Apple Inc, the leading technology giant, is a happy place to be. In October, before the iPhone maker posted revenues of $43 billion, one Executive MBA student landed a dream job.
Steve Ballmer, the outgoing chief executive of Microsoft, had just settled a deal to buy Finland’s Nokia’s mobile phone business, which looked set to reshape the telecoms industry on two continents.
As MBAs continued scrambling to start careers at Microsoft and Apple, whose shares recently surged above $600 for the first time in a year, Yvonne Buysman had just made the cut. The new Apple regional director for B2B sales had barely even begun her second year at Hult International Business School.
“It [an EMBA] requires a lot of team projects, and working in the mobile tech industry we work in teams every day,” says Yvonne. “This experience – and going through all the different subjects – prepared me for this type of culture [at Apple].”
Eight months ago her goal was reached. Yvonne had broken into one of the biggest tech players after more than a decade at Sony Ericsson, as director of sales. In-between some 13 years with the firm, she worked as a regional sales manager at Siemens Mobile.
There has perhaps never been a better time to go mobile. Microsoft sent shockwaves through the industry when it announced the €5.4 billion takeover of Nokia, sending the Finnish company’s shares soaring more than 40% in Helsinki.
February’s $19 billion deal bonanza, when Facebook bought WhatsApp in one of the biggest ever tech questions, underlined how healthy the technology and digital industries are this year.
Big digital IPOs have raised eyebrows and prompted fears of a tech bubble, but that is not a view shared among business school graduates, who have entered such sectors in droves.
“Digital is an enormous change and it doesn’t just impact marketing – it’s a fundamental re-wiring of business,” says Nick Leeder, managing director of Google France. “It’s something people coming out of the MBA are well served to understand.”
A report released last week by GMAC, providers of the b-school entry exam the GMAT, added further confidence to the growth of tech careers. Not only has MBA hiring leapt 30% since the financial crisis – and 7% since 2013 – but technology firms have a similarly healthy appetite for the MBA holder. Some 74% plan to hire MBAs this year, according to GMAC.
The data sent commentators scrambling to trumpet a return to economic confidence. As the global economy continues to pick up steam, the tech and digital industries will keep chugging on.
“MBAs have always been valued by employers, but this survey shows that as the economy improves, employers see MBAs as a good investment into their future," says Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s CEO and president.
Just before Halloween Angela Ahrendts was preparing to leave her CEO post at Burberry, the fashion giant, to join Apple’s ranks. The company’s new senior vice president of retail and online stores is tasked with expanding Apple’s high-street presence.
Angela, who was formerly one of only a few top female chief execs, also bagged a spot on Apple’s executive team. “She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the time.
As the announcement hit the presses, Yvonne began settling into her managerial post at the same company. She still studies part-time at Hult, with rotations in London, Dubai and Shanghai.
The desire to ramp-up female hiring could be less important when it comes to MBA jobs at some big tech companies. When screening new hires, Yvonne values team-work above all else. But she does not speak for Apple's entire recruiting strategy.
“I look if a candidate can fit into the team well. Are they passionate about the topic and do they think outside the box?” she says. “I feel that having gone through the EMBA, these are all of the skillsets we needed.”
She says MBAs can expect to go through 15 to 25 interview rounds. No easy feat. MBA and EMBA students are exposed to a huge number of industries while studying. Despite working for a very specific tech business, the experience will still serve you well at Apple.
“The strategy skillset that the EMBA helps you with is a huge strength,” says Yvonne.
Yet some of the tech sector’s most prestigious companies are less clear in their recruiting approach. Nick, who heads Google’s French operations, suggests it’s more about a new way of thinking.
Tech heads will have heard of “moonshot thinking” – trying to make something ten times better, “instead of just 10%”. Google seemingly encourages its MBA hires to discard old approaches to business thinking.
But not everyone can spend their time thinking about moonshots. “We spend time also working with some important companies, thinking through their digital strategies,” laughs Nick.
“There’s a lot of change that’s been created by the Internet and a lot of companies are addressing these problems. MBAs and people with similar backgrounds…. are good at doing that.”
Before Nick moved from Google Australia to French soil, he had to suffer challenging job interviews. He remembers being asked, several times, about his career failures. “I was invited to stop at one,” he quips.
Google may be impressed with MBA’s failures – in a manner of speaking. “We think people who have been involved in some things that haven’t worked out is OK as well,” says Nick. He adds: “It’s important that people come into the company with the right approach and mind-set and the right reasons – not just to make money.”
Google, while still a popular tech powerhouse, tends to differ from competitors when it comes to acquisitions and expansion. But the company has reportedly just set aside $30 billion for foreign acquisitions. With such capital at its disposal, it is not hard to imagine rapid expansion – and that is good news on the careers front.
Earlier this month Google bought Divide, a New York-based start-up that allows users to separate their work and personal data on smartphones and tablets.
MBAs will be drawn by the likelihood of many more years of success. The big tech and digital behemoths show little sign of hiring cutbacks. And as Yvonne points out, an EMBA has been the perfect preparation for a career leap to Apple.