Ten years ago, students at elite business schools were obsessed with getting jobs at Wall Street’s top firms. But that dynamic started to shift as, post-recession, the reputation of Wall Street soured and the appeal of Silicon Valley took off. Besides offering the opportunity to escape East Coast winters, an executive position in Silicon Valley has come to be coveted as a result of cool perks, rhetoric centered on “changing the world,” and an increasing focus on work-life balance (though whether those in Silicon Valley work shorter hours than those on Wall Street is up for debate). The money does not hurt either.
This preference is showing up in the numbers. At top business schools in the country, a growing percentage of MBA grads have been taking jobs in technology in the last five years, during which the percentage going into finance has shrunk. Last year, Harvard Business School reported that only 5 percent of its graduates intended on careers in investment banking or trading compared with 13 percent in 2007.
In recent years, Stanford University has drawn elite students looking to succeed in Silicon Valley. Its draw lies in its proximity, entrepreneurial history, and access to successful alumni and venture capitalists. Stanford graduates founded Google, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Instagram, and one study (conducted by Stanford, it should be noted) estimated that the university’s entrepreneurial alums create $3 trillion in revenue annually. Ken Auletta, reporting for The New Yorker in 2012, wrote, “There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley.” Auletta’s piece so clearly outlined the connections between university campus and corporate campuses that it prompted a debate at the university about whether industry had become too intertwined with its academics.