MBA students are becoming more tech-savvy.
MBA degrees are commonly associated with finance and corporate strategy skills, as opposed to more technical skills largely under the purview of computer science. But in recent years, more business school programs have been emphasizing the intersection between management and technology. Further, the number of dual-degree programs coupling an MBA with a science or engineering degree is increasing, and more students arrive at business school with some professional experience in computer programming under their belts.
The School of Management has also been following these trends. The SOM Associate Dean Anjani Jain said it is engaged in an ongoing effort to expand technology resources for students.
“We are thinking of our embedding [within] the larger University, and we want to find areas where we can add complementary strengths,” Jain said.
This year, Jain said the SOM recruited two faculty members with expertise in technology and will continue building its technology faculty and course offerings. He added that these courses will fit into the broader array of technology courses offered at the University’s other schools. The SOM administration also plans to expand its Operations subdiscipline — which includes facets of technology and management. The SOM is also offering a new course on big data, the study of extremely large information sets, Jain said.
The SOM Director of Entrepreneurial Programs Kyle Jensen said that technology courses are available to the SOM students in many disciplines, ranging from programming and statistics to applied techniques such as spreadsheet modeling. He also said the integration of software into virtually all areas of life and business makes technology especially important for MBA candidates.
“Software now is ubiquitous. It’s in your toaster. It’s in your phone. And no matter what you do, there will be a software component to that almost to a certainty, so having an understanding of software — both its production from a technical perspective but also from a management perspective — I think is critical,” Jensen said.
Similarly, Bridgette Farrer SOM ’15 said she thinks it is important to fill the technical skill gap that exists for most MBA candidates by learning how industries work in addition to understanding what they do. Farrer also said this is the first year that she is aware of the SOM students taking University-wide introductory computer science courses.
Jeff Hong SOM ’15 said he thinks technical and computer skills are becoming business fundamentals like accounting. However, he said he thinks the students who choose to sign up for most technology classes at the SOM are naturally inclined or good at developing those kinds of skills, making these classes too self-selecting. Hong added that he would want technology classes to play a more active role in the SOM’s first-year core curriculum.
However, Jeff Hu SOM ’16 said that even though he does not doubt the value of technology classes, he is unsure of whether or not the SOM should offer classes on highly sophisticated technological subjects, like big data, because they are so new that experts still have many questions about them.
“Everyone’s talking about it, but there’s no platform out there for big data,” Hu said.
Similarly, Philip Andraos SOM ’15 said that although students may want to take computer classes in their second year, the core curriculum should maintain its focus on more general management skills.
The SOM is accepting more and more students with STEM backgrounds, according to data published on its website. When comparing the SOM classes of 2015 and 2016, the number of students who majored in engineering, information systems or computer science has risen from 17 percent to 21 percent. Similarly, the number of students who majored in math and physical sciences has risen from 9 percent to 12 percent.
The SOM Admissions Deputy Director Melissa Fogerty said this escalation is due to the overall increase in STEM degrees over the last few years.
“[This increase] creates a growing pool of prospective MBA students who possess excellent technical skills and are looking to complement those skills with business knowledge and leadership fundamentals,” she said. “On the post-MBA careers side, we are seeing more MBAs looking to enter technology and entrepreneurship fields after graduation over the past few years, [which is] likely both a cause and a result of seeing more STEM students in MBA programs.”
The SOM’s student-run technology club has 289 members.