December 6, 2019

The MBA Journey
into tech

Your journey towards a tech-focused career will be a project you take on during your MBA. This is a map to help you envision the possible paths. Keep in mind, the tool is structured to guide you to ask the right questions — finding the answers is up to you.

How would you describe your background?

What sort of role are you interested in?

I am
, and I am interested in a
position.

Consider the road ahead

Tech leadership roles generally require a deep technical understanding and/or past experience in performing technical roles. This credibility is often gained through formal schooling in engineering or computing, or extensive industry experience and reputation building. This background is needed to effectively lead those who are undertaking the work.

Consider the type of organization you want to join

A tech giant? An early stage tech startup? A late stage tech startup? A non-tech org? There are tradeoffs for each.

There are many org types to choose from: big tech, technology builders, tech startups, startups using tech, niche technology, tech as a service, digital transformation companies

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Consider what product or service type sparks your interest

Would you rather work on a physical product or an online platform? What industry vertical would you like to focus on?

There are a number of verticals you could be a part of: eCommerce, physical products, transportation, fintech, enterprise software, Industry 4.0, AI (a solution, not an industry unless you are building AI engines), many others…

If you're not sure which to select, do some digging and find something you're passionate about.

Add some items to your reading list or podcast queue

Stay current. Search for content in an area of specific interest.

News:

  • The New York Times' Bits
  • Oversharing
  • MIT Tech Review's the Download
  • Knowledge@Wharton
  • TechCrunch
  • First Round Review
  • Arstechnica

Podcasts:

  • Reply All
  • Recode Decode
  • Clockwise

Consider taking tech courses

Brush up on your analytics skills or start learning to program to increase your understanding of tools.

There are many ways to start learning:

  • Codecademy
  • General Assembly
  • HBS Online

Some subjects relevant for MBAs:

  • Analyzing data with Python
  • Introduction to computer science using Java I
  • Learn R
  • WebDev
  • Harvard CS50
Year 1

Spend time getting to know other students with tech backgrounds

Gather insight and perspectives on industries, roles, and companies. (Added bonus — they might help you with your programming homework!)

Join student tech clubs

Participating in a club with help you learn about industry trends, specific technologies, and career opportunities.

Attend tech events around your school/university and beyond

Expand your network and knowledge base to include others who have different perspectives and broaden your learning.

So you plan to pursue a technical role after your MBA?

Not every tech person wants an MBA to become a PM or CEO. You may want to continue in a more senior technical role.

  • Focus on learning the subject of business
  • Take a leadership role in tech clubs
  • Attend tech events around the school/university and beyond
  • Have a side tech project to “stay in the game”

You are thinking of pivoting to a “business” role

Your applied skillset is going to be different (and that’s the point of the MBA).

  • Focus on learning the subject of business
  • Explore entrepreneurship opportunities, if interested
  • Become a business data and analytics rock star (markets, customer data, finance, etc.)

Your summer internship should relate to your desired product types and roles

Revisit your assumptions about the product and role types you have been considering.

Example product types: eCommerce, software, physical products, fintech

Example roles: CTO, chief architect, VP of engineering, engineering director, technical founder

Your summer internship should relate to your desired product types and role

Revisit your assumptions about the product types and roles you have been considering.

Example product types: eCommerce, software, physical products, fintech

Business roles to consider: marketing, product management, business operations, strategy, sales/account management/business development, finance, HR, founder

Take advantage of your school’s career services

Be strategic in how you tap into your school's extensive resources. The more targeted your questions, the more you will benefit.

  • Meet with a career coach
  • Participate in practice interviews
  • Attend company presentations
  • Explore your career office’s website (HBS specific resources: 12Twenty & CPD)

Prepare for the internship interview process

What you have learned in the classroom is not all you need to know to interview well.

Think like a hiring manager. Research questions and do practice interviews for the role you are pursuing.

Research and leverage your network for possible internships

Finding the best jobs in tech is not about your resume, but the relationships you have built.

Not every meeting is an interview; business leaders may want to tell you about what they do too.

Your summer internship should relate to your end goal

Revisit your assumptions about the product type and role you have been considering.

    Example product types:

    • eCommerce
    • Software
    • Physical products
    • Fintech

    Tech leadership roles to consider: CTO, chief architect, VP of engineering, engineering director, technical founder

Your summer internship should relate to your end goal

Revisit your assumptions about the product type and role you have been considering.

    Example product types:

    • eCommerce
    • Software
    • Physical products
    • Fintech

    Business roles to consider: marketing, product management, business operations, strategy, sales/account management/business development, finance, HR, founder

Continue data analytics and programming efforts

Don’t stop learning! Keep building up your knowledge of tools and how they are applied.

Ways to learn:

  • Codeacademy
  • General Assembly
  • HBS Online

Subjects:

  • Analyze data with Python
  • Introduction to computer science using Java I
  • Learn R
  • WebDev
  • Harvard CS50
Internship

Spend extra time getting to know business-oriented colleagues

This is your chance to learn deeply about these roles, regardless of your future plans.

Use the internship as the pivot

Fill in the experience you’re missing to take those next steps.

Take risks

Take on tasks that are a stretch to broaden what you know, and pick up some interview talking points along the way.

Be humble

Learn from others with more technical experience.

Connect as much as possible

Connect with the org’s most technical and approachable workers, others who have post-MBA tech roles, and those with similar backgrounds.

Year 2

Keep going with your side tech project or start a new one

Whatever you choose, do something to continue to “stay in the game.”

Choose electives that target the sector, role, or intersection of tech and business

Continue to refocus your perspective using a business lens.

Brush up on your business data and analytics skills

Even a rock star needs practice.

Take a breath and then revisit your initial thoughts on all of this

Revisit your desired role, product/service type, as well org type — all based on knowing what you know now.

  • This is a beginning, not an end goal
  • Your research, internship, and colleagues have taught you things. Are you applying that learning?

Choose tech-focused electives

Now’s the time to learn about specifics, especially if you want to focus on a sector or role.

They will always be changing … but look for electives like these:

  • Tech marketing
  • Digital tranformation
  • Tech and ethics
  • AI
  • Analytics

Continue data analytics and programming efforts

Try playing around with data you’re interested in or build your own tools to keep brushing up on your skills.

Leverage your network

Put your network to work to learn as much as possible about your target companies. This is really the time to capitalize on all that you’ve built.

  • Everyone you know
  • Career services staff
  • Classmates
  • Alums
  • Internship connections
  • That coder crashing on your friend’s couch (wait till they wake up)

Plan your job search schedule

Tech has its own timelines based on company maturity. Small orgs often hire based on current needs, not months in advance.

  • Start job search planning early in the second year
  • Meet with the school’s career services and explain what you are trying to accomplish
  • Learn about hiring lead times; some may want you to begin weeks after a final interview

Connect, connect, connect

Connect to expand your network. Connect to learn about positions and companies. Connect to find out what’s out there.

They may or may not be interviews — go in ready to learn and tell some interesting stories

Continue attending tech events around your school/university and beyond

Stay in the tech groove; every new perspective keeps you current and might be relevant to your search.