Why tech is overrated for MBAs (and why banking is underrated)
As an MBA graduate from a top program currently working at a FAANG tech firm, I have to get this off my chest. Tech has been super hot at MBA programs, and I frequently get e-mails from students at my alma mater, who want to talk to me about working at my firm. Unfortunately, most MBAs follow the herd and jump on the tech bandwagon without thinking more deeply about the role of MBAs at these firms. Moreover, post-MBA banking has unfairly gotten the shaft, although I see interest in banking experiencing an upsurge. For reasons that will become clear once you read this thread, not doing banking was the biggest mistake of my professional career, a mistake that I will regret for years to come.
My key points are as follows:
1. Tech firms are run by the engineers and scientists, period.
As an MBA, you will most likely join either product, finance, or marketing. Aside from getting paid less, those functional groups are ancillary to the firm and do not drive the central decision making process. For instance, a PM will be tasked with handling a certain product or feature, guiding its development process from inception until launch and managing its evolution. Although the PM is the de facto "owner" of the product, he is not its creator, as that falls to the engineers. As such, the PM is a glorified project manager who manages relationships with the various tech teams and ensures that the key guidelines are met. But the engineers do not work for the PM, so ultimately they are the ones who dictate what gets done and when. The PM is a passive agent who responds to what the tech teams are doing and translates their work into actionable business items.
Or take finance as another example. At tech firms, finance exists to provide analytical support to the various business stakeholders. Depending on the firm and group, finance can make budget and capital allocation decisions, but by and large, their input is not central to a business decision. The work is also not challenging, as it is more aligned with corp finance/glorified accounting rather than actual modeling and valuation. Much of a finance professional's job entails chasing down different groups to gather relevant data, holding meetings to make sure that nothing stupid is done on the financial side, and doing P&L consolidation and forecasting.
2. For MBAs, tech pays less and is less stable than the top BBs and EBs.
Because MBAs are not central to tech firms, they are easily disposable, and as the needs of the various business groups evolve, one's career stability is oftentimes linked to these factors beyond one's control. Getting let go in banking is pretty damm hard. And when you look at the compensation over the long-term, banking actually wins out.
3. MBA roles in tech firms simply aren't that interesting.
I get bored to tears when I hear about some random product feature that I could care less about or a marketing strategy to get people to buy more stuff. Yawn. Banking gets shit on due to the hours and the general bad reputation from the financial crisis, but the work is super interesting, as it exposes you to valuation, modeling, strategy, and business development. You develop valuable transferable skills that can be applied almost anywhere.
In conclusion, for current and future MBAs, don't get seduced by the false siren song of tech. Do banking or MBB consulting instead. You'll be far better off.