MBA’s in High Tech
We are constantly reminded of Darden’s awesome alumni community. Whether it be talking with prospective students to share their own student memories and experiences or giving advice about breaking into an industry to a fellow alumnus, Darden alumni always amaze us with their generosity and willingness to help fellow graduates of this great institution. Subha Shetty, MBA ’06, is one such helpful and loyal alumna. Even as a student Second Year Coach she helped fellow Dardenites with job search. Having been a software engineer in India pre-Darden, Subha’s illustrious product management career in the Bay Area started at eBay, and has included Walmart International, ODesk. She is now Director of Product Marketing at Simply Hired, a vertical search engine and aggregator for jobs and career opportunities. Subha has been an incredible resource for Darden students and alumni looking to find their way into or around high tech companies on the US West Coast. We were thrilled that Subha agreed to document some of her knowledge about MBA careers high tech. This “guest blog” will be supplemented by more of Subha’s insights on the Alumni Career Services website.
I am honored to have this opportunity to share my humble opinions and knowledge of high tech hiring in the San Francisco bay area gathered from working here since 2006.
The San Francisco bay area is a unique job market known equally for its innovation and its elitism. It is also coming into focus for Darden as a key strategic location and this development will help demystify the region and strengthen corporate relationships. Regardless, it’s a vibrant and growing market, which has withstood many economic downturns – plus you can’t beat the weather!
Typical MBA Roles
MBA roles in high-tech are broadly of two types – corporate roles and entrepreneurial roles.
Corporate: To understand typical corporate MBA roles, let’s start with how technology companies are organized. Broadly speaking, technology companies have the following groups
- Sales (also Business Development)
- Finance (also Corporate Development)
- Product (includes Product Marketing, Program management)
- Human Resource Management
A variety of MBA roles at all levels are available in all of the above groups with the exception of the Engineering groups that tend to hire mostly technical folks. Here are some sample entry-level (0-3 years post MBA) job titles and a brief on the job responsibilities.
- Lead small to medium sized product area in the company. In technology companies, products can either be an actual physical product (eg. Cisco router), a software solution (eg. Microsoft Office) or an online service (eg. LinkedIn).
- Work alongside cross-functional teams to gather market requirements, plan the product direction and investment priorities
- Responsible for messaging, campaigns, promotions and events
- Work with media and public relations teams to communicate the right message
- Perform financial forecasting and analysis and typically support a functional or business unit in the company
Here are some sample experienced (~8+ years post MBA) job titles and their job descriptions that explain the responsibilities and skills required to perform the job.
- Responsible for business planning and marketing for a large and/or complex product suite
- Create and manage the go-to-market strategy across all channels of how the product is sold to the customer
- Manage a team of marketing, product marketing and content managers to create the right messaging across the product suite
- Provide subject matter expertise
- Support a business’ key goals such as sales efficiency, customer support or any other customer facing function
- Manage teams and/or partnerships with key clients
To understand entrepreneurial roles, let’s start with understanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Broadly speaking, the stakeholders in an entrepreneurial ecosystem are the entrepreneurs themselves and the investors.
An entrepreneur’s job description is self-explanatory. As the founding member of a company, they wear many hats and steer the company in the direction of growth and profitability.
As an investor, most jobs are available at Venture Capital firms. Some sample job titles and responsibilities in these Venture Capital firms:
Entry Level – Analyst or Associate
- Perform due diligence on companies that the firm is interested in
- Prepare financial analyses, projections and memos that determine decision of the firm to invest
Experienced – Principal/ Partner
- Invest capital directly in firms
- Sit on boards of companies they have invested in to provide guidance and direction
- Typically VC firms do not advertise partner jobs, therefore it is difficult to come across a job description link. These jobs are mainly filled through networking.
Similar to the MBA roles explained earlier, career paths in the corporate or entrepreneurial world are also distinct.
Corporate career paths typically culminate in heading a function (CFO), a business unit (General Manager of Americas) or the company itself (CEO).
The career path of a functional head is obtained by gaining additional responsibility within that function with time. For example:
Financial Analyst –> Senior Finance Manager –>Director of Finance –> Vice President of Finance –> CFO
The career path of a business unit head is typically through gaining experience in Sales, Product or Marketing functions. For example:
Product Manager –>Director of Product –> Vice-President of Product –> GM of Americas
CEOs in technology companies have a wide variety of backgrounds and can rise from within any of the functional groups in the organization.
In the entrepreneurial world, a career path is either on the operating side or investing side. On the operating side, the typical path is to be an entrepreneur/founder of a company and that is a career in itself.
In the investing side, a career path is usually working in a venture capital firm to collaborate and support entrepreneurs. An investing career path typically follows two routes:
Those with a financial/investment banking background. For example:
I-Banking associate –> Analyst –> Principal –> Partner OR
Those with an entrepreneurial or executive corporate background. For example:
Entrepreneur –> Principal –> Partner or Functional or business head at a corporate company –> Principal –> Partner
Subha is writing and sharing more about MBA jobs and Darden alumni in high tech careers in the Bay area. Look for the information on the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services’ website.