In the current phase of economic turmoil, now is the right time to pause, take stock and think about up-skilling to make yourself competitive for your next career move. We talk to Business School careers experts, along with MBA alumni working in this sector, to help you navigate your career plans in the rather rocky tech sector.
Cecile Gani, Employer Engagement Technology and Entrepreneurship Lead, has reassuring words for prospective MBA students looking to pivot to a career in tech. “Of course, there is a lot of job shedding in the sector at the moment, but here in Cambridge we have not yet noticed any recruiting slow down.”
Cecile points out that in a ‘good’ year typically between seven and twelve students find a job in big tech upon graduation. “Our MBA students find all sorts of roles in tech, from the giants like Google, Meta and Microsoft to early startups, via all manner of mid-tier companies.”
From the 2020 intake, a quarter of students are now working in tech, with 94% receiving an offer within three months of graduation. For those looking to work in big tech, the hunt starts early on.
Finding the right company fit in the tech sector
Paulina Bertrand (MBA 2018) landed her current job at Microsoft by December in her MBA year, allowing her to enjoy the rest of her time in Cambridge without the pressure to choose the right summer internship.
“I consider myself very fortunate that I soon knew what I was doing after my MBA, but I saw the positive impact of my friends trying out different opportunities in the tech world before deciding their next career move.”
Paulina came from a telco background and has not found the skills transition to working in tech too hard, “I am passionate about working in a fast-moving space, one which is ever-changing and constantly growing. If you can align what you are passionate about with the right company fit, then your enthusiasm will shine through at interview.”
Aimée Somerville Assam (MBA 2018) agrees, “You will never have 100% of the skills required for a role, but you can make sure you are aware of your skills gaps and have a personal development plan.”
A former consultant at Deloitte Digital, Aimée came to Cambridge determined to switch to working in the intersection between healthcare and technology, “But I didn’t know if I wanted to work in tech at a healthcare company or at a tech company with healthcare clients. I thought about my year as an opportunity for trial and exploration and I used my time as an MBA to discover different company cultures, roles and functions.”
For her Global Consulting Project, Aimée worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the Be He@lthy, Be Mobile initiative. She followed this up with a summer internship at Simprints, a non-profit tech start-up within the Cambridge healthcare ecosystem.
On graduation, Aimée accepted a position back in the USA as Customer Success Manager specialising in healthcare at Qualtrics, where she is now a Principal Consultant, “If you know what you want, you should be very active to reach out for it. Really prepare for your interviews, not just to get the job, but to best placed when you start work.”
Planning ahead for your tech career move
Cyan Lee (MBA 2018) agrees with the need for planning, “There may be lots of layoffs at the moment, but there are plenty of pockets of opportunity, provided you look hard enough. There are companies out there growing and hiring despite the current macro-economic climate. As we network with different MBA alumni, so we become aware of hidden opportunities.”
First generation student, Cyan took a job at Google as lead quantitative analyst soon after graduating, followed by stints at Bytedance, TikTok and The Walt Disney Company. He recently joined Moloco, a tech-driven start-up company with a founding team from Google, Twitter, and Amazon.
He now stresses the need for graduates to look long term, “Right after your MBA you may not land that product management role, but don’t be disheartened. You can transcend your first job in say analytics to eventually end up where you want to be.”
Before Cyan even started his MBA, he reached out to some alumni of Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) to see what skills he might need to work in big tech, “They were very happy to help and share their insights.” Paulina had the same experience. “There will be someone out there in the Cambridge Judge network who has a very similar job to the one you want. Reach out to them for a virtual cup of coffee. People tend to say yes – we are a nice group!”
Developing your network
Colette Johnson, Ambassador at the Product Marketing Alliance and Mentor and Coach at Cambridge Judge, works closely with MBA students to establish their career path, nothing is impossible here in the exciting and massive Cambridge eco system. In my experience, even if a student wants to specialise in the most niche tech area, we can help them find a role through our very powerful network. And ‘skill build’ them to get there.”
Cecile Gani sees her MBA students go through a number of stages before landing their dream job, “To help them make the transition they want, we look to build knowledge, skills, experience and motivation through the MBA programme. But perhaps the most important part is the people we put our students in contact with.
“To work in tech, you first need to become a tech person and that is best achieved by surrounding yourself with people who already work in tech, immersing yourself in the subject. Whether it is through our Digital Boot Camp, the many mentors who are also local tech entrepreneurs, the training in public speaking which covers learning to speak tech, we can help.”
In burgeoning Cambridge, tech is all around, “If you live and work here, even if you tried very hard you can’t really avoid talking to tech people. At dinner in college, when you are exercising, in all walks of life here. I encourage all new MBA students to look at the Cambridge Ahead map to show just how many companies are in the Cambridge cluster.”
A good time to switch?
The first question of the recent MBA webinar on ‘Careers in Tech’ reflects current anxieties amongst prospective MBA students – “At this time of recession, where there are layoffs, is it an advisable time to try to switch into tech?”
Colette is clear, “I can’t deny the drama going on in the industry right now, but you should be planning where you want to be in three, five, seven years’ time. You are on a journey to where you ultimately want to be in tech. When you come to Cambridge Judge, we work with you from very early on to help you get there.”