Tops for Tech: The Best Business Schools for Careers in Technology
Here’s a fact you may not have known: Several of today’s leading technology innovators share one thing in common—a Montessori education. Yep, Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and SimCity creator Will Wright were all educated as children using the self-directed, hands-on, collaborative teaching model developed by Italian doctor and educator Maria Montessori. Alas, though, not a single one has an MBA—so perhaps not a very useful factoid when you’re trying to determine the best business schools for a career in technology.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Biz Stone of Twitter—none of them has an MBA either. And Facebook second-in-command Sheryl Sandberg, who does have an MBA from Harvard Business School, is famously on record recently saying the degree isn’t necessary for success in tech. Nevertheless, a growing tide of students are looking to use business school as their launch pad to successful careers in tech—and the top tech firms, including those founded by non-MBAs, are snapping them up.
Why, you ask? Part of it has to do with the blurring of lines between technology and more traditional business. One no longer exists without the other. As technology becomes central to accessing services and products, period, demand for the skill set of the MBA with a technology specialization has become pervasive. Facebook needs skilled general managers who understand strategy, operations, marketing and logistics but are more than conversant in tech. (Increasingly, for that matter, so do most any consumer packaged goods or manufacturing firms.)
At the same time, some of what draws a growing crop of MBAs to technology firms is not completely divorced from Montessori. In a 2004 interview with Barbara Walters, Google’s co-founders attributed their success in part to the latitude they had as young learners to follow their interests and decide for themselves what to learn. “I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently,” Page said.
In this converging world, as tech companies must increasingly operate like traditional companies and vice versa, there are a handful of business schools that lead the pack in terms of preparing their graduates to land jobs at the top tech firms—while also providing the flexibility and self-direction that appealed so much to the earlier tech innovators. Read on to learn about a few of the very best.
CMU’s Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business sends a greater percentage of its graduates to work in the technology industry than any other leading business school—a whopping 38.24 percent of the Class of 2015. Consulting, the second-most popular industry for Tepper grads, draws just 27 percent. These stats may not come as a surprise to those acquainted with Tepper, which has a long history of churning out quant wizzes with tech prowess. Even so, it represents significant growth even for the traditionally tech-focused school. As recently as 2011, Tepper sent just 20 percent of its grads into tech.
There are several aspects of the Tepper MBA program that set students up for success in the technology field. For starters, any Tepper MBA student can choose to pursue a specialization in business technology, which combines technical and managerial coursework with experiential learning opportunities. The 13 faculty members who teach in the Business Technologies Department boast an array of research and expertise between them, from big data and IT management to e-business and the economics of information systems. There were no fewer than 16 technology courses on offer this semester.