How an MBA Puts You On A High-Tech Fast Track

Upload this fact to your hard drive: While obvious areas of job growth in the high-tech world run the gamut from programmers to IT support, there's another kind of employee highly coveted from Silicon Valley to South Florida: the promising, passionate MBA.

You probably think of high-tech jobs as being concerned with a different set of numbers—ones and zeroes—than those MBAs master. But as humble startups and ambitious companies alike spread their wings, growth challenges arise, just like in any other business. And that's when these tech companies need MBAs the most—a development that the MBA program leaders at the FAU College of Business fully understand.

"As prospects rise across the board for MBAs, they're particularly hot in high tech," says Dr. Rainford Knight, who runs the Financial Analyst Program in FAU's Department of Finance. There's now a healthy demand for MBA talent.

The sector's general growth plays a role, but business schools are seeing more of their MBAs head to high-tech firms for another reason. "The shift is a result of the sector being viewed as dynamic, high-energy and flexible," Knight says.

According to the website Poets & Quants, which reports on and analyzes business schools and MBA programs, hiring is voracious at major companies from Amazon to Cisco Systems—and an increasing percentage of MBAs are taking tech sector jobs because they value the work atmosphere Knight describes. But it's not just big fish in search of business talent—or a trend centered around one cluster of schools.

"[The] appetite for hiring young talent is immense and so are the career opportunities for freshly minted MBAs," Poets & Quants writer John A. Byrne observed.

Business school employment reports clearly show the trend.

Alexander Cubillos embodies the phenomenon of more MBAs finding a home at high-tech firms. A project manager at a high-tech company with headquarters in South Florida, he's seen firsthand how his executive MBA experience at FAU has improved his work.

"The MBA training helps straighten my strategic thinking," says Cubillos, who expects to graduate in summer 2016 with a concentration in International Business. "It provides Cili in the social environments."

Cubillos raises an important point: To succeed in the high-tech sector, you have to understand the latest versions of software and hardware, of course, but also learn how to navigate and excel in a workplace that is less formal and often more intense than what MBAs might find in more traditional corporate and finance sectors.

Fifteen years after the dot-com bubble burst and a tsunami of red ink washed away multimillion-dollar companies, today's tech firms are different. With the advent of big data, mobile advertising and novel services such as Uber and Waze, such firms are focused on expanding and finding new opportunities—and realize this means finding new MBA talent. FAU MBAs are able to position themselves to take advantage of this trend, Knight notes.

That doesn't necessarily mean decamping for Silicon Valley, however. One company constantly looking for those with advanced degrees is IBM, which Poets & Quants calls the single biggest tech employer of MBAs. Notes Knight: IBM has a presence in Boca Raton, so there may be opportunities there and at other local firms such as Citrix.

Regardless of where FAU MBAs decide to put down roots, though, their future looks bright. "There is an increasing demand for leaders who have the necessary skills to drive continuous growth—leaders who can create a sustainable strategy for long-lasting, profitable companies," Cubillos says.

As a student quickly closing in on his degree, Cubillos already is profiting from his MBA training at FAU—and has some sage advice for those looking to do the same: "Think of every class and every lesson as an opportunity to increase knowledge," he says. "Be passionate about learning; be prepared to change the way you understand your company. You will see opportunities open as you move forward with the FAU program because you can start applying new knowledge to your daily work."