Input requested: the MBA tech curriculum

Over the last few months I’ve spoken to a number of professors and staff from Chicago Booth and they basically have one general question: “how can we get students better prepared for a job in Silicon Valley?” First off, I’d like to say that it’s great to see Career Services, deans, marketing professors, entrepreneurship centers and various others reach out to me and fellow Booth grads in the Bay Area to get our input. I felt we had very productive sessions. Moreover, it seems like you do appreciate the often candid feedback I (we) provide and are willing to consider our ideas.

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I’m an MBA student, how do I get a startup job?

You: Second-year MBA, smart, driven, hard-working, confident that the hard work will pay off quickly in a meritocratic startup. Desires to work in one with the goal of starting your own sometime.

This feels like a daunting challenge, especially when you see all those fancy employers doing on-campus interviews and moreover, your classmates getting jobs and signing bonuses. Here’s how I suggest you break this down, based largely on good advice I was given and the path I followed myself.

The Economist is wrong about MBAs

I came across an article in the Economist today called “Think twice” which makes the argument that it may no longer be worth it to get an MBA. It’s written by a Harvard MBA and frankly, I think Philip Delves Broughton is only out to try to sell more of his book “What They Teach you at Harvard Business School”. He sounds fairly bitter and his argument is roughly as follows:

  1. Supposedly more and more students are finding the promise of Business Schools to get you ahead “hollow”, meaning they’re not fast-tracking you into careers, networks, money, etc. Duh, you have to work for it especially in a global economy with lots of motivated students who weren’t born with a silver spoon.
  2. B-Schools are desperate for money and professors are after your money to fund their “threadbare” research. Sure, for some it’s just bodies in the door, but in the end all that’s doing is setting market-clearing prices for a good which people want.
  3. Some companies don’t have MBAs in their leadership rank have been successful, e.g. Apple., and companies are no longer looking for MBAs who just come with spreadsheets. Wrong, we come with Powerpoint, because we only do strategy. 🙂
  4. Overall the financial ROI of all MBA programs is bad. It’s only good at the top ones. More on this later.
  5. There’s no point to getting a disparate network of friends since you like have singular focus on a career. I don’t like people either.

Since I’m writing this, I obviously disagree. On the highest of levels, I disagree with the notion that an MBA should be embarked upon solely for financial gain and thus distilled down to ROI (return on investment), unless investment includes many other subjective factors like fun, network, brand, inspiration, knowledge, etc.

I don’t disagree because I have an MBA myself and I don’t plan to disagree line by line further, since hat would be fun for me to write, but I’d bore you and it leads to tons of anecdotal argumentation. Instead, I want to debunk a couple things and then provide some advice on setting goals and using metrics to measure them, i.e. not just financial ROI.

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