Silicon Valley is one of the sexiest places on the planet to work. It is home to hundreds of large technology companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook, plus start-ups with serious growth potential — think Uber, Netflix and Elon Musk's Telsa Motors.
“There's a buzz in Silicon Valley, something in the air,” says Cass Business School MBA student Chinenye PG-Ikwuemesi.
It's little wonder, then, that MBAs like Chinenye are flocking to San Francisco’s Bay Area in their droves.
As part of the MBA program at Cass, students have a chance to find out exactly what makes Silicon Valley tick with an immersive five-day module — “At The Core of Entrepreneurship”.
“We visited leading companies such as Amazon, Solar City, Airbnb and eBay, giving students a tremendous opportunity to meet living case studies,” says Marianne Lewis, dean of Cass Business School.
“We learned from ‘unicorns’ — rare start-ups which have rapidly accelerated to $1 billion valuations — to established global businesses and exceptionally creative, serial entrepreneurs,” she says.
Some of Silicon Valley's serial entrepreneurs have lambasted the degree — they see an MBA as too rigid for the fast-paced San Francisco style of scaling companies.
But the region's trash-talking of MBAs masks a clear thirst for business school talent. Pick any one of the top-50 schools and tech employers such as Amazon will likely be a top-three employer. Across the board, tech is the third most popular MBA destination behind consulting and financial services, according to a Bloomberg survey of 9,000 MBA holders.
“The culture of tech companies is mesmerising. There's a contagious sense of optimism,” says Cass MBA Steve Duttine.
It is not just big tech outfits snapping up MBAs, either. B-school grads are keen to work at start-ups, which Steve says offer roles that are varied, with the carrot of eventual global success. “That sense of accomplishment if it pays off is what I find really appealing,” he says.
On Silicon Valley's start-up ecosystem, he adds: “There’s a can do, almost reckless, attitude in tech where failure is embraced.” He met Xochi Birch, the co-founder of social media platform Bebo, and Matthew Prince, CEO of cyber security start-up CloudFlare. “It felt like a really genuine insight into the journey of a successful entrepreneur.”
While networking opportunities were in abundance, the visit also gave Cass a chance to think on how to incorporate Silicon Valley concepts into its teaching.
For example, the MBAs visited Stanford University and topics such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robotics were explored in-depth, says MBA student Leena Solanki.
“Digital skills are required in most industries and MBA programs need to understand how to connect this into their teaching. Data analytics and computer science are vital aspects of the Silicon Valley ecosystem.”
The trek did, however, bring MBA concepts such as strategy to life, Leena says. “Companies we visited showed that they used a lot of the MBA concepts in their day to day activities, such as PEST analysis, SWOT analysis, and competitive advantage.”
While opportunities to learn from companies were in abundance, the visit gave the Cass MBAs a chance to learn about themselves, too.
Chinenye, says it taught her that she has untapped potential; to think big.
“Yeah, I drank the Kool-Aid and you know what, it only made me thirstier.”