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Program suggestions for my goals/background

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Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 05 Aug 2009, 22:45
x

With my career goals in high technology, to which schools should I apply? Does it make sense for me to apply to "brand" schools that may lack in high tech focus over lower ranked schools that have closer ties to technology?
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Last edited by boogs on 28 Sep 2009, 23:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 05 Aug 2009, 23:40
I don't have a tech background but have also considered the "brand" vs. "specialty" issue when it comes to narrowing school choices. From reading forums and admission guides, the consensus seems to be that a school's overall reputation is more important than what concentration it's know for. In other words, if you go to the best school that you can get into and that meets your other criteria (location, class size, teaching method etc.) you'll have the best career prospects. Of course, that being said, certain schools are obviously know for tech and probably are target schools for companies, such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Berkeley. What are some of the schools that you're interested in and what else are you looking for in a program?
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 05 Aug 2009, 23:50
Those 4 schools are definitely on my short list. I'm primarily interested in career advancement, but if possible, I'd like to stay in/near a major city and move away from Northern California (been here most of my life, would prefer to experience something new, especially knowing my field will most likely bring me back). The brand/specialty issue comes into play here, because if I want to leave this area, the main established tech schools (as far as I know) are Harvard, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon. I consider the first two a reach, and I've heard Carnegie Mellon is more of a regional brand, and a couple notches below the others in general reputation.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 06 Aug 2009, 19:14
They definitely don't have a tech emphasis, but have you considered Northwestern and Chicago? Both are located in or near the best city in the Midwest and have very strong overall brands. It sounds like you're on the right track with the short list, so the next step is probably to self assess to narrow down your goals. The goals that you mentioned sound very viable for someone with your background but to an non-tech person like me they also sound pretty different from one another. Even if you're not sure, it might be good to strongly develop just one or two ideas in your essays.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 06 Aug 2009, 21:07
Yes, I definitely have thought about those 2 schools... they are specific schools I had in mind when bringing up the question about overall ranking vs specialty reputation. I know they are in the top tier of programs in general, but would they be a better choice than Haas, which is known for innovation and technology, but slightly lower ranked overall? After a cursory glance of profiles for some leaders in technology, I see a lot of HBS/Stanford, then some Haas, then a smattering of other top tier programs.

I understand that I probably should focus my goals more for my essays, but I am just speaking realistically when stating that I probably can't come up with specifics almost 3 years out from my potential graduation. Even 2 years is an eternity with the pace of innovation... for example, the iPhone (and the subsequent explosion of mobile software) is just over 2 years old. While I certainly see a lot of potential for huge growth in certain areas of software in the next 2-3 years, it is hard for me to say whether my impact would be best felt in such an area by joining a large company (that may have competitive advantages and more overall resources), joining a young startup in that area, or starting my own venture. Perhaps it might make sense for me to detail very specific burgeoning areas in software/technology for which I see a ton of potential in the next few years, along with proficiencies I may have in those areas.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 07 Aug 2009, 17:44
I dealt with this a bit when looking at schools as well. I found that schools with my desired specialty had:
- more alums working in that area (helps get a job/have career mentorship)
- more on-campus recruiting from companies in that area (helps with the job hunt, esp in a tough economy)
- often times do more research/have funds dedicated to research (more opportunities to not only learn about what's 'cutting edge' but actually be a part of it)
- more faculty that are rockstars in that field (helps with career mentorship)
- more fellow students interested in that field (helps build a network in your area of interest)

hope this helps!
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 07 Aug 2009, 19:48
It doesn't have much for picking schools, but if you haven't already seen it, check out http://www.GeekMBA360.com for a look at post MBA tech life from a Berkeley Alum (undergrad, not sure about MBA) who was once a software developer and now is in product management. I've been looking through the archives and it's good reading.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 08 Aug 2009, 04:45
For me, the schools I'm applying to came down to where the recruiters were (I went on their website and looked at where they said they recruited MBAs and then what the school's website said about those employers).

Like isa had said, it happened to align with the schools that had strong offerings in my specialty. I don't really pay attention to overall brand.

I contacted students in the club for the specialty I was interested in to make sure they were getting the kinds of jobs that I was looking for.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2009, 00:01
Thanks for the advice and blog recommendation! After doing some research and getting some initial feedback, my list is: Berkeley, UCLA, USC, MIT, Carnegie Mellon. I have read through the pamphlets for MIT and Carnegie Mellon and have come away genuinely more interested in both, with specific reasons.
I am also considering applying to a more "brand" program amongst Columbia, Chicago, Northwestern, if I see a good match. I've also been advised to choose another "safer" (I don't know if I could call these safeties, but at least numerically I should be fairly safe) schools, and I am considering either Texas or Maryland - both have some emphasis on tech/innovation and great locations.
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 18 Aug 2009, 21:59
So after gathering some feedback, I thought I was fairly certain on my list, and approached my two recommenders today. Now I don't feel so certain; I had a long chat with one recommender, who happens to be a Stanford MBA, and he basically told me that it may be best for me to not focus on schools that are necessarily tech centric. He brought up two very valid points:
1. It is easier to be memorable to the adcom if you aren't competing against tons of tech people with similar backgrounds and goals
2. (More pertinent to me) The MBA education, at least in this area, is largely about experiencing new things and being around a variety of people. While adcoms ensure that there is some degree of diversity, a large part of the value in the education is in exploring areas that you wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. If you have a whole career ahead of you to get real-life experience in your specialty, it makes sense to gain exposure to other areas when you have the opportunity.

With those thoughts in mind, I think I will adjust my list to include: Berkeley, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, MIT. I am really debating whether to do Chicago, Columbia, or USC as a 6th. I feel like I don't really have a safety out of my current 5, so I am tempted to add USC for a school with a reasonable shot. Chicago appeals to me for its focus on quantitative thinking to make decisions. I also would love to be at Columbia for personal reasons. Making this decision harder, my recommender thought it would be a better strategy to apply and focus on a fewer number of schools (he went 1 for 1 at S! so ballsy or extremely confident). I tend to want to increase my chances, but I will have to give it a thought.

Any opinions regarding any of the points I brought up?
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Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2009, 01:07
The points your recommender made are good ones, here's a few additional thoughts.

- You mentioned that you don't really feel that you have a safety school; I think that your stats are strong for Carnegie Mellon given their class profile.
- In terms of limiting the number of apps, I can definitely relate. My initial goal was to apply to five schools in Round 1 and then MIT LGO in December. Based on how long the essays are taking I already scaled back to three schools in Round 1 plus MIT and two others in Round 2. Splitting more schools into two rounds may be good idea, but with the drawback that it makes deciding where to go harder with different decision and deposit dates. I have several friends who are starting or already in school who applied to six or seven schools at once and said that the quality of each app suffered. In each case, the only school they got into was the last one they applied to in a later round!

Good luck finalizing your plans, it took me a while and then the hard part is getting some momentum going.
Re: Program suggestions for my goals/background   [#permalink] 19 Aug 2009, 01:07
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