Most MBAs want to make money – it is still a big part of business. But for my MBA students, making money is not enough.
I teach three classes for MBAâ€™s at UVA Darden: Software Design, Software Development, and Applied Digital Innovation. For many of my students, Google is now a top recruiting choice. Itâ€™s generally not the highest paying choice or the choice with the most professional certainty – and traditionally getting an MBA is in part about creating a kind of professional certainty for yourself. So: why Google?
I think itâ€™s about the action. Moving to ultra-expensive Silicon Valley to take an entry-level management job is not a way to maximize your savings, at least not in the short term. Joining (or starting) the right startup after leaving a prestigious digital giant like Google is a great way to make money, but risky. The MBA that prefers Google cares about his or her skill set, and wants to be where the action is: digital disruption. Digital disruption is probably the single most exciting thing happening in business and thatâ€™s where these MBAâ€™s want to be. At least, thatâ€™s what I hear from my students.
Marc Andreessen famously said â€œThe spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories. People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.â€ My students want to tell the computer what to do. Regardless of whether theyâ€™re in a startup or working at a larger firm, I certainly think thatâ€™s the top skill theyâ€™re going to need.
Whatâ€™s an MBA/business person to do? Thereâ€™s certainly no shortage of material on how to be more â€˜innovative.â€™ For the students I work with at Darden, I think their ability to contribute hands-on in an interdisciplinary team (designers, developers, growth hackers, data scientists, etc.) is most important. That doesnâ€™t mean they need to be an expert in each of those disciplines – it means understanding the disciplines well enough to be a good collaborator, and being able to use the tools of design thinking to solve hard problems.
How can MBAâ€™s learn that? Well, by doing. In my class Software Design, students take new venture projects through customer discovery, proposition testing, and product design. Basically, they learn what a design-focused product manager + owner would do in a modern agile team. In fact, itâ€™s gone so well we created a Coursera class online called Agile Development, and now thatâ€™s now one of Courseraâ€™s top 15 specializations.