The technology industry is becoming a popular industry for MBA Graduates. Whether it’s working for a reputable industry titan or joining a fast-growing startup, MBAs are flocking in droves to join tech companies. Jeremy Schifeling knows this because he was once one of those MBA Graduates himself. Now, the Founder and CEO of Break Into Tech, Jeremy shares his advice for those who are interested in entering the tech industry.
MBASchooled: Before you entered the Tech industry, you were a teacher. Did you know you wanted to transition into tech? What drew you to this industry?
Jeremy: Absolutely! I’ve been a huge geek my whole life – even while teaching. For example, I set-up a classroom blog and even got my kindergarteners using PowerPoint!
What attracted me to tech is actually the same thing that drew me to teaching: The belief that we can improve our world by not accepting the status quo. It’s a pretty powerful concept if you think about it, given that most industries shoot for the opposite – self-preservation via maintaining things as they are.
MBASchooled: Thinking back to your MBA recruiting experience, what were some of the mistakes you made in the recruiting process?
Jeremy: My biggest mistake was not thinking about things from the recruiter’s point of view. I wrongly assumed that tech recruiters were like talent robots – i.e., they saw the world as binary, selecting candidates who were already techies and rejecting everyone else.
What I discovered, instead, is that tech recruiters are just regular folks. Staring at a giant stack of boring, me-too resumes is just as tedious for them as for you or me. And so, they’re actually more than willing to consider non-traditional candidates if you can give them something engaging. Show them how you’re unique, how you’ve got something special to add, and they’ll respond positively – not robotically!
MBASchooled: You previously worked at LinkedIn. What are some ways MBA students can leverage LinkedIn in the MBA recruiting process?
The two main ways to engage with LinkedIn are:
- To find opportunity
- To be found
On the first front, my biggest piece of advice is to connect with your entire network online. The reason for this is that LinkedIn illuminates the hidden network of connections that surrounds you. Say, for instance, that your Aunt Sally happens to know someone at Google – your dream company. But would you ever think to ask your aunt about it? Probably not – that’s just outside the normal context of your relationship.
Well, guess what, once you’re connected with her on LinkedIn, you’ll now see her connection to Google every time you look at jobs there. So now you’ve got a potential foot in the door that you never would have known about it previously.
Multiply that example by the thousands of contacts in your address book and you can see why LinkedIn is so powerful for finding opportunities that you may not have known existed otherwise.
On the flip side, LinkedIn also helps you get found. Hundreds of thousands of recruiters around the world search it every single day to find top talent. But the trick is, you can only get found if your profile has the same keywords that the recruiters are searching for. So before you sit down to edit your profile, paste the job descriptions for some of your top roles into Wordle, a word cloud generator. Look for any keywords that occur frequently and make sure those are all over your profile!
MBASchooled: You have the unique experience of being both the interviewer and interviewee. As an interviewer, what are some common mistakes you see from interviewees?
Jeremy: I hate to say this but the #1 interview killer is really a lack of charisma. And I don’t mean that in the fake, political characterization but in the sense that, deep down, every interviewer is looking for someone they want to work with.
Think about it: If you’re going to potentially spend more time with this candidate in the years to come than your own significant other, friends, or family, do you really care if they’re a PivotTable master or how they did on their KPIs last quarter? Nope. What matters most is, “Is this person going to make me like my own job more or less?”
So if someone comes in and is dull, smug, or pedantic, that doesn’t bode well for my future happiness at work. Whereas if they’re friendly, passionate, and self-deprecating, you better believe they just made the short list. As an introvert, it pains me to say that. But it’s also painfully true. So, no matter your personality, polish up your smile and warm up your handshake because charisma kills.
MBASchooled: Not all tech companies are the same. How can you know what “type” of tech company is the right fit for you?
Jeremy: This is a really critical point, especially in tech where it’s so easy to focus on a company’s sex appeal and lose sight of what actually matters – namely, who you’re working with and what you’re working on. While a fancy brand name can satisfy your ego at a cocktail party, a year from now, it’s not going to get you out of bed in the morning or keep you working hard late into the night.
So instead of focusing on companies, which are often very different internally from one group to the next, I recommend job-seekers think about the two factors that will shape 95% of their day-to-day experience:
Would I love doing this work?
- If you hate Excel, you’re going to hate doing BizOps, no matter whether it’s at Google or Uber. So make sure you love the substance of the work by asking about a typical day at the office – not about all the fancy events that only happen occasionally.
Would I love working with these people?
- Get to know your potential boss and colleagues as much as possible ahead of time since they’ll influence your experience to an unbelievable extent. Even reach out to former managers to get their honest take, if possible. A great boss can easily compensate for a terrible company but an amazing company rarely makes up for an awful boss.
MBASchooled: After working for a handful of tech companies you recently started Break Into Tech. What is Break Into Tech, and why did you choose to pursue this venture?
Jeremy: I launched Break into Tech because I realized that, even though tech careers have become incredibly hot for both MBAs and non-MBAs alike, there are relatively few resources that help you make your way in this world – especially compared to traditional paths like finance and consulting.
So my goal is to make breakinto.tech the definitive source for advice on launching a tech career, even if you’re not a CS major.
MBASchooled: If people want to learn more about your Break Into Tech, where can they find more information?
Jeremy: We’ve got tons of information on the whole recruiting process at breakinto.tech, including free eBooks on the different roles, companies, and application strategies that will help you break into this awesome world!