Facebook is more than an app for keeping up with friends and family, it is a tech giant with many companies under its umbrella—Instagram, WhatsApp, LiveRail and more. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus, which specializes in virtual reality products. In this edition of Real Humans – Alumni, we catch up with a Harvard Business School alumnus who joined this tech extension of Facebook.
Harvard’s MBA program has consistently sent 16 to 20 percent of their graduating classes into the tech industry in recent years. Sean Liu, who has worked in tech product management since he graduated HBS in 2014, gives both an immediate and a longer-term view of how an MBA can support a career in tech. Read on for his story.
Sean Liu, HBS ’14, Director of Product Management at Oculus
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: MIT, EECS
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): HBS, 2014
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 2, Product Management, Tech
Post-MBA Work Experience: 5, Product Management, Tech
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Prior to business school, I’d only explored software development and had little understanding of other industries and roles. Having only worked with product, design, and engineering disciplines, business school was an opportunity to learn more about the world.
Why HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
When I visited the school, I loved the emphasis on the case method and met a wonderful set of people. HBS’s East Coast location was also a big appeal, since it felt complementary to my time on the West Coast.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The first few years out of school, negotiations, pricing theory, and financial valuation were surprisingly useful. More recently, however, it’s been a focus on the less tangible learnings from HBS—speaking up in large forums, considering a problem from multiple lenses, and forming an opinion based on limited information available.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I had a great experience working as a PM intern at Dropbox. It helped me explore different sized organizations and types of products to work on.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
People. I was recruited to Facebook by a good friend and had an incredible opportunity to work on virtual reality at Oculus.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Look for a place that will surround you with good people.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Explore more industries.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Facebook recruiting moves fast!
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Cherish your time—it passes in the blink of an eye.
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
AR/VR at Facebook has brought together this high concentration of experts spanning the disciplines of computer vision, displays, optics, hardware design, 3D artists, and software developers. It’s a pretty incredible group of people building the future.