Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, thinks that business school is not necessary or even very useful for people who want to work in technology, according to a post on the question-and-answer website Quora. In a post authored by a profile that Quora verifies as Sandberg's, the COO responded to a question about whether her master’s in business administration was helpful or lent “additional credibility or other advantages.” Sandberg said she got something out of the Harvard Business School MBA she earned in 1995, but she was not ready to recommend the degree to the country’s future tech stars.
“While I got great value from my experience, MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry,” Sandberg wrote. She said her MBA helped her get a basic sense of business, which might be instrumental “for some people and in some situations,” but dismissed the notion that the training would offer a leg up at Facebook.
“I believe—and at Facebook we believe—that degrees are always secondary to skills. In hiring at Facebook we care what people can build and do,” she wrote.
The need for an MBA in Silicon Valley has been the subject of intense debate for years. Peter Thiel, who co-founded Palantir and PayPal, has railed about the uselessness of business school for entrepreneurs—sometimes while speaking to crowds of MBAs. At a gathering of MBA candidates in San Francisco last year, Thiel noted that business schools tend to churn out people who bet on innovations only after those ideas are past their prime. MBAs rushed into junk bonds in 1989, a year before industry king Michael Milken went to jail, Thiel noted. And most MBAs did not want anything to do with Silicon Valley until 1999, just before the tech industry collapsed, he said.
So what should you do if you want to be the next Sandberg, or Thiel? On Quora, Sandberg suggested a career in tech might not even be necessary to catch Facebook’s attention. “We don't look for a specific background or skill-set when we make hiring decisions,” she wrote. “As my friend and Instagram COO Marne Levine says, we hire athletes and cross-train them.”