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How This MBA Went From Teaching Kindergarten To Marketing iPhones In Silicon Valley

Jeremy Schifeling says liberal arts folk can land tech jobs too

By  

Tue Dec 1 2015

BusinessBecause
I’ve always been a huge nerd. While all my childhood friends were outside playing football, I was busy installing DOS on my first computer. And when I should have been writing book reports, I was instead blogging on Prodigy — before blogging was even a thing!

But I never thought I’d get a chance to actually work on my nerdy passions. Not with the scarlet letter that I have worn ever since college: a liberal arts degree. Eek. No CS major, no tech job: I always assumed.

So instead I started my career as a kindergarten teacher. And I thought I’d try to find outlets for my geekdom — building a class website, teaching my students PowerPoint — and I figured that was as close to the tech world as I was ever going to get.

As the years passed, though, I could never fully get the idea of a tech job out of my head. Each incredible innovation — PDAs, MP3 players, smartphones — was like a fresh taunt from the other side: “Hey, how cool would it be to work on me?” And like Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the idea began to beat louder and louder in my thoughts until I finally broke down and asked a friend in the tech sector for advice.

A computer scientist by training, he took pity on a poor, pathetic PoliSci major and offered this nugget: “I don’t know much about the non-technical side of things, but an awful lot of folks over there seem to have MBAs.”

That seed, planted innocuously in my mind, quickly began to germinate. Before I knew it, I was signing-up for the GMAT, researching schools, and trying to figure out what “net present value” and “supply chains” were all about. And in the end, I was lucky enough to snag a spot at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, chosen because it seemed like a collaborative, down-to-earth place where an ex-kindergarten teacher might just be able to fit in. 

jeremy

Thus, two decades after my first computer experience, it was with great trepidation that I entered business school in Ann Arbor — especially because on the first day, I met no fewer than seven former engineers who not only wanted the same tech jobs I did, but who were actually qualified to get them.

But here’s the crazy thing: fast-forward exactly eight months from that first day of orientation and I was on my way to a different kind of orientation — new intern training at Apple. I was lucky enough to land a plum marketing internship on the iOS team, the exact same role that all those engineers coveted.

And here’s the crazier thing: I wasn’t alone. On that same bus headed to Cupertino was a former snowboard designer, a former Navy submariner, and a former manager at China’s largest egg processing facility. And not a single computer science degree between the four of us.

How was this possible? How did we all make the transition into a world that can feel so forbidding to non-techies?

The secret is in the data. Because if you crunch the numbers on LinkedIn — and I have — it turns out that for all of Silicon Valley’s geekiness, 3/4 of its jobs are non-technical in nature. Which just makes sense if you think about it.

Sure, it takes a lot of coders to make an awesome app. But it takes even more HR people to hire those coders, project managers to keep them organized, and marketers to bring their work out to the world.

And the result is that there are tens of thousands of liberal arts folk working in tech, just like me.

So if you’re also a nerd, know this: the tech world is wide open for business. Just don’t be afraid to knock on its door.

Jeremy Schifeling is the founder and CEO of Break into Tech, a resource site for anyone who wants to land a great tech job — no matter their background

Student Reviews

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor - Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Student

Verified

8/01/2024

On Campus

Best School Ever

Love the University of Michigan! There are so many incredible people of all different backgrounds. We have an huge student population so it is easy to find people with similar interests. Also a great education that sets you up for any job in the future.

Jude

Verified

20/06/2023

On Campus

Lecturers; inspiring excellence

As a student in general one thing that stands out for me is the quality of how Information is passed through, I am eager to express my utmost gratitude to how the lecturers who greatly enrich my academic path pass these information. The exceptional quality of education and unwavering dedication displayed by these outstanding individuals have consistently surpassed my highest expectations. I am grateful for the profound influence they have on my personal development and the remarkable strides I have made in my learning journey.

Kate

Verified

28/05/2023

Blended

Top Choice

The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor is renowned for its rigorous academic standards and comprehensive support systems that contribute to student career success. The undergraduate programs offered at the university are highly regarded, consistently ranking among the top public schools. The university's distinguished reputation and abundant resources empower students to excel. Faculty members are readily available and provide valuable guidance and knowledge to facilitate learning.

Fred

Verified

24/05/2023

On Campus

Remarkable journey

The University of Michigan has been a very fantastic experience for me. My expectations were surpassed by the high caliber of instruction, the enthusiastic lecturers, and the variety of options for personal development. The campus is stunning, and there is a wonderful sense of community there. The University of Michigan is a fantastic choice for a memorable collegiate experience. Go Blues!

George

Verified

18/05/2023

On Campus

Vibrant Atmosphere

The University of Michigan is a top institution with superb academics, outstanding faculty, and an unrivaled student experience. A quick stroll from end to end of Central Campus just takes a few minutes. The vibrant atmosphere of Ann Arbor, together with its accessibility to the city's center and abundance of dining options and activities, enhances its allure. An extra benefit is the convenient and effective transit system. The entire university experience was excellent!

Nitika Mittal

Verified

3/05/2023

Online

Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning

I have enrolled in the course "Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning." It is starting on May 3rd and will end on August 31st, so it is a 6-week course. I am interested because it is a self-paced course which will help me with the following things; Firstly, utilizing videos and other evidence can improve teachers' understanding of ambitious instruction. Providing teachers with practical examples and real-world applications can enhance their skills and knowledge. Secondly, technology can play a crucial role in supporting teachers and students in enacting ambitious instruction. Leveraging technology can provide additional resources, increase engagement, and promote personalized learning. Thirdly, research-based frameworks can be used to organize schools and systems to support ambitious instruction. Frameworks can help establish best practices and set standards for educators to follow. Lastly, leadership strategies and skills are vital to inspiring and supporting positive change. Strong leadership can motivate and guide teachers toward ambitious instruction while creating a positive school culture that prioritizes student learning. This course is offered as certified and non-certified, and the fee for the certified course is very nominal (approx. $271). Moreover, all the professors are highly educated. This course has provided its course material online and it is supported by the Edx platform. Overall, based on my educational background and work experience, I am confident that taking this course will provide me with additional qualifications and I can include it on my resume.

Student

Verified

4/04/2023

Online

World class institution

The University of Michigan is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive community, and it has a number of initiatives aimed at promoting equity and inclusion on campus. For example, it has a comprehensive set of policies and programs aimed at increasing the representation of underrepresented minorities, women, and LGBTQ individuals among its students, faculty, and staff.

Student

Verified

4/04/2023

On Campus

Coolest university ever!

The University of Michigan is a world-class institution that offers its students an exceptional education and an unparalleled range of opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. With its commitment to academic excellence, research, and service, it is no surprise that it consistently ranks among the top public universities in the United States.

Student

Verified

4/04/2023

On Campus

Academic programs

The most impressive aspects of the University of Michigan is its academic programs. With over 260 degree programs across 19 schools and colleges, including highly ranked programs in engineering, business, law, and medicine, the university offers an unparalleled range of opportunities for students to pursue their academic interests and career aspirations. The faculty members are world-renowned scholars and experts in their respective fields, and they are committed to providing their students with a challenging, yet supportive, learning environment.

Student

Verified

12/01/2024

On Campus

U of Michigan

University of Michigan is known to be very academically rigorous while also having a booming social life for students. I believe it fully lived up to this reputation!! Every school and program is a power house and has the resources and opportunities for students to succeed.

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