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Student Experience

The Vision, Skills, and Mindset You Need for a Career in Tech

By Paul Smirl

January 18, 2022

Three people demonstrate careers in tech

Technology has redefined communication, reimagined the parameters of work and home, and changed the way we travel, shop, and organize our lives. It’s made our lives so much easier, and yet the future impact of tech on society is unknown. 

Business will undoubtedly play a massive role in that impact—the top ten companies in the world today are tech-based businesses, and tech job postings are experiencing rapid growth. To support tech businesses that flourish and provide the world with useful and beneficial services, the right approach and right leadership are needed. 

“Technology companies depend on leaders with a vision for a better future,” says Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy, Albert O. Nicholas Dean at the Wisconsin School of Business. “We need business professionals who can transfer their desire to create a better world into products and services—business professionals who can mirror the ingenuity of technologists and develop companies that truly inspire positive change.” 

So what do you need to prepare for a tech career?

To Kristin Branch, director of the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights at the Wisconsin School of Business, you need to be willing to fail—and fail fast. The tech landscape is constantly changing, and you have to be OK with rapid agility, and have the mindset that you will be able to learn from mistakes, pivot, and move forward with better ideas.

Getting ready for a business career in tech:

  • be data driven
  • be ready to engage in experimentation
  • have a high tolerance for ambiguity
  • work cross functionally with colleagues

“Any professional working in the tech space has to be comfortable with experimentation, with ambiguity, and with making data-driven decisions very quickly,” says Branch. “This is a world where you have to pull your data, analyze your data, make a recommendation, and adjust. That’s very empowering because you have access to that knowledge and discover those insights right away.”

For Peter Commons, senior lecturer at the Wisconsin School of Business and a former leader at Zendesk, Groupon, and Amazon, communication is essential. 

“In tech, being able to ask the right questions is super important,” says Commons. “And if you don’t know what questions to ask, know the right people who should be asking those questions.”

You need to start with the customer and be able to understand their needs and then figure out which tech can help solve that problem. What you don’t want to do is have tech and try to find something you can sell with it.

Building businesses that reflect tech innovation

Having a vision for how tech should impact peoples’ lives is key. New technologies are often mapped onto the wrong type of business. Companies then struggle with how to manage, market, and find a useful purpose for their developments and fail due to a lack of vision. 

Whether you’re working in a business role at a major corporation or on the ground floor of a startup, you want a cross-functional understanding of the customer and product-market fit, as well as what technologies to use and how to apply them to solve the problem.

Tech managers, marketers, and executives must be able to understand other peoples’ roles and communicate effectively with developers, UX designers, financial experts, and customers to get the most out of their product and build the right type of business. 

Wisconsin School of Business alumna Cynthia Chu (BBA ’99) is a great example of a collaborative tech leader who has taken her business knowledge and inspired growth as the CFO and growth officer at Audible. She took her skills rooted in finance and her passion for people and developed into a data-driven company leader who has helped make Audible a vital player in the growing audio space. 

“I think problem-solving, being analytical, and not being afraid to raise my hand for an ambiguous assignment are what have helped me succeed. That’s what brings me to work every day—the chance to problem-solve,” says Chu.

Enacting real change and transforming the way we interact with technology

Business professionals at companies like Audible or Microsoft, where recent Wisconsin Full-Time MBA graduate Rodrigo Stabio (MBA ’19) works, have the ability to enact real change in society and shape the way people and technology interact. “I love that I am working on tech that has the power to affect and empower the whole world,” says Stabio, a product marketing manager for Microsoft’s Surface products. 

In the past decade, dependence on technology has grown wildly, and working in the tech space allows you to paint the future of what cultural shift will occur next. 

I think one of the things that we’re seeing is that any industry, any company is trying to adopt that technological mindset. Everyone is getting that desire to be more agile and more experimental and more fast-acting.

Kristin Branch, director, A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights

And beyond flashy companies in B2C spaces, there’s tremendous growth to be had in areas like cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and technology to help our health, our finances, and our planet’s sustainability. 

“I think one of the things that we’re seeing is that any industry, any company is trying to adopt that technological mindset,” says Branch. “Everyone is getting that desire to be more agile and more experimental and more fast-acting.” 

Tech investor and Wisconsin MBA alumnus Malcolm Thorne sees the future of business being led by companies which are in part software, data, and analytics companies, no matter what goods or services they provide. 

“In my view a large majority of companies are becoming tech enabled companies,” says Thorne. “Look at what business model innovations like Harry’s have done to a traditional CPG category like shaving. Look at what is happening in delivery. What does CPG look like if you no longer step in a grocery store?”

Rewriting societal troubles and crafting a better future

Tech is clearly a powerful force for change, and the direction that business professionals take tech is vitally important. With misinformation, extremism, privacy concerns, and supply chain dysfunction major issues within tech today, tomorrow’s tech leaders will have to think critically about how to make businesses that reflect society’s growing cries for justice, inclusion, sustainability, and better health. 

Innovation will charge ahead and the way business professionals respond and nourish that innovation will impact the world generations into the future. 

“Technology leads innovation and change in our society so dramatically, and that’s extremely attractive to a lot of young professionals as they think about having an impact in their career. It’s about having meaning and driving action,” says Branch. 

Business professionals in tech are well positioned to turn their desire for meaningful careers into accessible solutions to universal problems. The world needs forward thinkers who can build companies that make a positive difference. 

Are you ready to join the next generation of tech leaders?  

The Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Program offers two tech-focused pathways:

This story is Part 1 in our three-part series on the business of tech.

Read Part 2: What is a Product Manager?

Read Part 3: The Keys to Tech Product Marketing

Read more about business tech education at the Wisconsin School of Business in our press release about new tracks in the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Program