MIT MBA Students: Amazon, Google, and T-Mobile Are Hiring, Expedia Isn’t; Microsoft “Super Interesting,” Apple Is “Sterile”

[Updated 3:30pm 1/9/10 with clarification (see below)] If you want to know which companies are looking to hire top young business talent around town, just ask the group of 20 or so first-year MBA students from MIT Sloan School of Management. The students from Cambridge, MA, are in Seattle this week looking to make contacts for jobs and summer internships.

It’s all part of the annual “tech trek” program in which some 150 Sloan MBA students split up to visit companies in Seattle, Silicon Valley, and the Boston area. The students on the Seattle leg visited Adobe, Microsoft, and RealNetworks yesterday, and they are at Amazon, Starbucks, and T-Mobile today.

I met up with a group of them over drinks last night. They had a refreshingly candid perspective on job prospects at Seattle tech companies, and some valuable insights into the local tech-business scene. (Almost worth the $43 parking ticket I got from the BluWater Bistro lot—it’s been one of those weeks.)

“The job market is better than last year. Companies are very receptive, and positions are open,” says Sloan student Hilda Tang, a former management consultant in New York City and a native of Vancouver, BC. Tang helped organize this year’s trip to Seattle, together with fellow first-year Ryan Thurston, a former design engineer and product manager at Seattle-based Impinj. “Everyone’s hiring, but they’re hedging their bets,” Thurston says.

Kathryn Wepfer, another Sloan student, previously worked for four years at General Electric in Massachusetts managing a technology development program (defense work). Wepfer went on the Silicon Valley leg of the trip earlier this week, where Sloan students visited VMware, Cisco, Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Zynga. Last year, Google and Yahoo didn’t participate, as their hiring was on hold. This year, the students say Google is hiring selectively for positions in finance, operations, marketing, and business development; Yahoo didn’t impress, with one student commenting, “What are [they], really?”

It sounds like some companies were much better at marketing themselves to students than others. The strongest reaction I got was when I asked about their visit to Apple (in Silicon Valley). “Everyone came away totally creeped out,” one student said, adding that the company came off as “secretive” and “sterile,” and that during their visit, at least one Apple employee admitted it wasn’t a great place to work while Steve Jobs was on leave.

[This paragraph added on 1/9/10 for more context on Apple—Eds.] This student followed up with me later to say, “We heard from people in finance, marketing, and product management—everyone hands down was very excited about their job and being part of the Apple community. It’s a very attractive company to me, but it is somewhat difficult to see the reality of the secretive culture that may be necessary to maintain Apple’s ability to create products that change the world. I, and I think the rest of the group, appreciated their openness and honesty.”

On the Seattle front, I had to wonder about Microsoft, which is coming off a year of … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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