Tech MBAs are on the rise. But how do they differ from the traditional MBA?
And who are they for?
MBAs were once persona non-grata in the technology industry but, in recent years, tech companies have attracted more and more MBAs with offers of choice leadership roles.
Tech firms and tech-centric companies are among the most sought-after employers of business school graduates. To reflect this shift, more and more business schools have begun to infuse their curricula with coursework that addresses many of the hard skills the tech industry holds in such high regard.
Whereas traditional MBA programs are geared toward developing overall leadership and management skills, so-called ‘Tech MBAs’ are specifically focused on candidates who already employ technical expertise within a business context. The rise of Tech MBA reflects a growing demand for business leaders who can effectively combine their robust technical understanding with a talent for management.
Let’s take a closer look at three MBA programs focused specifically on grooming graduates for roles in tech.
The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA—Johnson at Cornell
Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management invites students with an entrepreneurial spirit to explore its one-year Tech MBA. The program requires that candidates have experience in design or software development combined with demonstrable leadership skills.
It’s divided into three semesters with distinct focuses: traditional business courses on Cornell’s Ithaca campus; an interdisciplinary solution-oriented tech project applied to a real-world business need; and a start-up project that requires the student’s business team shepherd their concept from idea to launch. The second and third semesters take place in New York City.
At NYU Stern, the Andre Koo Tech MBA program is designed to deliver a rigorous real-world educational experience that provides students with a definitive career focus in technology.
At around 30 students per program, the aim is to maximize industry engagement through experiential learning and built-in live case studies with companies year round.
Nicole Imbriaco is a current student in the inaugural Koo Tech MBA class. A former trading analyst at Goldman Sachs, Nicole wanted to deepen her knowledge in data analytics through the program. She explained how pursuing this degree reflects the trajectory of her career path:
“The dual focuses of a traditional MBA and the more technical study attracted me because it’s the perfect combination that builds on the foundation I previously established with my undergrad degrees in finance and business analytics.
"From the beginning, I’ve had an interest in both the business and technology side, so the Tech MBA at Stern is the perfect fit in allowing me to increase my depth of knowledge on both areas simultaneously.”
Technology Leadership MBA Track—Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business
Tepper offers a Technology Leadership MBA track to its MBA candidates in conjunction with its computer science school. The track focuses on strategy and management around cutting-edge technologies.
This program requires either significant work experience and related expertise in the technology sector or an undergraduate degree in computer science or engineering. The curriculum combines tech and business management courses and includes a capstone course which partners students with a business to work on a project which reflects their coursework.
As the role of tech in business spurs a need for leaders who can handle management and technology concerns with aplomb, MBA programs are poised to reflect this demand. It remains to be seen what form programs will take on as elements such as data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence become more integral to the business landscape in the years to come.
Will programs retain a structure and curriculum that mostly reflects the traditional content of MBA education or will the make-up of the Tech MBA be the face of most all MBA degrees, full stop?