UCLA’s Anderson School has gone through a transformation in recent years, becoming more closely tied to movements within the tech industries in L.A., Silicon Valley, and Seattle.
Fagnani, 28, agrees. “The more I looked at programs, the more I realized that the infrastructure, the classes and the opportunities are roughly the same at the top schools,” he says. “The biggest variable is the culture. I felt this was the place I would fit in and thrive.”
He’s not alone. Student opinion surveys show increased satisfaction at UCLA’s Anderson School, which has gone through a transformation in recent years, becoming more closely tied to the tech boom, in L.A., Silicon Valley, and Seattle. The upshot: Applications last year soared by 32%, while the average GMAT for the overall applicant pool was up five points to 688, swayed in part by the greater tech focus. Those extra apps drove the school’s acceptance rate down to 18% from 22% a year earlier, while the average GMAT for the new class hit a record 715, up from 706.
“This class is phenomenal,” boasts Rob Weiller, associate dean of admissions for the MBA program. “The second years are in awe of the new class. More importantly, though, they are still the same kinds of people. We haven’t sacrificed our supportive culture. There is just a world of opportunity out there and our career center is plugged into those opportunities. It is way more difficult to do that from the East Coast. I don’t care if you have the H word on your diploma.”
At 26.5% of the Class of 2014, technology is the top hiring industry of Anderson graduates and has been for the past three years. The percentage going into tech from UCLA has more than doubled in the past four years, eclipsing the 20.4% who took finance jobs and the 14.2% of Anderson MBAs who went into consulting.
This year, in fact, at least 15 students went to work at Google, while Amazon and Microsoft each hired 10 or more MBAs, and Adobe Systems, Amgen, Apple, Ebay, Symantec, and VMware each employed between five and nine Anderson graduates. School officials, moreover, believe that tech has morphed with L.A.’s traditional strengths as an entertainment and media mecca to give birth to a host of new startups and tech firms in Silicon Beach, a three-mile stretch of sand between Venice and Santa Monica. The area is home to more than 500 startups and tech giants, ranging from Snapchat to online video service Hulu, along with an expansive L.A. office for Google.
“The school has pivoted fairly quickly to become much more of a technology school than when I first came here,” says Mark Garmaise, a finance professor who joined UCLA in 2001 after a stint at Chicago Booth. “Our major new push is going towards analytics and technology. We have great data analytics courses and classes where students are working with Google and doing real-time problem-solving.”
Dubbed “The Google Class” by students, the course represents how Anderson, once a finance and quant haven, is transforming itself into a pathway into tech. Anderson worked with Google to develop the course, which is officially called “Digital Marketing Strategy” and was first offered on a trial basis this past fall. Co-taught by marketing professor Sanjay Sood and a Google executive, the course provides students with a broad overview of Google’s approach to marketing. It focuses on four key areas: insights, measurement, storytelling, and brand.
“We reinvented the class to be more industry relevant,” says Karen Williams, executive director for the school’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports. “There are Google cases and projects with Google executives. All the top schools are being challenged to bridge the thinking with the doing. It is a model we are talking with another company about and have two more firms on our target list.”
Beyond the Google example, Anderson doesn’t shy away from bringing in leading executives to teach in its classrooms. Brian Frons, the president of daytime Disney/ABC, now teaches a course called “Making Creativity Profitable in Entertainment & Technology.” Dean Judy Olian and Hollywood producer Peter Guber, CEO of the multimedia Mandalay Entertainment Group, teach a class together. Not surprisingly, perhaps, one of the school’s six specializations, along with such traditional MBA areas as accounting and corporate finance, is technology leadership, with such courses as “New Product Development” and “Technology Management.”
“This California location has us keyed into the tech boom,” adds Garmaise, who is also senior associate dean of the MBA program. “We didn’t stop being a finance school, but we have pivoted in terms of industry because it is a better fit for us. You have California opportunities that would open up to you that are very difficult to access from other parts of the country.”
<To be continued>