CAMBRIDGE, Mass., January 5, 2009 — Directly testing the chill economic waters, more than 150 MIT School of Management MBA students embark on their annual “Tech Treks” this week, heading for Silicon Valley, Seattle and Boston in search of jobs, contacts, and new doors to open.
In what may be a sign of the times, some larger companies, such as Google and Yahoo that have typically participated in the Trek are not hosting the students this year. But for some students, the economic stress on such big players creates new opportunities. “It has placed some budget constraints on many of the companies we originally intended to visit, but it has also allowed us to look at a different set of companies,” said Pedro Santos, a native of Santo Domingo who is joining the San Francisco and Silicon Valley Tech Trek, which will visit a range of companies, from Apple to small startups. “I think that startups will be hiring a significant number of talented individuals who would have been taken by larger corporations, which means that the infusion of energy and talent from MBAs could really lead to a significant amount of value going into the startups.”
Amanda Symonds, a native of the United Kingdom who worked in investment banking before coming to MIT Sloan, said that she is actually “even more excited about this tour than I would have been if the economy was booming. Given the current state of the economy, I believe it is even more important to focus on growing your professional network and to accept every opportunity to educate yourself about business.”
MBAs are of course wary about current job prospects, said Tripti Thapa, a first-year MBA from Nepal. “It is a tough time for MBA students. As a first year, I am definitely worried about summer internship.” Thapa is joining the Massachusetts Tech Trek “to get exposure to start-up companies in Boston,” including Vlingo, a Cambridge-based Microsoft start-up lab. “Vlingo appeals to me because I am interested in bringing voice recognition technology to developing countries.”
Rajiv Bhatia, who worked for IBM in Austin, TX, before coming to Sloan, agreed that the MBAs' might do best to focus on such smaller, newer and hungrier operations. “Because the startups only work on new ideas and are clawing to gain a footing, they are our big hope for real innovation over the coming years,” said Bhatia, who is also a Silicon Valley and San Francisco Tech Trekker. “I believe this is one of the best times for the startup company model to thrive. Large corporations typically cut their budgets and go into ‘survival mode’ during times of economic crisis.”
In addition to company tours and visits, the Trekkers will meet and socialize with members of MIT's vast network of alumni, many of whom hold top positions in sectors and companies targeted by the Tech Trekkers.
“Given that the finance and banking industry is practically freezing its hiring quota and the general increase in unemployment, the job market this year will be very competitive,” said Ivy Sum Sum Cheung, who was raised in Hong Kong and Central California and is going on the California trip. “I do feel that having a MBA from a well-known school such as MIT Sloan gives us a competitive advantage. This is the time when the alumni network really counts.”