By Kara Sherrer
The West Coast is becoming an increasingly popular destination for business school graduates with each passing year. To find out why students coming from and headed to the West Coast are attracted to Vanderbilt Business, we talked to Zeke Arteaga, Associate Director of Admissions; Amanda Fend, Senior Associate Director and Coach at the Career Management Center; and Courtney Fain, Associate Director, Recruiting and Operations, to get the answers.
West Coast to Nashville to West Coast
Some students from the West Coast look at their time in business school as a two-year adventure but want to return to the area after graduating. “Some people have never left the bubble of the West Coast…they want a change of scenery for a while, but they do want to go back,” Arteaga said.
Arteaga usually points these prospective students towards the most recent employment report and highlights how many alumni move to the West after graduation (20% of the Class of 2017) and how many get jobs in tech, the West Coast’s most prominent industry (25% of that same class). “There’s lot of data…they can actually see a path to come back West if they would like to do that,” he said.
A lot of this recruiting success is due to the tight-knit network of Vanderbilt alumni on the West Coast, which is growing by the year. In fact, California is Vanderbilt Owen’s 4th most populous state for alumni, closely following Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas. “There’s so many alumni in this area, in all different roles…there’s a huge network,” Fend said.
“A lot of alumni come from their companies to recruit here on campus, so you get to start building that relationship right away,” Arteaga added.
The increasing number of non-stop flights to major West Coast cities also makes it easy for students to get back to the area, whether that’s for recruiting trips or family events. “There are so many non-stop, direct flights to multiple airports at multiple times a day. I take those a lot in this (admissions) role,” Arteaga said.
West Coast to Nashville to Anywhere Else
Of course, some students coming from the West Coast have no desire to move back. Arteaga says that moving to Nashville can help ease the lifestyle transition, as Music City offers a great entertainment scene with performing arts, a symphony, dance troupes, live music events in all genres, urban parks, professional sports teams, and a booming number of restaurants.
“They’ll see there’s a lot of similarities to the lifestyle they have had in the West, but it will still be a very genuine, different experience that they can enjoy for at least two years, if not longer, if they want to stay,” he said, comparing his own time in Nashville to the four years he spent in San Francisco before moving here.
Nashville also offers a lower cost of living, less traffic, and overall less headaches versus many of the larger metro areas on the West Coast. “The scale is a little bit different. You’re not going to have as much as a San Francisco or a Seattle or an LA, but you still have the quality and a lot of things to do. You can still have a big city lifestyle without a lot of the big city problems,” Arteaga said.
As for recruiting outside the West Coast, Arteaga once again points to the wide-ranging alumni network, the number of cities where students get jobs and internships, and the large companies that come to recruit on campus at Vanderbilt Business. “So many of our companies are national or global, they may have an office in a city that you’re interested in,” he said.
Moving most of the way across the country can be a big decision, but for West Coast business school applicants looking to make a geographic change, Arteaga encourages them to keep an open mind as they research schools. “Keep your options open if you really want to leave the West Coast and try something different,” he said. “See if this is a location and a school that will give you enough comforts of home…but also a new experience and the opportunity to meet new people.”
Anywhere Else to Nashville to West Coast
Naturally, many students who have never lived on the West Coast want to use business school to make the transition to the tech industry and/or warm Western weather. Because so many transplants live on the West Coast, Fend say it’s not really a red flag to potential employers if an applicant has never lived in the area before. “It seems like (companies) care more about ‘Would you fit with our culture?’…versus ‘Are you from this area?’” Fend said.
However, because so many people do apply to West Coast jobs, it’s important to signal to employers that you’re genuinely interested, rather than simply applying because of the unique company benefits and high starting salaries. “That’s great, but what do you really think about this job? Is it going to be a good fit for you?” Fend asks students who say they are interested in the West Coast. Fend says that students demonstrate this interest by networking with alumni in the area, making independent trips out to the West Coast, or participating in activities such as Owen’s Tech Trek and the Day by the Bay interview forum.
One common myth about recruiting on the West Coast is that applicants for tech jobs must have technical skills. “Other than programmers, a successful candidate doesn’t necessarily need to have coding skills or an engineering background,” Fain advised. “A successful candidate could be someone interested in the culture of a particular tech organization, excited about the West Coast, and also eager to jump all in.”
On the other hand, if you’d like to live on the West Coast but aren’t sure about the tech industry, that’s not your only employment option. “There’s lots of variety with employers on the West Coast. It’s not all just tech,” Arteaga said. “If you’re interested in something else but want to live out West, there might be an opportunity for you.”
Above all, the fast pace of business means that these companies are looking for smart, independent, flexible hires — and if you have those qualities, the odds are good that you can get hired on the West Coast, whether you’ve lived there before or not. “Larger companies are interested in remaining adaptable and that means hiring MBA students who are comfortable with change and ambiguity,” Fain said. “Companies want creative people who are excited about innovation and transformation.”