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Hoping the Economic Recovery is Real -- MIT Sloan MBAs Head West in Annual Job-Hunting “Tech Treks”

Dozens of MIT Sloan School of Management MBA students making their annual job-hunting, network-building “Tech Treks” next week will be testing not only the strength of the economic recovery, but how their own skills match up with the demands of some of the nation’s most important companies.

While technology giants such as Amazon and Microsoft and the Silicon Valley remain a major focus for the weeklong Treks, some MIT Sloan students see emerging opportunities in other sectors, especially in entertainment and media. “I am interested in this sector because I believe it changes people and impacts the society more than any other industry,” says Perihan Abou-Zeid, a first-year MBA who is joining the West Coast entertainment and media trek to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. That Trek includes stops at companies including DreamWorks, Paramount, Disney, NBC Universal, Sony, and Lionsgate.

“I want to work in an industry where I like and understand the end product,” says Stephanie Cheng, 27, who worked at DreamWorks Animation and founded her own game company before enrolling at MIT Sloan. Cheng, who thinks “the value of an MBA has increased in recent years within the entertainment industry,” thinks that sector can fulfill her employment priorities for “good working conditions and a culture based on meritocracy, challenging projects, and meaningful end goal.”

Thomas Iljic, 30, an engineer by training, is helping lead the MIT Sloan Trek Tech to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, featuring visits to such firms as Apple, LinkedIn, Facebook, eBay, and Google. Trekkers have their usual strong interest in software and service firms, he says, “but we see increasing interest coming back to hardware-linked companies, such as Square, Sandisk or, in a completely other field, Tesla motors.” And just as trekkers are trying to expand their range of companies, so too are firms looking for a range of skill sets. “We see a great difference in approach depending on companies,” says Iljic. “Apple, for example, values very much the skill in operations of Sloan MBAs, Google recruits for all types of positions, and new entrants such as Quantcast show interest in highly analytical MBAs. It’s really case by case.”

As they prepare for their trip, the MIT Sloan MBAs have been monitoring how their target companies are evolving. “Amazon continues to push the envelope when it comes to innovation and customer focus across their products, while Microsoft is in the midst of an exciting move from a purely software company to one that builds first party, mobile-focused hardware and develops programs for that hardware,” says Jarek Langer, 29, a native of Poland now enrolled at MIT Sloan. Whether in the technology, entertainment, or other sectors, companies are seeking two primary characteristics in a potential hire, says Langer, who is on the Tech Trek to Seattle.

“One is genuine passion and interest in their company, and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the firm’s business model, products, industry and so forth,” he says. “The other is the ability to hit the ground running, being able to take ownership of a project that is important to the company and deliver meaningful results with relatively little supervision and guidance.”

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