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How MBAs Are Breaking Into The Tech Industry

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann explains some of the challenges in tech entrepreneurship jobs - and MBAs explain how they have broken into the innovative industry.

When Ben Silbermann began developing Pinterest in 2009, he had no idea of the tech success he would achieve. It has been four years this month since the company's visionary CEO began brainstorming ideas for the social media site, and it has since swelled to over 70 million users worldwide.

The pace of innovation in the technology sector is rapid and Pinterest's rise goes a long way to explaining the fascination MBAs are developing for the industry.

Top company's in the sector like Apple and Google are some of the most sought after career paths in the MBA Jobs world and Silicon Valley is a popular career destination.

Other business school graduates have merged technology with entrepreneurship and are running tech-based start-ups.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously dropped out of Harvard and many argue that a b-school education isn't necessary for tech careers - or entrepreneurship.

But while Ben hasn't attended business school, he faced many challenges that MBAs share in the tech sector. Speaking at an entreprenurship event that BusinessBecause covered, Pinterest's co-founder said that securing finance to launch the company during the credit crisis was difficult.

"It was a tough time to raise money here in the US in 2008," Ben said. "It took us almost a year to get funding.

"If you're a first-time entrepreneur, there are two things you need to remember: pick investors that believe in your vision, because you need to be aligned about where you want to go one day.

"Understanding when they want their money back is also an important lesson we’ve learned."

Some MBAs may not know their career ambitions before starting b-school, and transitioning between industries is a common trend. Ben didn't know he wanted to be in tech; his parents and two sisters were doctors, and he initially wanted pursue that field at college.

Without a formal business background or an MBA, Ben had to hire people with skills that fill the gaps. "Your team is everything and my philosophy is simple," he said.

"I try to hire people that are better than me at something and then give them a lot of responsibility. We try to bring people with different backgrounds [together] and point them at the same goal."

Any MBA seeking a tech career would aspire to achieve the success that Pinterest has. Ben says that to grow your user-base as rapidly as he has done, you need a great team around you.

For careers in the tech industry, it might not be best to go it alone - even if you are an entrepreneur.

Ben may not have an MBA, but there is no doubt that it would have helped him succeed. Technology is considered a key strategic differentiator for some of the world's top companies, and tech-mad students use b-school as a route into the industry.

For one MBA at The Fuqua School of Business, technology is the reason he gets out of bed in the morning.

Manav Tandon had a distinguished career as a software engineer but he is using b-school to transition to tech. There has been a surge in MBAs going into technology entrepreneurship and Manav is a shining example.

"It has to be the technology industry," he told BusinessBecause. "It is what I'm passionate about. The pace of innovation is what excites me and that’s what will get me up in the morning. I would love to work in an industry that is fast-changing."

He is the Co-President of The Duke MBA High Tech Club and during the first year of his MBA, Manav co-founded a cloud-computing start-up, All9s, Inc.

He chose to dedicate himself to the MBA program and is no longer involved with the company. But the opportunity has given him experience in technology entrepreneurship.

Manav is certain an MBA will give him a boost in the tech industry once he graduates in 2014. "Now I have access to a global network of alumni," he said.

"Just having a top-fifteen MBA program on my resume will open up more opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise; it is an additional valuation of my skills and abilities.

"It has enabled me to figure out what I'm passionate about. I would now love a marketing role at a technology company."

It is not just tech entrepreneurship that MBAs can move into.

When Benjamin Rhatigan completed a full-time MBA at ESADE Business School, he was soon swept into a role with Delta Partners Group - a company specializing in equity investment in young, high-growth technology businesses.

He says that b-school was essential to him breaking into a technology-related career. "The MBA was critical in preparing me for the position," Ben said. "I made initial contact with the firm via an alumnus from the ESADE MBA."

Ben is "tech mad" and discovered a passion for the industry while taking digital media classes at university.

"It really opened my eyes to the vast creative possibility that technology had, which for me removed some of the dryness that I think a lot of people feel towards the industry," he said.

Now working with emerging economies in the tech sector, Ben is sure an MBA made it all possible: "I hadn't had a formal business education before the MBA so [I learnt] everything," he added.

"Working with diverse teams of people from all over the world is a great way to prepare for leadership and an international career."

After beginning an MBA at HEC Paris, a top-ranking French business school, Maxime Videmann put his consulting career with Accenture on hold for an internship with Facebook.

He joined the company at a time when Facebook held its initial public offering, at $38 per share - the biggest tech IPO on record.

He secured the internship thanks to the careers team at HEC. "Everything was moving very fast," he told BusinessBecause. "It was a fantastic opportunity to work for a dynamic, fast-growing company.

"They were very smart people, but it was very intense too. It was a great opportunity to meet new people, to increase my digital skills and to discover a completely different type of company.

"Facebook was the opposite of a consulting firm. "

Although planning to return to Accenture, it was a "life changing experience" to break into the social media company and Maxime credits the HEC Paris MBA for making that happen.

The technology industry is on the rise, as businesses enjoy renewed growth and global economies are seemingly on a path to prosperity. MBA Jobs have also increased in demand and pay.

According to a recent survey by QS Top MBA, employers hired 14 per cent more MBAs this year than in 2012, and in the Asia Pacific region, salaries increased by 8 per cent.

Many will argue that b-school isn't necessary to launch a tech career. But according to these MBAs, it has given them the skills, connections and opportunities to get started in one of the most popular modern functions.

Technology remains a fast-paced and innovative career path. And although Pinterest's co-founder hasn't got one, a b-school education is a savvy investment for tech's next generation.

Whether through entrepreneurship or corporate careers, MBAs are moving into the technology space as fast as the industry is evolving.

For those who want to create innovation, b-school may be the key to unlocking your path.



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