Stanford MBA Trends

In Peter Thiel’s recent lecture for CS183B he mentioned that they’ve done some studies on recent graduates from MBA programs, and how as a result of who they are and the environment they’re put in, they “systematically end up doing the wrong thing, they try to catch the last wave.” He mentions Junk Bonds in the 80’s, Dot Com in the late 90’s, and mortgages/finance in the mid-2000’s as examples of MBA’s catching the last wave, or picking the wrong thing.

I was pretty interested in the idea of MBA industry choices being some kind of indicator of an industry that has just peaked and is about to decline in some dramatic fashion. So I went to Stanford’s Career Management Center and went through all their available reports from 2004 to 2013 to see what trends I might be able to spot.

Full data is available in a Google Spreadsheet.

Probably the most compelling part of this data set is the non-quantitative portion - for 2013’s report Stanford started breaking out Technology into many more sectors with the footnote: “Technology subcategories indicate industries impacted by technology jobs.”

That feels a bit like empirical validation of Marc Andreesen’s viewpoint that software is eating the world. Small chunks of what 10 years ago would have been part of Finance or Media/Entertainment are now under the tech umbrella. It likely won’t be long before the Technology label isn’t really a helpful differentiator, as every business will have to be built on some sort of technology foundation.

As far as quantitative trends, the starkest one is the most alarming - an unprecendented 32% of Stanford MBA grads are going into tech, compared to 16% 10 years ago and 13% just 2 years ago. It could be that this is part of the larger, longer term trend of tech eating into other industries, or if Peter Thiel is right, that Tech might have a correction headed its way.