First, Amazon is 3x the size of any of the tech companies it is compared to. Google actually hires more MBA's per capita and Amazon hires about as many as Apple and Microsoft, per capita.
Second, I keep a close eye on these things, and 72% of my class went to finance or consulting. Consulting is still the biggest draw and has been since the financial crisis.
Third, this is good news for tech. See the HBS Indicator for more on why: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/harvardmba_indicator.asp I'm not going to defend or bash the MBA degree. It doesn't say much about you except that you are a competent professional that likes money and can play the game. Those traits are often enough to make an employee worth their salary, but many MBAs have additional skills, analytical or otherwise. Sometimes it means you hire somebody a little too slick. This is probably why tech has such a phobia of the MBA. Fair, but overgeneralizing, in my opinion.
Finally, I think the reason you see more MBAs in tech these days isn't necessarily Bezos' finance background or the need for analytics, but that tech companies are maturing and they need middle managers. MBAs tend to be predictable worker bees that do a great job at filling out the ranks of a large bureaucracy. Most business is really about project planning, reporting, managing expectations, coordinating teams and delivering on time. It's not terribly rewarding or creative work, but it's what MBAs can reliably produce.
*edited typo in last paragraph
Aka stakeholder and expectation management. The above sounds easy but requires a large number of "soft skills" to do well in a large organization.
I view this skill as anticipating not just what your boss tells you to do, but also the things they don't make explicit, because you recognize subtle social cues and understand their incentives. It can be nefarious or just empathetic. How it is deployed determines the morality of its use, in my consequentialist opinion.
Wear a suit (or dress appropriately for the situation), turn up to meetings on time with an agenda, manage teams, hit deadlines, send well crafted emails, give feedback, communicate effectively, lead people, turn up everyday and be consistent, grow
I know that some people love to hate on MBA's but a couple of things:
- Amazon is a pretty data driven company, if MBA's provided no value, or negative value as some HN's readers seem to think, they wouldn't be hiring them.
- Jeff Bezos worked for a well known hedge fund before amazon, he's no stranger to having MBA's around.
- Most of these MBA's seem to be in operations, which makes alot of sense as one of the largest portions of an MBA degree is how to runa company:)
Amazon is also not alone in vacuuming up new MBA grads.
Whether you want to admit it or not, MBA's provide a lot of value to larger organizations, tech or not.
At this point, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all hired alot of MBA's in the past few years. These companies voted with their cash and made it very clear, MBA's provide alot of value.
Having been the guy whose job it was to collect, analyze, and present data to these MBAs, I can honestly say that 99% of them are dead weight for their analytic capabilities.
MBAs do much better at managing people. And by that, I mean only 70% of them are dead weight. The other 30% were pretty great and are probably the reason I'm not in jail for arson right now.
here is one instance. This is not a hard claim to back up by any means.
Here they are being called out for being too data driven
And I hope your day gets better:) We've all been there!!
But the MBAs are not the reason for being data-driven. It's more like the real data analysis goes on behind the scenes (levels 5-7, and more likely on the engineering or research scientist side), eventually bubbling its way up to the MBAs who use the mountains of data and analysis to stroke their egos.
in this thread the person who (claim to have) worked there said otherwise. and in your second link Bezos also said otherwise.
amazon is as data driven as any other fortune 500.
quit fetichising it.
Lawyer with an MBA get you off? :-)
HN's negative criticism is that MBAs don't know how to start things, not necessarily that they can't run things.
Amazon is the perfect example of where MBAs can be extremely effective. The way Tim Cook helped Apple optimize and improve its operations a great example.
Not exactly their fault for failing to live up to some of the most impressive founders in history. At least Tim Cook is humble and wise enough to know his limits.
I have a parent who taught at a top-10 business school. A number of years ago, she had the opportunity to act as the faculty chaperone for the student trip to meet with the leaders of various Japanese businesses and I got to come along. One of the businesses we visited was a Sake brewer that had been family owned since the 1600s. The Q&A period was particularly enlightening to me and it had more to do with the questions that the MBA students asked than it did with the answers they were given. They peppered him with questions about growth, international expansions, taking on debt for advertising campaigns, new product lines that would appeal to a younger demographic. It went on for over an hour. And, to his credit, he patiently answered them all with a variant of the same answer. He wanted to run his company like his ancestors have run it for centuries. He wanted to make the best sake he could possibly make, just as his ancestors had done. He wanted to provide a comfortable life for his family and pass the business on to his children. And he wanted to supply good jobs for his employees since he viewed them as his extended family. None of the stuff the MBAs were interested in interested him. He was happy running a stable, self-sustaining business that didn't need to grow. Life, mastery of his craft and being happy were more important to him. If it had ended with that, I might not have taken such a dim view of MBAs. But on the bus ride home, all I heard from these early-20-something-self-proclaimed-future-leaders-of-America was how stupid the guy was and how he was ruining his business. I couldn't help but think that they'd entirely missed the point of his answers.
A few years later, I worked at a company that served small businesses building a product that handled reputation management and lead sourcing. We tried a number of iterations that ended up failing. It wasn't until we made the realization that small businesses didn't want growth as much as they wanted stability. Too much business could overwhelm them. Too little could starve them. They needed a product that kept them as close to full utilization as possible without ever going over. Even after we made that leap, it took a ton of effort for us to convince our own management to allow us to take the product in that direction. There was something about their own MBA training that made it difficult to accept that this view could be correct.
My own view of MBAs, considering I have a parent that has helped produce multiple generations of them, is that they're very valuable when applied to a somewhat narrow band of situations but that, as a society, we've applied them to many circumstances where they're counterproductive. I think we produce too many of them and the ones that are misapplied end up giving the rest a bad reputation.
I'd say that the MBA is a good predictor in the absence of a technical degree, but you still have to do a lot of screening post-MBA.
It's no surprise MBAs want to go there. Strategy jobs are some of the most hotly sought after roles -- my wife went to a top tier MBA program and I regularly have to hang out with people she want to school with. They all either have strategy roles or wish they did (minus the one person in finance -- in the SF Bay Area that's just not as cool as strategy). They also tend (with exceptions) to have egos bigger than big, which seems to line up nicely with thinking that the right job for you is to have the ideas while other people implement them. :)
AWS was launched as a fraud (using no amazon infrastructure at the time, they claimed it was built on the reliable services of Amazon.com) and became a success.... so long as you have unlimited investor money to burn you can eventually be successful this way.
But it is a terrible place to work, because outside of the AWS organization you end up working for idiots.
As for the AWS thing ... I joined AWS pretty early in its history and even then we had amazon.com workloads and it was definitely the same infrastructure (data centers, network, operations, etc) as Amazon.com . My first two years I was writing code and building AWS services, while also supporting retail operations and dealing with the order pipeline - and I worked in Infrastructure; things were fairly integrated.
> for every success Amazon has about a hundred failures
This ratio is off, but even if it weren't it's still not a detracting statement. At Amazon, we're allowed to fail sometimes. Try something quickly, iterate, test, and let it die. Google used to be similar, though they've 'streamlined' a bit more lately.
> outside of the AWS organization you end up working for idiots
Never worked for AWS, can't speak for them. But in my org (Fulfillment) I've worked for incredible managers and a few not-so-great ones but never anyone I'd call an idiot. This isn't a place where smooth-talkin' MBAs thrive. If you bullshit and can't back it up with results, you won't last long.
Most of the MBAs I've met at Amazon were for the Operations world anyways. The Pathways program (https://www.amazon.jobs/en/teams/university-mba-graduate) puts new MBA grads into leadership positions at the fulfillment centers and sees what they're made of. Hard work, but if you do well you go really far very fast.
The women complained about too many male engineers from the local Seattle companies. I had the foresight to not joke that they were, perhaps, the female equivalent. But I didn't have the foresight to realize some of them knew each other. I learned more about dating this past few months than I had the previous 30+ years. Thanks again Jeff!
Edit: want to add one more part. My college roommate was on the same app and we shared a lot of the same matches. But they picked him over me literally every time because he's taller and better looking. :*(
A lethal combination.
It sounds like there's a story there. You can't leave us hanging!
Also, harmless curiosity: is CMB as full of Asians in Seattle as it is in NYC?
People now realize that Amazon has been doing dev-ops for a long long time, but we've also been doing BizDevOps. If you want to, as an engineer, as project manager, as any role really, you can step up and get deeply involved in the business. It's never not your place.
As engineers, we can talk to customers, we can help decide pricing, more than that even - we can think about pricing as a technical parameter that can be used to influence the design of the system, we can choose the service name ("CloudFront" and "Route 53" came from team whiteboard sessions with beer and Chinese take-out). We can write the proposals for products, and so on. Now as a senior engineer, this year I contributed heavily to 3 different organizations strategic plans. No-one stopped me! I've learned a lot about business from our business review meetings, everything from relevant legal matters to how a P&L really works, how marketing works, and more.
MBAs are easy to verify.
A software engineer claiming to things that mba knows is hard hard to verify.
Considering the "deep analytics" and "fresh perspective" MBA managers I worked with and saw everywhere at amazon, I'm surprised anybody who works there could say such a thing. Deep analytics means nothing more than squinting at reports that other people created and pretending to understand, while fresh perspective means to treat every problem exactly the same. It's a hive mind of people who think they are quantitatively intelligent because they know what bps means.
on the other hand, being overconfident, out of your depth, mistake-riddled, ambitious, and all of those other perceptions are just part of the general human condition. engineers and executives and artisans and small business owners and more all have those failings (if you want to see them as failings--there are multiple perspectives). i'd say it's our duty as humans to do our best to understand the person in front of us rather than rely on these short-circuited, imagined archetypes sitting in our heads.
The rest is mostly horseshit. Source: 20 years building technology businesses.
In my view an MBA is good if say you work for a paper towel company and you're trying to decide how many paper towels go in a roll. That's something you don't need the big brains for but you need someone who understands simple P&L.
I can't for the life of me understand why a person with MBA is almost automatically considered "leadership material" at some companies, particularly technology companies.
edit: those people may have ALSO gotten an MBA
They will, however, have a manager whose promotion path depends on how many MBAs can be persuaded to like them.
There's still a wall though at the VP/SVP level where advanced degrees basically become meaningless. You either need to be close friends/confidants with every single person above you (and by that, I mean across the board, not just direct reports), or you need to come from a C-level position from some other public company.