News & Events

Want to Break into the Tech Industry? 5 Tips from the Inaugural Tech Symposium

Dec 13, 2018
Alumni from Amazon, LinkedIn, Nasdaq, and Workday shared advice for starting a career in the tech space

By Kara Sherrer

As the tech industry rapidly grows, more and more jobs are opening up for MBA graduates across a variety of functions. To help introduce students to opportunities in the tech space, the Owen Tech Club coordinated its first-ever Technology Symposium, moderated by club President Helen Beyne (MBA’19) and Ralph Owen Dean M. Eric Johnson.

Tech Symposium panelists, left to right: Radler, Fung, Kaplan, Eaton, and Sareen

Five professionals from four different companies took an afternoon to speak on panels and network with students: Harkirat Sareen (MBA’17), Senior Operations Manager – Pathways at Amazon; Sarah Eaton (MBA’17), Project Manager at Nasdaq Private Market; Margot Kaplan (MBA’17), Product Manager at Workday; Aaron Fung (MBA’12), LinkedIn Solutions Consultant, Connected Enterprise Group at LinkedIn; and Erin Radler, Senior Product Manager, Alexa Smart Home at Amazon.

Here are their top tips for business school students aspiring to launch careers in the technology industry:

You don’t necessarily need a technical background.

Of course, it helps if you have experience with engineering or coding prior to recruiting for technology jobs — but you can definitely find a position in tech even if you don’t have that background. Many tech companies offer a range of roles that require varying degrees of technical skills; for example, some of them employ both technical and non-technical product managers. “I by no means need to know how to code,” Kaplan said. “I would not shy away from product manager roles just because you don’t have that background.”

More and more technology opportunities are opening up.

Dean Johnson pointed out that while most people don’t think of Nasdaq as a tech company, it’s constantly innovating and seeking to incorporate technology into its core businesses, and there are many other companies who are attempting similar initiatives — which means more technology-influenced positions will become available. “My vision of tech is that literally every company is doing it,” Eaton affirmed. “(Nasdaq is) rebranding and trying to align more with technology and I think a lot of other companies are doing the same thing.”

There’s lots of room to move around.

Dean Johnson helped moderate the Tech Symposium

After staying in their first role for a year or year and a half, many people move to a new position or group within the company to try out something new — and they often keep rotating every so often. Many graduates are attracted to this flexibility because it allows them to test out new roles within the same company without having to look for work elsewhere. This flexibility also extends to geographic options, as many of the largest tech companies have multiple offices beyond the West Coast, which especially benefits international graduates. “If you don’t get the visa (to work in the U.S.), Amazon is usually very accommodating. They will set you up in a different country,” Sareen said. “Amazon wants to keep you in the company. That’s their prime goal. Retention is one of their biggest value drivers.”

Culture varies a lot from company to company.

While tech is often referred to as a single industry, there’s a lot of variation within it in terms of company cultures. Some businesses are sales-driven, while others are engineering-driven; some prioritize work-life balance, while others reward long hours. Students who want to work in the tech sector should thoroughly research the companies and try to identify which employers might be a good fit for their professional goals and personalities. “I think the question you want to ask is what: What do these values do for me?…you can do HR work anywhere, (for example),” Fung said.

Maximize your summer internship.

Radler encouraged attendees to think about their eventual career goals — building skills? working for a top five tech company? eventually launching a startup? — and to pursue internship opportunities based on those goals. For some, this might be securing an internship at a major brand-name tech company like Google and Amazon, while others might benefit from working at a startup where they can add to their skills. “You only get this chance once — and it’s a really cool opportunity — to be an MBA intern,” Kaplan reminded attendees.

Want to learn more about getting an MBA at Vanderbilt Business? Visit the program page or request more information.

The Vanderbilt MBA - Invest In Your Career Today

Other Stories

Which program is right for you?