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Big Data: Cloud Computing Juggernauts Salesforce, Amazon, Google, Are Snapping Up MBAs

Silicon Valley's cloud giants are raining career opportunity on Ivy League business schools

Mon Apr 25 2016

For MBAs, the sexiest Silicon Valley jobs are up in the clouds. Revenues from cloud computing businesses at Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are forecast to top $22 billion in 2016. And tech’s cloud giants are raining career opportunity on Ivy League business schools.

“Our MBA hires have been growing every year for the past five years and we hope to continue that trend,” says Miriam Park, Amazon’s director of university recruiting.

Growth is so robust — Amazon Web Services surged by 70% in the most recent reported quarter — that Amazon has set-up a cloud leadership development program just for MBAs, CloudPath, which is three years long.

“We see MBAs as an important leadership pipeline — many senior leaders at Amazon are MBAs,” Miriam says.

Amazon is by far the most ravenous technology employer of MBAs, but cloud is a silver lining in the MBA jobs market, from IBM and Oracle, to HP and EMC.

The global cloud services market is projected to grow 16% in 2016 to $204 billion, up from $175 billion in 2015, according to Gartner, the research group.

“As the growth of cloud computing accelerates and more software and IT infrastructure providers adopt cloud-based delivery models, there has been an increased demand for MBA-level talent,” says Scott Scheible, associate director for careers at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business.

Nearly 40% of Tepper MBAs were hired by tech outfits in 2015, and the school has partnered cloud leaders Salesforce, VMware, and IBM.

MBAs have migrated to tech employers, as the likes of Google, Apple, and Amazon have grown rapidly their headcounts, promising recruits tasty wage packets, broad responsibility, and relaxed office cultures; better work/life balance.


“Tech employers have always had a strong presence at MIT Sloan,” says Sue Kline, director of MBA career development at the business school, which sent 30% of its MBAs to tech.

Cloud computing has emerged as a powerful engine of this growth, as Silicon Valley stalwarts add revenue as they sell computing power to companies searching for low-cost alternatives to traditional IT providers, often renting data stored in underground farms the size of football fields.

“Those companies certainly have been strong recruiters for us in recent years, and I’m sure this part of their business [cloud computing] has contributed to that,” says Rich Wong, MBA employer relations manager for Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.

At Microsoft, revenues at its cloud platform, Azure, rose 120% in the first quarter of 2016. Alphabet, the holding company of Google, reported headcount increased 16% to around 64,000 employees, with hiring focused on the cloud.

“There are always global opportunities [for MBAs],” says Michael Jordan, global portfolio manager for analytics software at SAP. The German enterprise software group expects to hit €8 billion in cloud subscriptions by 2020, up from an expected €3 billion in 2016.


Cloud computing’s growing lustre chimes with the fascination MBAs have with big data and analytics. “I can’t wait to start this summer,” says Kera Bartlett, an MBA student at the Tepper School.

She will join Veeva Systems, a California cloud computing business, as a product marketing manager. “Veeva’s work sits at the intersection of two megatrends — cloud services and life sciences — indicating the strong growth potential and fast-paced work environment I was looking for,” she says.

It is not just enterprise cloud specialists that are snapping up business school graduates for cloud computing roles, but tech groups like Facebook, and Google, whose business models rely on data. “They created cloud computing, and now they are collecting rents on it,” says Vasant Dhar, professor of business and data science at NYU Stern.

Chris Brown, director of LinkedIn Talent Solutions UK, says: “For business professionals and business students, there are of course opportunities at LinkedIn.” More than 60% of LinkedIn’s $3 billion annual revenues come from companies using its cloud-based recruiting software.

“Lots of companies we work with in the UK now are realizing the data we can offer helps them position their brand to the right target audience,” Chris says.


While hiring has floated upwards at cloud computing juggernauts, the range of skills MBAs need has rapidly expanded.

Mark Skilton, professor in the Information Systems and Management Group at Warwick Business School, says tech companies need to have staff with cloud and big data skills.

“It is critical to understand the value of data in today’s economy — for competitive reasons and to manage the enterprise’s brand, and its security,” he says.

On the menu at elite business schools now are machine learning, cloud platforms, the Hadoop software framework, Spark data processing, and Python.

“Clearly the whole space of digital technologies is entering into the business school world,” says Soumitra Dutta, dean of Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management.

But he does not see the pace of change happening quickly enough: “Integration with tech disciplines is not happening as much as it should,” he says.