Pre-MBA’s Guide to Tech, Marketing, and Product Management

Tech is an increasingly super in-demand industry for MBAs to go into. Which makes sense! Working in tech gives MBA grads the chance to work on products that touch people’s daily lives, disrupt industries, and connect people; and the culture, pay, and perks aren’t bad either!

So, what does the tech scene look like for MBA recruiting? First, we should mention that there’s a ton of nuance in the tech industry, since tech companies often cross over into other industries like finance (Venmo), transportation (Uber and Lyft), and more. If your dream is to work in tech, get specific with yourself about what type of tech company lights your fire. 

At business school, the focus tends to be on software companies, SaaS companies, cloud companies, and social media – and not so much towards hardware (although companies like Samsung do quite a bit of recruiting on campus).

Tech companies recruit for all kinds of typical corporate roles (like Strategy, Operations, Business Development, and Finance), along with some tech-specific roles that we want to cover here. The most-coveted tech roles for MBA grads are Product Manager (PM) and Product Marketing Manager (PMM), and we’re here to tell you more about ‘em!

But first, a note: Every company has its own take on what the scope and responsibilities of the PM and PMM roles are, so make sure to do your research and find out whether their definition fits the experience you’re looking for.

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Table of Contents

PM: Role Description, Draws, and Drawbacks

At a high level, PMs identify and understand customers’ needs and pain points and work with designers and engineers to figure out how to address them. The PM directs the team and is accountable for the process and results as the designers and engineers work out how to deliver. PMs write feature requirements, develop the customer experience with designers, and research and scope out the technical pieces with engineers to bring the feature to life. The life of a PM requires ruthless and transparent prioritization of what to tackle first and why, as well as managing cross-functional partners.

The bigger the company you work for, the narrower your scope will be as a PM. For example, at a startup, you might own the customer experience for a part of the marketing funnel (like onboarding and training to use the product). But at a bigger company like Facebook, you might own just a feature or element of a product, for example, video upload and sharing on the newsfeed. Regardless, you’ll most likely be one of multiple PMs working on a given product.

Your goals as a PM will also vary depending on the lifecycle / maturity of the product you own. If you’re working on a new product, you’ll be guiding how the features come together; for a product that has already been launched, you’ll be optimizing the customer experience and coming up with new experiences to grow the product.

So, what are we loving about the PM role?

  • You have a ton of ownership and influence over the customer experience; it’s the closest you can be to shaping a product without actually writing code
  • It’s a good balance of strategy and execution – shaping the direction of the product based on customer needs and working closely with the team actually building it
  • The job feels very tangible; it’s fulfilling to see things come to life so quickly because you’re working in sprints with your software developers
  • You learn a ton and get to work your creative problem-solving skills, because you need to get into the weeds of how the technology works to deliver the customer experience, and support your designers and engineers as they develop features

And what are some potential PM-related dealbreakers?

  • You need a thick skin as a PM; if things go well, the credit goes to your team of designers and engineers (yay team!), and if things go poorly, it’s on you because of your direction
  • If you’re not someone who likes to get deep into the details, this role might not be a good fit – you have to balance a high-level strategic view with understanding the tech
  • PMs are tasked with making trade-offs and ruthlessly prioritizing; this means that it’s impossible to make all of your stakeholders happy, which can be frustrating 

Looking ahead, the career path for a PM can be to continue climbing the PM ladder – your scope will increase over time until you oversee an entire product or even a portfolio of products, with a team of PMs underneath you. Alternatively, you could make a horizontal move into more of a General Manager role, where you would be accountable for the product’s strategy and results in a more holistic way (including interfacing with marketing, which we’ll talk about next!). 

Top Schools for Tech

The conventional wisdom is that schools in the Bay Area and Seattle are generally the best for going into tech – think Stanford, Berkeley Haas, and Washington Foster. Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan also have reputations for being good for start-up recruiting, but as you can see below, many top schools place a healthy number of MBAs into tech, which is great news!

Top Employers in Tech

So, which kinds of tech companies recruit MBAs? Here’s a quick overview (remember, there’s a strong bias towards software and SaaS):

“FAANG” – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. Considered the top tier of tech employers, each of these companies has a reputation for what roles they generally hire for (e.g., Apple tends to recruit for more typical corporate functions). Except for Netflix, these companies are huge hirers of MBA talent.

Major non-FAANG tech companies – Microsoft, Adobe, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Intuit, and more. These companies will also focus recruiting on slightly different roles, so you’ll want to network to learn what they’re looking for and how they define scope for the roles you’re interested in.

Former start-ups at scale – Venmo, Slack, Snap, Uber, Lyft, and more. These companies don’t recruit a ton of MBAs but may do more and more MBA hiring over time, as they continue to grow and scale.

Straight up start-ups. There are always fresh start-ups willing to hire MBAs for internships or full-time positions; just keep in mind that these are generally off-campus searches that have a different timeline and will require you to network

Want to see the top employers in tech? Check out our awesome Career Report, which includes insights about which industries, functions, and employers are the most common at the top 30 US MBA programs!

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Jackie Laine

Jackie Laine

Playful Problem Solver | Senior Coach

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