MBA Programs For Careers In Silicon Valley

High-tech is the new high-finance, and the 2013 movements of graduates seeking MBA Jobs confirm it. There are a number of courses for the tech-focused MBA applicant.

High-tech is the new high-finance, and the 2013 movements of job-seeking MBA graduates confirm it.
 
Business schools are also rushing to adapt to the rise of the tech industry, experimenting with the structure and breadth of their programs to make sure graduates are prepared to be leaders not just on Wall Street, but in Silicon Valley and New York's Silicon Alley.
 
In November the Wall Street Journal  published some illuminating statistics on the trend. At Harvard, MIT Sloan and Stanford, consistently fewer graduates went into finance. Many more went into tech, with the function surpassing finance at Stanford in a historical first.
 
In June Businessweek reported that Amazon continues to hoover up MBAs - as many as hundreds annually.  
 
So if you're an MBA or a prospective MBA applicant reading this, it's increasingly likely you're looking for a business school with a strong emphasis on the tech industry.
 
Maybe you're looking at Cornell Tech's new Johnson MBA, based at it's brand-new Cornell NYC Tech campus, or Stanford's (also brand-new) MBA/MSc joint-degree in business administration and computer science.
 
How are these programs, and others like them, distinguished? Who are they aimed at? What are they trying to teach you? And most importantly, what MBA Job are they going to help you get?
 
There are different ways to group these programs. The easiest one is who they're aimed at: engineers or non-engineers. Generally, tech-oriented programs either will or won't demand significant experience in a technical field in the form of a degree or demonstrable equivalent.  
 
Cornell Tech's Johnson MBA, for example, asks for a BA, BS or BE in engineering, computer science, mathematics "or a related technical field except in exceptional cases". The program will be based at the university's new campus on Roosevelt Island in New York, which Cornell won after an aggressive bidding war in 2011.  
 
Carnegie Mellon University's joint MBA/MS in Software Engineering also has an extensive list of material that it expects applicants to grasp before applying. These are, by the way, typically the same programs that will involve a large amount of graduate-level engineering courses (e.g. joint degree programs).
 
But not always. Cornell Tech hasn't yet announced a firm curriculum for their Johnson MBA, but from the brief synopsis provided so far and the one-year time-frame, it doesn't look like there will be much engineering tuition during the degree.  
 
Instead, you'll be studying overseas and immersing yourself in the New York tech scene, going through boot camps and doing coursework in the form of projects with local tech companies.
 
On the other hand, some schools allow students to concentrate on educating themselves about the tech industry without requiring them to become a degree-holding engineer in the process.
 
MIT Sloan have their Entrepreneurship & Innovation (EI) track, and offer a range of electives for learning more about the technology industry and entrepreneurship in general. Courses like 'The Software Business' (an introduction to the software industry) and 'Early Stage Capital' (strategies for securing funding and an understanding of the concerns of VCs) provide familiarity with the business concepts relevant to the technology industry.
 
And of course at MIT, and many other programs at institutions with a computer science department attached, there's also the option of taking electives in areas around engineering and software development. But this isn't a requirement.
 
A very brief scan of job postings for management positions at major tech companies on LinkedIn indicates that for many MBA-preferred non-engineering positions such as product management, some sort of tech background is still expected.  
 
During a webinar about Stanford's MBA/MS program, Becky Charvat from their career center spoke a little about what the benefits are of a background in computer science.
 
Becky, who leads the GSB Career Management Centre's Employer Relations & Recruiting team, says it's an advantage being able to code, even if you're not doing it every day.
 
She also pointed out the benefit, for solo entrepreneurs in particular, of being able to develop your own products from scratch - although she emphasizes that having a co-founder you trust when starting a business can be not only beneficial in forming the company, but can also make it less lonely at the top.
 
From the perspective of the applicant without a technical background, the key question is whether the engineering proficiency you'll get from electives is going to be sufficient, or whether it's worth going for a second Masters.
 
The latter may be a savvy choice. And the rising popularity of MBA hiring at tech companies suggests there are plenty of roles for people with a mix of business and technical education.

These MBA programs could be your route to Silicon Valley.

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