Want to work at Amazon or Microsoft? This MBA program is an unsuspecting feeder school for Seattle tech giants

BY Meghan MalasMay 18, 2022, 12:37 PM
Signage outside the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington, as seen in March 2022. (Photographer: Chona Kasinger—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

For decades, prestigious business schools like Harvard Business School, Wharton School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business have had the upper-hand in paving the way for students to land top-paying jobs at some top U.S. companies. But a recent report reveals that a public university has established itself among the upper echelon of business schools, beating out its competitors, in the number of graduates employed at Big Tech firms

Nearly one in five, or about 17%, of MBA graduates from the University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business are employed at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook, according to a July 2021 study by OnlineU. That means Foster’s MBA program has distinguished itself by creating a path for landing a job at a Big Tech firm.

Amazon and Microsoft are the largest employers for Foster MBA graduates, with 711 alumni at Microsoft and 606 at Amazon, according to LinkedIn alumni data compiled in the study.

Foster ranked No. 1 for employment at the five largest tech companies, followed by Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, which saw about 7% of its MBA graduates landing roles at the so-called FAANG companies. University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business ranked No. 3 with less than 7% of its grads going into tech roles at these companies.

Foster MBA students prepare for roles in the tech industry by participating in learning experiential learning, rigorous academic coursework, and by establishing connections to business leaders, says Naomi Sanchez, assistant dean of MBA career management at Foster. In addition, the school’s focus on building a strong cohort also supports the success of Foster graduates who go on to pursue a career at Big Tech firms, she adds.

Foster’s proximity to Big Tech headquarters is a big advantage

The Foster School of Business is based in Seattle, Washington, which is also in close proximity to the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco Wholesale, and Expedia.

“Locations in tech hubs likely create a conducive environment for students seeking roles in Big Tech by allowing students easier access to these companies for experiences like internships and networking,” says Taylor Nichols, a data reporter for Optimal, the parent company of OnlineU. “Additionally, the locations of the schools make them better known to companies in the area.” 

Foster’s MBA program also includes a “radical collaboration” exercise in which Foster alumni working at places like Amazon, Microsoft, Nestle, Starbucks, and T-Mobile address current challenges and opportunities their companies are facing with students. Alumni and other business representatives then evaluate student presentations and provide feedback.

In addition to the two tech giants, other companies that tend to hire Foster MBA graduates include Salesforce, Adobe, Intel, Cisco, Bain, BCG, McKinsey, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Providence, PwC, and Expedia. Common roles for Foster MBA alumni at these companies include product management, program management, consultant, senior financial analyst, business development, and corporate strategy positions. 

Graduate statistics from 2021 show that 45% of Foster’s MBA graduates went on to work in the technology industry, Nichols says. 

A strong, diverse cohort prepares students for a career in tech

Foster’s dominance in churning out grads who go into tech also has as much to do with who enrolls in its MBA programs, which include the full-time, evening, executive, hybrid, technology management, and global executive MBA degree programs.

“It starts with a quality cohort,” Sanchez says. “While Foster continues to attract top students as measured quantitatively—our most recent entering class featured an average GMAT score above 700—we also look for a depth and variety of work experience, as well as increased demographic diversity.”

This year’s incoming full-time MBA class is made up of 36% students of color, 20% historically underrepresented students of color, 5% LGTBQ+ students, 40% women, 40% international students, and 9% veterans. Students in the cohort have an average of six years of work experience and come from a wide array of sectors, Sanchez says.

More and more, top business schools see professional and demographic diversity as a key component of a successful MBA cohort. As students learn how to become business leaders and managers, the more perspectives offered in their studies, the better. 

“Foster faculty, staff, alumni and local business leaders work together as a tight-knit, collaborative community to support students’ academic, leadership, and professional development,” Sanchez says.

Foster’s full-time MBA program had a 97% employment rate within three months of graduation in 2021.

“We constantly innovate—a result of actively listening to employers, our students and our alumni,” Sanchez says. “The result is real-world, complex business experiences that help students sharpen their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, ultimately transforming them into impactful leaders.”

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