Having worked and recruited in technology, entrepreneurship, digital and consumer (TEDC) fields, Jenny Zenner (MBA ’03) now advises Darden students pursuing a career in the tech sector. Prior to Darden, Jenny worked at MicroAire, Precor, Kinetix Living, and Expedia in various marketing, product management, and recruiting roles. A double Hoo, Jenny holds an MBA from Darden and an MEd in Sport and Exercise Psychology from UVA’s Curry School of Education. She also holds a BS in Psychology from Washington State University. Based in Seattle, Jenny has served as the president for the UVA Club of Seattle and helped launch the Darden chapter, while leveraging her network with startups through global brands.
Read on to learn about Jenny’s approach to advising students interested in careers in tech.
1. How are you able to best help students pursue careers in your focus industry?
Having recruited for corporate roles, I know the mindset of presenting a candidate to a hiring manager. The candidate has to fit what the business needs. Darden is transformative, but it’s only so transformative. I guide students to look at how their experience aligns to specific roles. Many students coming to Darden are interested in making a change – role, region, industry. Trying to switch all at once can be a hard sell. I encourage students to recognize they might have more success just trying to switch one or two variables to get their foot in the door.
For the students who say they want to be product managers at a tech company without ever having written a line of code, I share the reality that tech companies want candidates with a computer science background to transition into the coveted product manager roles. Taking a finance, marketing or operations role allows a student to learn the industry, company, and products to later transition into a more technical role.
2. Tell us about one or two of the most interesting trends in the MBA job market in your focus industry.
Everyone wants the same candidates even if they aren’t creating an attractive work environment.
Tech company campus tours highlight their kegs, arcades, and dog parks. I have yet to see onsite daycare and affinity groups don’t make up for a diverse leadership team, yet their recruiters are asking us for our women and underrepresented minority candidates. Add to that companies want candidates with computer science experience. There are not enough software engineers on the planet to fill the engineering roles, let alone MBA classrooms. Darden has the opportunity to highlight the technical curriculum we offer and collaborate with companies to develop new curriculum so our graduates are prepared for today’s workplace.
I am encouraging our corporate recruiting partners to focus their campus visits on skill building versus mingling and branding. Our students will be beholden to the companies that introduce them to technical architectures, product requirement documents, and data infrastructure. I am emphasizing case immersions and technical workshops over wining and dining to engage students.
3. Though you’ve all been at Darden a short time, do you have any anecdotal success stories about helping a student/students land a job or internship that you can share?
Miguel had completed several first round interviews without advancing. We reviewed his responses which were humble and did not highlight the common thread of his career. He was a former McKinsey consultant who had switched jobs twice after exiting the firm. Some might see him as a job hopper or someone who had been let go. He wasn’t mentioning that he been recruited away by former managers at McKinsey who had left to form their own startups. Once we settled on the theme of McKinsey, both for his job switching and his choice of Darden, he found a new comfort and confidence sharing his career arch. His next interview was with Walmart E-commerce and he landed the offer.