Traditional Wall Street jobs aren’t the sure thing they used to be for some graduates.
By Eilene Zimmerman
Kelly Goldston didn’t make a beeline for an investment bank or consulting firm like many M.B.A.s when she graduated last May from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Instead, she took a job as senior manager of acquisition marketing for the e-commerce site Diapers.com, owned by Quidsi, an Amazon company that made her an offer before she graduated.
“The startup scene in New York City is really heating up, and at a party, it’s a lot more sexy to talk about your job at a startup than at a hedge fund,” said Ms. Goldston.
Like Ms. Goldston, many recently minted M.B.A.s have continued the post-recession trend of looking for work outside of high-profile Wall Street employers such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, even though the job market at traditionally sought-after employers continues to recover.
Often, these grads find that New York’s tech scene is very welcoming. The most recent MBA Employment Survey from Training The Street, a Manhattan firm that provides financial training to M.B.A. programs and banks, found that 22% of M.B.A. job candidates had been approached by startups. For new ventures that recruit them, “it’s an opportunity to bring someone with structured thinking into a more chaotic environment,” said Andrew Toledano, who received an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School in 2009 and co-founded the profitable digital-strategy and -marketing-services firm Kepler Group in Manhattan last year.
M.B.A. programs are paying attention and introducing programs to help students capitalize on the demand for cross-disciplinary thinkers. In May, for instance, Cornell Tech will welcome its first class of 35 to 40 students for its one-year digital-economy M.B.A., according to Doug Stayman, associate dean for M.B.A. programs for the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. About half the students are from New York City. In 2017, Cornell Tech will have a campus on Roosevelt Island, where the M.B.A. program will reside, but for now Google has donated space in its Eighth Avenue building.
“There is a very large need for M.B.A.s who can understand business problems, consumer needs, internal business issues and technological solutions,” said Mr. Stayman.
Grads who can offer both quantitative and analytical skills and technical knowledge are finding themselves particularly sought-after.
“We’re seeing a transition in New York City, with a lot of M.B.A.s taking on more roles that are a mix of business with technology, like business development,” said Scott Dobroski, a career trend analyst at Glassdoor, a jobs and recruiting community. “We are also seeing a lot of M.B.A.s in marketing, and although that’s traditionally existed in finance companies, it’s becoming much more of an integral part of technology companies, too,” he said.
SHE GOOGLED IT
Gwyn Welles graduated from Columbia Business School last May; previously, she had been an independent documentary film producer. The day after she graduated, she got an offer from Google, where she currently works at YouTube Next Lab, which provides resources that help creators grow their channel’s popularity.
“I wouldn’t say the job search was difficult, but it took focus, perseverance and patience,” she said. “I knew I wanted to work at the intersection of media and technology.”
M.B.A.s who know how to mine Big Data are also hot commodities. Training The Street Chief Executive Scott Rostan said that during the past two to three years, the firm has received a rising number of requests to teach data manipulation–how to sort through massive data sets. “You might be an investment banker in the utilities sector getting these enormous amounts of data, especially because it’s a regulated industry. How do you download it, sort it, analyze it and manipulate it all efficiently?” said Mr. Rostan. “Five years ago, we didn’t even have a data manipulation offering. It’s a whole new product line for us.”
Some tech-savvy M.B.A. grads are tapping what they learned to launch their own startups—and doing quite well at it. Since co-founding Kepler Group, Mr. Toledano and his five other co-founders, including a former colleague from Columbia Business School, have grown it to 25 employees. Mr. Toledano’s first job out of business school was as a manager on the client services team at MediaMath, a marketing firm that does digital-media buying. After 18 months, he was promoted to director of the team but eventually decided to try the entrepreneurial life.
“I think especially in New York, because the venture-backed community here is so vibrant right now, there are exciting opportunities for M.B.A.s off the beaten path,” he said.
Given the high pay they offer, banking and consulting jobs on Wall Street are still in demand, of course. But for some M.B.A.s, these positions have lost their luster, and people are looking elsewhere. “Hedge funds and private-equity shops are a smaller environment, the money is better, and the hours are more flexible,” said John Ricco, a partner in Manhattan recruitment firm the Atlantic Group who specializes in financial services.
RETAIL, HEALTH CARE BECKON
Employers in industries far from Wall Street are also luring M.B.A.s. In fact, 86% of companies in the energy and utilities sector hired M.B.A.s in 2013, according to the 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Other recent grads are finding the retail sector welcoming. “In New York City, we have many students going to companies like Bloomingdale’s, Coach and Estée Lauder,” said Regina Resnick, associate dean and managing director of the career management center at Columbia Business School. Many students are also being hired into Amazon’s retail leadership management program, she said.
Demand for M.B.A.s in health care and pharmaceuticals also jumped, to 89% of companies in 2013 from 77% in 2012, according to the GMAC. Much of that was in response to health care reform, which requires medical providers and health care systems to improve performance and productivity.
Katie Niekrash, senior managing director of health care recruitment at the Execu-Search Group in Manhattan, said she has seen a significant upswing in demand for M.B.A.s with a nursing background. “I would say I’m placing 20% more M.B.A.s than I was two years ago,” she said. “Nurses are playing a bigger role within health care, so they need to be able to look at their work as a business and look at their patients as customers.” With health care reform still a work in progress, that demand isn’t likely to slow down any time soon.