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Big Data, Cloud Computing Start-Ups Are Tempting Elite MBA Students — Here's Why

Working with start-ups gives MBAs more responsibility and, potentially, rich rewards

Mon May 2 2016

A trip to the heart of Silicon Valley is not a hard sell for business school candidates but the numbers flocking to Bay Area tech outfits are striking.

Salesforce, VMWare, and Box are among the San Francisco start-ups snapping up MBAs from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

These companies specialize in cloud computing — a $204 billion market that is increasingly alluring for Ivy League business school students. “The idea of things being new, fresh, disruptive, which is a good word for what you’re likely to find here, is attractive,” says Maeve Richard, director of Stanford’s Career Management Center, who adds: “There’s a lot of activity in emerging areas like big data.”

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft — Silicon Valley’s emerging cloud leaders — are raining career opportunity on MBAs. But it’s the smaller players, which are increasingly attracting cloud customers with low-cost services, which are often the most enticing.

“Veeva Systems has everything I was looking for in a post-MBA company,” says Kera Bartlett, an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, referring to the cloud group with a $3.7 billion market capitalization.

“Veeva’s work sits at the intersection of two megatrends — cloud services and life sciences — indicating strong growth potential and a fast-paced work environment,” she says.

Investors are pouring billions of dollars into cloud start-ups and some are competing with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, the tech giant’s cloud offerings, to make market headway. Okta has been one of the most successful. Since its launch in 2009, the company has raised about $230 million, including from Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, securing a “unicorn” valuation of $1.2 billion.

Okta’s potential advantage is that is has a laser focus on building the best cloud solution.

Frederic Kerrest, Okta’s chief operating officer, who earned an MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management, says: “Okta’s business isn’t distracted by having to sell the kit and caboodle, nor by preferential treatment for certain apps, devices and services.”

The big technology players are king when it comes to MBA jobs. But smaller cloud computing outfits are increasingly hiring. “There’s a lot of interest with the students to get exposure with start-ups,” says David Morris, head of corporate sectors at London Business School’s Career Center. Much of the work at cloud leaders centers on big data and this is a white hot field among MBAs. “Anything that’s to do with online is data-driven,” David says.

Working with tech start-ups gives MBAs more responsibility and room for fast-growth. And, should the start-ups prosper, rich rewards — Cloudera and Dropbox, are among a smattering of cloud start-ups to have secured multi-billion-dollar valuations.  

“That’s something students find enticing,” says Damian Zikakis, director of career services at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, who adds: “They tend to target really disruptive technologies or more novel-type start-ups.”

One of the noisiest cloud challenges is Backblaze. “Backblaze provides a lower cost alternative to Amazon S3 and others — allowing developers and IT people to use cloud storage for about 1/4th the cost of other services,” says its chief executive, Gleb Budman, who has an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

He founded Backblaze in 2007. And it’s been growing at a brisk clip since then: it achieved five-year revenue growth of 917%. It's fast expansion mirrors the rampant demand for talent from large cloud service providers.

Phil Han, director of recruiting operations at UCLA Anderson School of Management, says: “It’s hard to attribute an increase in job opportunities to a specific tech sector, but it is true that cloud computing has been an important portion of recruiting.”

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, VMWare, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have all hired Anderson’s MBAs.

Student Reviews

Carnegie Mellon: Tepper




On Campus

Honest Opinion on CMU

Finding yourself in CMU is such a great blessing. The amazing and great professors and lots of networking opportunities. I was in the faculty of engineering and here the course work was very interesting. The lecturers were very strict and couldn't accept late submission of assignments and work given. This made us very focused. The students are generally good and friendly




On Campus

Excellence and Academic Integrity

CMU is one of the top class universities in Pittsburgh. It is a multi-diverse university with high regard for academic integrity, excellence, and innovation. It consists of different programs and departments that work together to achieve a common goal. I enjoy the convenience of moving from one building to the other. The faculty and staff are super friendly. It is relatively easy to make connections with other students, especially where collaboratory research is necessary. I would definitely recommend CMU to anyone looking for a muti-diverse academic experience.




On Campus

Stressful yet worthwhile

I've been genuinely impressed with the fusion of creativity and innovation at CMU. The professors are a mixed bag-- some are great and life-changing, but I had a couple (mostly gen eds in freshman year) that were really frustrating. The workload can be intense, and it's no joke. Campus was very lively; clubs, events, etc. – there's something for everyone. Pittsburgh in general has some areas that are great, and others that disappoint-- Oakland is a very nice university town area. Overall, CMU is a hotbed of innovation and learning, but the pace and location do come into play.




On Campus

Quite demanding here

Carnegie Mellon is a demanding academic institution where students are expected to put in a lot of effort. Despite the challenging coursework and constant workload, this environment teaches you how to speak for yourself and stand up for what you believe in. The institution also has a strong graduate network, which helps you succeed in the job hunt both while you are enrolled there and after