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Real Humans of Google: Tony Hung, Columbia Business School MBA ’21, Product Manager

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Amid the trials and trials and tribulations of learning consulting and tech strategy on-the-job, Tony Hung realized that the best mentors and most successful product managers had MBAs. From his own journey into graduate management education, Hung shares how an MBA from Columbia Business School provided a foundation for his success at Google in this edition of our Real Humans: Alumni series below.

Tony Hung, Columbia Business School MBA ’21, Product Manager at Google

Age: 31
Hometown: New York City
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Columbia University School of Engineering, Operations Research
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Columbia Business School, 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): Consultant, Simon-Kucher & Partners, 2 years, Consulting; Strategy Manager, Age of Learning, 2 years, Technology
Post-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): Product Manager, Google, 3 years, Technology

Why did you choose to attend business school? 
After studying engineering for 4 years, I was thrust into consulting and tech strategy post-undergrad and practically had to learn everything while on the job, and boy did I make a ton of mistakes. It was through the mentorship of my managers, many of which had MBAs, that I matured and understood my strengths and weaknesses as a professional. While I enjoyed the impact and diversity of projects as a consultant and strategist, I became more interested in the building aspects of technology and product management. I recall going on LinkedIn looking into profiles of PMs that worked at big tech companies, and saw that a significant amount of them had a MBA, and the further up you go, the more common it became. And so that’s when I decided that I wanted to go to business school to transition to product, all while getting a degree and learning that would help accelerate my professional career.

Why CBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As a native New Yorker who had already spent 4 years in Morningside Heights, I was very familiar with the area and the program. But through all the MBA school visits, the appeal of Columbia Business School kept drawing me back – the location in the most cosmopolitan city in the world, the experiential learning, the fact that many teachers were and are practitioners, sometimes with full time day jobs running companies while teaching at night, but most of all, the students and community – who is incredibly supportive, resourceful and driven.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Columbia Business School may not be known as a tech school, but it has a very strong tech program, based on teaching relevant skills that MBAs need to know to succeed in their tech careers. Coding and analytics classes were taught by MBA professors for MBA students with a focus on teaching how to collaborate with engineers and data scientists on technical concepts. Some of my favorite classes were Prof. Daniel Guetta’s (he might tell you in the last class his relationship with David Guetta!) analytics classes, like Analytics in Action, where you partner with MS Data Science students for an entire semester doing a big data consulting project for a client, and Prof. Angela Lee’s VC courses where you go through an actual VC pitch and get evaluated on how you evaluate startups. But really, without the community of Columbia Business School students and alumni, I would not be where I am today. The tech club at Columbia Business School and the tech community was instrumental in coaching me through the interview process my first year, and I got a chance to return the favor in my second year as I became co-president of the club. One of the highlights was giving a presentation to Dean Maglaras on the state of tech at Columbia Business School and actually seeing some of our recommendations put into action the following year!

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned on the Google Nest team as an MBA intern working on ecosystem features and increasing growth and discovery of actions on 3rd party devices that might be connected to your Google Home. It was an incredibly busy but fruitful summer, working on 3 projects in the short period of only 3 months! And although our internship happened in the height of COVID during summer of 2020, we were still able to experience the Google culture and perks- from virtual masked singer shows, to virtual games, attending talks from celebrities and Google execs, and regular gFit fitness classes. Additionally, I was able to work on a 20% project that helped contribute to the rollout of an emergency room monitoring solution using Nest devices, helping reduce the risk of health professionals contracting COVID while maintaining patient care during the height of the pandemic. Despite the circumstances, this internship further reinforced how I loved product management, but also how much I loved doing it at Google.

Why did you choose Google after your MBA? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I had a good idea of what Google was about even prior to working there, but once I started working there, I was even more amazed by the level of respect, responsibility, and growth mindset that everyone there had, deeply embedded in the culture. And from a product perspective, unlike other companies like Apple or Meta where product direction is “top-down,” the innovation at Google is usually developed “bottoms-up,” by the PMs and engineers. While this leads to an incredible amount of responsibility, this also makes our job super dynamic, fun and impactful. After my MBA, I returned to Google, in New York, working on a role as a Product Manager in Ads, helping build the future of video and connected TV ads monetization.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Talk to as many people as possible, even before the MBA! The first-year recruiting process starts early, and so the earlier you can understand what you want to do, the better positioned you are. And if you are doing a career switch, treat it as a two-year journey. You don’t have to get your dream job during the internship.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
While this isn’t something that I would personally change as part of my own job search, I usually tell MBAs to carve their own path – don’t blindly follow and apply to the jobs and companies that everyone else does. Really understand what the day in the life is like in that role, especially when looking at work life balance, which usually becomes more important later on. The MBA is a great time to transition career paths, and you don’t want to regret it one or two years down the road when you are looking to transition again.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
The PM interview, especially at Google, might be notorious for having “out of the box” questions. But don’t be worried – we’re less looking for a correct answer, we’re really just trying to evaluate your thought process and decision making – how well can you break down a complex question into a coherent rational step by step process that we can solve together? Treat it as any MBA problem set – practice makes perfect.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Challenge yourself more. MBA is the time for experimentation and while you might be exposing yourself to more ways you can fail – it’s OK to fail. I did a venture capital in-semester internship my second year, and while it was incredibly fruitful and got to really live the life of a VC associate, I realized this wasn’t the career path for me – I wanted to be an operator. My leadership roles in clubs and mentoring as part of the Career Management Center helped develop me more into a leader and mentor, both professionally and outside of work. And this is a mindset that really helps you down the road as you become fearless of the unknown and embrace change.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.