Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, feels that an MBA degree is not necessary for those entering or working in the tech sector
“Going to business school helped give me a basic understanding in business. For some people and in some situations this can be helpful,” she said in response to a question in Quora.
She was asked if her master’s in business administration was helpful or lent “additional credibility or other advantages.”
“At Facebook we believe – that degrees are always secondary to skills…While I got great value from my experience, MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry,”
“That said, I believe – and at Facebook we believe – that degrees are always secondary to skills.
In hiring at Facebook we care what people can build and do. While I got great value from my experience, MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry,” she added.
Sandberg, 46, majored in Economics in Harvard summa cum laude in 1991. She worked in the World Bank before joining Harvard Business School and got earned her MBA in 1995.
While the MBA helped her get a basic sense of business that could be useful for some people in some situations, it would not offer any big advantage in tech ventures like Facebook, she said.
(However) a comparison of hiring in tech companies to Wall Street banks, revealed that MBAs were actually more in demand in tech companies. Facebook looks for three times as many MBAs as Goldman Sachs.
Sandberg is not alone in dismissing any key role for MBAs in the sector. In fact, the debate has been going on for years. Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, Palantir and early investor in Facebook, have at various fora, including to MBA candidates, held forth on ‘uselessness of business school’ for entrepreneurs.
He is of the opinion that business schools tend to churn out people who take up innovations only after those ideas are past their prime.
In this context, he referred to the MBAs rush into junk bonds in 1989, a year before financier-philanthropist Michael Milken, an executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert, who used high yield junk bonds for corporate financing and mergers and acquisitions was indicted by a federal grand jury for security fraud and jailed for two years. Most MBAs did not have anything to do with Silicon valley until 1999, just before the collapse of tech industry, he claimed.
For all those aspiring to be the next Sandberg or Thiel, the Facebook CEO has a piece of advice. She suggests that even a career in tech is not necessary for Facebook. “We don’t look for a specific background or skill-set when we make hiring decisions,” she said “As my friend and Instagram COO Marne Levine says, we hire athletes and cross-train them,” she added.
However, hiring managers do not seem to be in agreement with Sandberg, even those in Facebook itself.
Tapwage,a job discovery startup, analysed more than 100,000 listings. At Facebook, they found 75 jobs (9%) that stated a preference for MBA or those that required one. The ratio was similar in other tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple.
A comparison of hiring in tech companies to Wall Street banks, also revealed that MBAs were actually more in demand in tech companies. Facebook looks for three times as many MBAs as Goldman Sachs.
This chart shows a summary of what Tapwage found (in terms of percentages of job openings that preferred MBAs):
As you can see, it seems the demand for MBAs is lower at startups and private ‘unicorn’ status tech companies (5% and 4%, respectively) than at public tech companies, while being comparable to the demand on Wall Street.
Among tech companies, it was Amazon’s corporate side, which has over 1,000 open jobs that listed a preference for an MBA — 20% of current job postings.