March 6, 2013

Johnson School Sees New Trends

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U.S. business schools have experienced drastic changes in the past few years, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management –– with help from the Cornell NYC Tech campus –– is no exception, according to professors, administrators and students.

Wall Street and financial services firms are hiring fewer people than they did in the past, and more MBA graduates are heading to the entrepreneurial world of Silicon Alley or pursuing their own startups, according to a recent report by New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

According to Frederick Staudmyer ’77 MBA ’79, director of the Career Management Center, the Johnson school is beginning to see students engaging more with the growing world of entrepreneurialism.

“We are seeing at Johnson an increase in the number of students interested in tech in general and digital media startups and early stage companies in particular,” he said. “The two clearest trends in employment out of Johnson are a continuing increase in the number of students interested in management consulting and in high tech [at both] large and small companies.”

Staudmyer noted the future enhancement of the Johnson School’s profile of entrepreneurialism through its relationship with the Cornell NYC Tech campus –– where business courses will be taught to engineering graduate students and  MBA students will be immersed in innovation.

“[The Cornell NYC Tech campus] opens up a whole range of possibilities for Johnson to create a strategy focused around technology innovation,” he said. “We do not have concrete plans yet, but are looking at a range of program and degree options. There is a real focus on fostering the engagement of students with innovative technology companies.”

Bruce F. Falling Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Prof. Deborah Streeter, applied economics and management, noted that although the pursuit of finding a startup has become more popular in recent years, not all students are eager to pursue such a nontraditional path.

“Cornell students still see entrepreneurship as the path less traveled, and in some ways that makes sense,” she said. “The startup venture involves more ambiguity, less structure, perhaps more risk –– although corporate life can also turn on a dime. … The positive is that in a startup, students are going to have many more chances to do a wide range of things.”

However, despite the nontraditional and unpredictable nature of the entrepreneurial path, Staudmyer said that many student groups are working to enhance the presence of entrepreneurship on campus and to help students transform their ideas into a reality.

“The percentage of our graduates going into startups is still not large,” he said. “But groups — like our Johnson Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club –– are very active and taking advantage of the many resources available to learn about and foster new business ideas and the commercialization of technology.”

Staudmyer said that students engage with entrepreneurialism in a variety of ways: many work on their business ideas and company development during their time at Johnson, while others start their own businesses after school.

For example, during his time at the Johnson, Nick Nickitas grad developed Rosie — a smartphone app that notifies its users when they run low on basic necessity items at home, like groceries and paper towels. Nickitas said he found that the Johnson School helps support students who want to pursue a career in entrepreneurship.

“[By] doing everything from helping us provide marketing, consulting, feedback to the way we are building our brand … I would say that the student body at Johnson has embraced [the startup culture]. … It has just been tremendous,” Nickitas said. “I feel lucky to be at a school that supports entrepreneurs the way [the] Johnson does.”

According to Nickitas, many MBA students are motivated to found their own startups because they see startups as a less traditional way to influence society.

“You are seeing now more than ever, as a result of the last financial crisis, students that are interested in making impactful contributions to the world outside of financial engineering,” he said. “These are students that are pursuing –– not in 20 years, but today –– their business ideas and aspirations, and immediately applying the lessons learned in the classroom … to their startups.”

According to Staudmyer, as a result of the changing nature of the modern business industry, Johnson graduates will have the opportunity to find more jobs across the economy.

“I think the future is exciting for Johnson MBAs, as there are more types of companies hiring MBAs, including a larger demand from technology companies,” he said. “MBAs are thinking more broadly each year about the new economy, how best to use their skills in the current market and what types of careers will make them happy.”

Original Author: Jonathan Swartz