From Thomson Reuters peHUB, January 12, 2012
An MBA on Becoming Relevant to an Industry “That’s Doing Fine Without You”
‘Tis the season for MBA students to begin looking for summer internships, and students at the MIT Sloan School of Management are no exception. In fact, just last week they took their annual “tech trek” to Silicon Valley to shake hands, flash smiles, and otherwise engage with executives at companies like Facebook, Intel, and eBay.
One of those students was Craig Hosang, a 25-year-old who last worked as a product manager in the office of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Hosang is now getting an MBA partly because “a lot of people in my family have one,” partly because he was inspired by Bloomberg (a Harvard MBA), and because Hosang wanted more formal training before heading into the private sector, where he plans to work next.
Hosang, a California native, was nice enough to talk with me earlier this week about that trip and what he observed while on it. Our conversation has been edited for length.
You saw a lot of companies when you here. Which ones?
We went to Facebook, Google, Zynga, VMWare, Symantec, Intel, Intuit, and Apple – though Apple doesn’t allow students on its campus. I’m not sure why; I guess they think it poses some sort of security risk.
I’ve heard they’re a little secretive about things. How much effort did the companies put into meeting with students?
Each company has a different style and approach. Some gave us a tour; others sat us in their main dining hall. In some cases, they had alumni speak with us and answer questions. Elsewhere, senior management talked with us about where they see [potential new employees] going as part of each company’s future.
But who pitched you the hardest on how wonderful they are?
I don’t want to play favorites, but to me there was clear parallel between companies that are on the leading edge right now versus companies that reportedly aren’t doing as well and are losing people. The [latter] didn’t have the strongest presentations.
More details, please.
It’s just interesting, how companies view themselves and how they portray themselves. You could just sort of feel this energy at Facebook and Zynga, for example, whereas the mood of the staff walking around at well-established companies [was comparatively restrained]. People seemed very excited to be at the [younger companies] and to move the ball forward.
Are you interested in working for one of these big companies you visited, or are you hoping to land at a fast-growing startup?
I think [some of my classmates] aren’t interested in working on, say, the layout of Gmail, or [tweaking] how Facebook works. They aren’t necessarily interested in working on a really small piece of a product. But those products are creating major changes in the tech industry – in society itself.
Sounds like you do want a job at one of these big companies.
I’m totally enamored [with them]. You hear a lot from second year students who’ve been in [Silicon Valley] for the summer, but it was great hearing directly from industry people. Second years can tell you what’s a great fit and why or why not, but you get a better view once you see the companies firsthand and learn more about where they see themselves five years from now.
Who had the most interesting projections?
Well, I’m more curious than ever how the battle between Google and Facebook will play out. Google+ is derided by a lot of people in tech, but I think there’s a lot of future potential there. I don’t have any special insight into what products [either company] is making, but intuition [suggests] their impact will be big.
Did you get the sense that the Googles and Facebooks and Zyngas are into MBAs? Anecdotally, they seem far more interested in engineers.
I actually do a bit of consulting and recruiting on the side [connecting students with summer internships]. And it’s definitely the case that the less mature companies want programmers or engineers or managers who know that world. We have to fight to prove our worth. Alums tell us the challenge is how you prove you’re relevant to an industry that’s doing just fine without you.
But it also depends on the company. Zynga [founded by Harvard MBA Mark Pincus] is totally MBA friendly — though you have to score high enough on one of its games to get an interview.
Google is more engineering friendly, so going in as an MBA, you’ll probably be supporting sales and operations, and even then, they’d probably prefer that you have an engineering background.
Have you ever considered trying to form a startup with some classmates? That seems to be a popular choice right now.
No, and I’ve declined a few offers to work at startups. There are a lot of students who are doing the startup scene; a friend just took a semester off to focus on one. It’s kind of scary.
Why do you say that?
MIT is just focused much more on entrepreneurship than any other industry. It starts to become a self-selection issue. As it focuses more on entrepreneurship, more entrepreneurs apply to the school.
I’m not about to make a foolhardy decision. I think a startup makes sense if you’re passionate about an idea, and enough pieces come together [that you can pursue it]. But it’s the sexy thing right now. The hard thing is that we’re all getting caught up in it.
See the full post at Thomson Reuters peHUB
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