Stanford MBA Class of 2018 Chose Careers Where They Could Make a Difference

The MBA Class of 2018 broke records for salaries for the fourth consecutive year, yet their career choices were not about chasing the money.

December 12, 2018


Students at their graduation ceremony, June 2018. Credit: Saul Bromberger

Members of the Class of 2018. | Saul Bromberger

“Our graduates pursued roles where they can make a difference in the world and have [a] positive impact on the greater economy, regardless of salary,” said Yossi Feinberg, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in releasing the 2018 Employment Report.

“That said, we’ve had another year of a strong employment market for our MBAs. Not only did our graduates break previous years’ records for compensation, but also we had a record 421 organizations hire our students for summer internships and full-time positions, a signal of the broad diversity of career paths our students followed.”

In other highlights, interest in entrepreneurship remained flat at 16%; technology jumped up, with participation from women continuing to exceed that of men for the second consecutive year, doubling since three years ago; percentage of women going to private equity and venture capital held on to gains from last year; at 12%, interest in socially responsible roles was similar to last year; and 39% of students who reported accepting a job also reported receiving equity compensation.

One notable observation this year is the $12,000 median salary gap between U.S. work-authorized (citizens and permanent residents) and non-U.S. work-authorized graduates (those on student visas and annual work permits). “When controlled for industry and job location, for example in emerging markets, the salary gap diminishes and in some cases disappears,” said Feinberg, who oversees the MBA program. “We saw the percentage of non-U.S. work-authorized students in the job-seeking pool who accepted jobs in the U.S. stay flat at 74% compared to last year. Behind this number, we recognize that global trends presented extra challenges to students seeking to change locations.”

The location pivot was complicated by other changes Shammi Quddus was considering. Her pre-MBA career was in the social enterprise start-up space in Bangladesh, and she found it “very, very difficult” to overcome biases against her emerging market experience, “the most difficult being geography and ‘company brand,’” she said, “especially if you’re from a company they don’t recognize, and even worse if you’re from a start-up.”

Among her strategies to address these biases, Quddus leveraged Stanford GSB’s alumni network as much as possible as she applied to companies with global products or expansion plans in South and Southeast Asia, and focused on roles where her leadership, teamwork skills, and design thinking experience would be relevant. Moreover, she chose heavy quantitative coursework such as econometrics, statistics, data science, and deep learning, both at Stanford GSB and Harvard — where she was concurrently working towards her dual degree in public administration in international development — the better “to be eligible for technical and product-management roles where such factors as geographical experience and company name tend to fall away because they will give you a test at the outset,” she said. “This positioned me very well with artificial intelligence and machine learning companies where it’s difficult to understand product without basic knowledge of data science and machine learning.”

Her quest had a happy ending, and she landed at Google in Silicon Valley as Customer Insights Manager on their Chrome Enterprise team. While even one pivot is challenging, Quddus ultimately did it on three: industry, location, and company size.

Seeking to Make an Impact in Their Homeland

Working in the other direction, Jason Dunford overcame obstacles of a different nature in his journey back to his native Africa, where he wanted to have impact. Kenya’s first-ever swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, Dunford entered the MBA program with an interest and a master’s degree in environmental science, thinking he would launch a venture related to clean energy. Instead, with no previous journalism experience, he ended up a broadcast journalist with the BBC in Africa as part of a new business coverage team, reporting in both English and Swahili.

He somehow found himself considering three career options during the summer after his first year. He got an internship with East Africa’s largest off-grid solar company. In the evenings he helped his wife Lauren, also a Class of 2018 classmate, build up the clean manufacturing analytics start-up, Safi Analytics, for which she serves as CEO. And on weekends he continued expanding his journalism portfolio interviewing entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, and business leaders. “It was a crazy summer! But I learned a lot!” he said.

He credits his involvement in the student-led, highly successful Africa Business Forum at Stanford toward the end of his first year for changing his life and career path. Put in charge of media and marketing, Dunford found he enjoyed the experience of interviewing people, learning about their stories and what motivates them. So he started his own online talk show.

When he found that the BBC was expanding their footprint in Africa he threw his hat in the ring. “I was one of the candidates who didn’t have a traditional journalism background, but I built my case around what I’d done on my own in business school,” he said. “I had conducted over 100 interviews in the span of about 9 months. With an MBA I thought I could bring a lot of business chops to the table, to enhance the team and support them in understanding business issues.” He landed the job. And a music single. (The recording and music video release in early December.) Best of all, he landed back in his native Kenya, helping Africa tell its story.

Women in VC and Tech

“For the second year in a row, the proportion of women going to tech was higher than for men, and this year reached a record 40% of all women who reported salaries,” said Carly Janson, acting assistant dean and director of the Career Management Center. “Also, the number of women going to private equity and venture capital has doubled since 2014. This number is still small, but heartening.”

Ashley Brasier initially planned to continue in her pre-MBA operating role in the consumer tech space, possibly start her own company. However, she took the class, Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital from the Perspective of Women, taught by lecturers Fern Mandelbaum and Anne Raimondi, and changed course. “This class showed me that there are several different paths into VC, and empowered me to pursue VC opportunities,” she said.

Before business school, Brasier was a Category Manager at Thumbtack, a local services start-up based in San Francisco. She is now a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. “Overall, I’d say finding opportunities was not difficult, but it took some time to find the right match,” she said.

On the other hand, Jialu Chen worked at an early stage venture capital firm prior to business school and landed in internet technology. She credits the Leadership Labs experience in the first quarter with changing the course of her dream job. “My Lead Labs Fellow told me she saw me as a leader. The fact that she saw that potential encouraged me to pursue careers that would allow me to develop leadership skills, and ultimately led to my current job in product management,” she said. Now a product manager at YouTube in San Bruno, California, she works 10 minutes from her house.

Record High Salaries

The median and average annual base compensation of $142,000 and $145,559, respectively, edged past last year’s all-time highs by $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Average annual signing bonus rose by $1,600 to a record $31,146; the median remained unchanged at $25,000.

In lieu of other guaranteed compensation, dropped from reporting standards by the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, Stanford GSB last year began capturing an “Expected Performance Bonus” metric that includes guaranteed as well as non-guaranteed cash compensation based on performance. Of the Class of 2018, 72% expected to receive a cash performance bonus, an increase over last year’s 66% (in contrast, 12% reported OGC). These graduates expected an average bonus of $64,529 a slight decrease over last year; with a $35,000 median; and a range of $5,000–$400,000.

Nearly two out of five students, or 39%, who reported accepting a job also reported receiving stock compensation. This metric is not tracked by CSEA.

Timing of Job Offers

In adherence to CSEA standards, Stanford Graduate School of Business reports full-time job offer and acceptance rates at graduation, and at 90 days after.

At 90 days after Stanford GSB’s Jun. 16, 2018 graduation, 88% of the class accepted offers, same as last year; and 95% had offers, a 3-point rise.


Interest in technology rose to 33%, regaining the 8 points it had dropped last year; meanwhile, finance inched down a point to 31%; consulting dropped 2 points to 18%; and nonprofits gained a point to 4%.

Stanford MBA students and graduates were hired by a record 421 organizations, a 40% jump from 8 years ago. A signal of the sheer breadth of Stanford GSB employers, 94% hired just 1 or 2 students.


Not included in the CSEA-defined job-seeking pool, 16% of the entire class launched start-ups in a broad variety of industries. The top five for these entrepreneurial graduates are: software (18%), finance (13%), consumer products (10%), health care (8%), and internet services (8%).


In 2018, 68% of Stanford GSB graduates selected careers in the West region, representing a 5% increase compared to last year.

Outside of the West region, the Northeast was the next most popular location drawing 15% of the class, while international jobs attracted 10%.

“Our leading employers span a wide variety of industries — consulting, finance, technology, consumer products, healthcare, and nonprofits — but what they have in common are work environments that offer the ability to make an impact, optimize on career development, and provide diverse challenges and responsibilities,” said Janson. “In turn, our graduates chose opportunities they felt passionate about, and opportunities to make the world a better place.”


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