Business School to Break Into Tech?

business school to break into tech

Career changes are inevitable in this topsy-turvy economy, but how can business school graduates parlay their expertise into a lucrative and potentially high-impact career in the tech industry, which largely sources talent with more technical backgrounds?


In an interview on the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business blog, Darden Technology Club President Adrienne Brewbaker ’16—who arrived at business school after four years spent doing IT consulting at IBM—says the appeal of tech for MBAs has a lot to do with the lack of red tape within the company infrastructure. “At these tech companies, there is usually less bureaucracy and fewer barriers to making impact. You can get in there and provide value from the get-go, without having to work your way up the chain the way you may have to in more traditional companies.”

Recent studies show that tides are turning on the tech side, in terms of where tech firms seek out talent. The Graduate Management Admission Council published data in 2015 that showed that 93 percent of tech companies worldwide planned to add MBAs to their rosters.

So, how can tech and biz close what remains of a deceptive divide? Break Into Tech founder Jeremy Schifeling, an alumnus (MBA ’12) of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and former VP of marketing at Fidelis Education, breaks down exactly what students on the outside gazing longingly into tech should do to make themselves appealing candidates in this interview on his company’s blog.

“Too many MBAs focus on brand, perks, etc. [so] we’ve got to bring it back to basics: What are you actually going to spend your time on all day [and] what is the environment you’ll be doing it in?”

Schifeling asks students to “imagine a spectrum of jobs from highly analytical (e.g. consulting) to highly interpersonal (e.g. sales)” and locate the kind of work that brings you the most satisfaction on the spectrum below:


Schifeling asks students to reflect on previous work experiences to “determine which organization fit you best” by focusing on the “two biggest influencers of workplace happiness”: The size of the company and the work/life balance. He advises students to “never assume you know what a company is like without doing your homework first.” Talk to former employees who “now have the psychological distance to give you the straight scoop.” Schifeling covers this point extensively in another article.


fis_new_logo-1Adam Enbar, co-founder and CEO of the Flatiron School—one of New York’s premiere coding bootcamps—offers advice from the tech side to folks thinking about taking the MBA route to get ahead in tech in this resource-rich Quora op-ed, republished by the Huffington Post.

Enbar cites AirBNB and Warby Parker as models that “disrupt their respective industries by using existing technology in a smart and innovative way to solve a specific need for their customers.”

“I strongly believe that the type of skills you’re expected to gain through an MBA (sales, marketing, strategy, leadership) remain critically important to the tech and startup industry.” Enbar believes an MBA has two tangible benefits: 1) marketable skills and 2) access to a brand and its associated network.

“For roles in sales or marketing, it’s much harder to assess someone’s skills, and that’s why some employers still rely on a degree.”

But in the tech game, Enbar believes it doesn’t matter to employers “whether those skills are acquired on the job, through traditional higher education or via an accelerated type of education like a bootcamp.” Enbar adds, “Where we go wrong in education is assuming that there’s only one path to success.”


10 Tech-Centric MBA Programs to Check Out

If you’re in the camp that believes the path to success in tech involves business school, you would do well to investigate the following 10 tech-centric programs, according to this list from CIO, briefly outlined below. And for even more guidance on best MBA programs for tech, don’t miss this Clear Admit article, “Tops for Tech: The Best Business Schools for a Career in Technology.”

1 – MIT Sloan offers courses like “Fundamentals of Digital Business Strategy” and “Generating Business Value in IT.”

2 – Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business targets computer science and engineering students who “aspire to C-level positions like CIO or CTO.”

3 – UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business emphasizes “knowing how to leverage IT to create business value; understanding the strategic, financial and economic implications of IT projects; and developing the expertise to manage global resources and projects enabled through IT.”

4 – University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management prepares “students for careers in technology consulting, business analytics and predictive modeling, compliance and auditing of business processes, global sourcing management and IT governance.”

5 – University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management’s prepares “students for analyzing, designing, implementing and managing IT” through its MIS/MBA Business Intelligence and Analysis dual degree.

6 – NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business focuses on “technology-enabled business models and the alignment of IT and operations with corporate strategy” to teach students “how to make sound IT investment decisions, effectively manage IT assets and data.”

7 – Stanford Graduate School of Business emphasizes “alternative education methods, including corporate case studies, global study trips, role-playing and real-world immersion internships.”

8 – University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business prepares students for “careers in the management, design, and implementation of information systems” through its DO&IT (Decisions, Operations and IT) program.

9 – Wharton students can pursue concentrations in Operations and Information Management, and Systems.

10 – ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business offers a concentration in Information Systems.

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About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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