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Breaking the glass ceiling: the importance of an MBA for women in tech

Christine Manipur,  INSEAD - June 19, 2018

INSEAD the importance of an MBA for women in tech

Back in 2002, the cost of sequencing the complete human genome was US$100 million. Today that has dropped to US$1,000.* By the end of this decade, it is likely it could be done for the price of your morning coffee.

The world is changing at a rapid rate with technology; an industry that now permeates not only every facet of our everyday lives but every other industry on the planet. The pressures on those working in tech, the competition and skills required have changed at an exponential rate, and with that, so have the opportunities and variety of roles available. 

All these make it necessary for the professionals in the industry to adapt and acquire skills beyond tech.

A culture that breeds the entrepreneurial spirit

Before graduating from INSEAD in 2017, Sarah Wong was making a transition from a multinational company in India to a health tech start-up in Singapore and was looking to accelerate her career. 

“I was drawn to the entrepreneurial culture that permeates the INSEAD environment and wanted to learn from Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs), company trek, boot camps and fellow entrepreneurs amongst the student body".

And that was something she certainly did.

Like so many of the students, Sarah found the interaction with the EIR’s an eye-opening, and invaluable experience“I focused on tech and health, and it was useful to start building connections. Often, the EIR’s would know others who would prove to be excellent contacts for me".

Another source of inspiration and expertise for tech students comes in the form of the INSEAD Venture Capital Competition (VCC), which Sarah was very much a part of.

“I joined the VCC and made it to the global finals,” she explained, rightly proud of the achievement. “It was a really good experience getting VC’s to review different business cases, then to make smart assessments and finally to pitch it to the investment committee. It gave me an insider’s view on what makes a good business case, as well as seeing the intricacies of VC decision making at first hand".

The hard work she put in, helped by the contacts she made during both her time with the EIR’s and her exchange programme with Kellogg, has certainly paid off. Sarah recently began her new role at Innovaccer, one of the fastest growing healthcare start-ups in San Francisco.

Business skills for the real world

Renaud de Saint Sernin got into tech through a different route. After 7 years in operational roles, he wanted to make a switch in his career

Upon graduating from INSEAD in 2013, Renaud landed his dream job at Google, and used the skills and knowledge learned on the programme to help him succeed. A key skill set he acquired on the programme is the ability to implement a business vision and strategy – something he knew he needed to develop in order to excel in his new career.

For Amit Baranwal, a fellow 2017 graduate, his biggest takeaway was improving his business skill sets including accounting, finance and organisational behaviour. The engineer with an undergrad and Master’s degree in computer engineering had worked in Silicon Valley for several years, including at Microsoft where he worked on the XboxOne project. 

“The INSEAD MBA gave me the tools and expertise to quickly assess the commercial potential of an opportunity - from breaking down the unit economics to customer acquisition strategy; from setting up the brand to sales strategy. I feel more confident going into corporate discussions and making sound business decisions as a result."

His INSEAD experience also allowed him to travel and learn more about the different consumer behaviours and perspectives of people beyond Silicon Valley.

Ophelia Brown, INSEAD MBA’12 and founder of Ambitious Ladies in Tech (ALT), a mentor network that endeavours to help women in technology startups achieve their career goals, comments: “I guess my career trajectory would have been very different had I not done an MBA at INSEAD”. Today, she has garnered over 150 senior executives from some of the world's leading technology companies like AirBnB, Deliveroo, Facebook, FarFetch, Google, and King on ALT’s panel of mentors.

“I chose INSEAD because it has a strong reputation for entrepreneurship and its international student base,” she says. “All the alumni I spoke to before I applied couldn’t have spoken more highly of the programme.”

Lifelong tools for a global career

In an ever-competitive tech industry, the ability to complement both technical knowledge and business acumen will give you an edge to advance in your career. That is why more and more people are looking at an MBA - in particular, a top-ranked MBA programme, such as INSEAD’s MBA - to broaden their skills in business and management, helping them unlock global opportunities.

Ready to take your tech experience to the next level with an MBA?

Prodigy Finance provides loans to international masters students pursuing their business degrees at top schools like INSEAD. When you're ready to break the glass ceiling, we're ready to make your dream a reality.

* dzone.com/articles/genome-analysis-toolkit-now-using-apache-spark-for 

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