on campus. But the valuable lessons learned in the classes are irreplicable. The students are amazing here, so much diversity , I had no problem fitting in. The teachers are down right brilliant and so helpful. Don't be afraid to ask them anything. Graduated with my MBA with Duke and now my future awaits.




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One of the best for Business students

Graduated with an MBA. The classes were very insightful and engaging. The staff are very easy to deal with. The teachers and students, are truly amazing people. Grateful to all the people I've met along the way at Duke. I've learnt a great deal that will help me in my future endeavors. The campus itself is a marvel, it is beautiful.




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The university campus is awesome

I graduated with a masters degree in Religious Studies from Duke University. One thing I really liked about the university is its huge campus. It is spread in a large area with a lot of greenery and also have the facilities of reading rooms for single person also. My department building was very well taken care of. The library is immensely populated with books for all your needs. The faculty is very nice to students. The classes are equipped with latest technology to cater the needs of students. The University also provides room rentals for international students. They are very well maintained and priority is given to the International students for a comfortable stay there. There are weekly events conducted by the University as well as Student clubs for the entertainment of students. Anybody can take part in them and show their talents. I enjoyed my degree and I graduated in 2021 and was very happy that I had graduated from a reputed University.