We often field questions from clients working in Information Technology about how best to frame their work experiences within a 500-word MBA application essay, especially since the technologist often believes it necessary to provide meaningful context when describing the “What I did” aspect of the essay question.
Truth is, business schools don’t really care whether you can code in java or possess multiple certifications in Oracle, Linux, or Cloud+. The admissions committee doesn’t even need to know those aspects when reading about your technical projects, and getting bogged down in such details is the number one mistake that engineers applying to business school often make.
When describing a technical project, try to sum up the essence of the project in a non-technical way in one to two sentences. Share your essays with a friend outside of your industry to see if it makes sense to the lay person. Then, shift gears to devote the majority of the essay toward demonstrating the qualities that MBA programs do care about: leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and international experience.
IT applicants typically have a lot of experience working in teams, so play up your interpersonal skills and describe how adept you are at collaborating well with others to meet goals. Leadership potential is huge at the top business schools, so talk about how you have showed leadership thus far, or discuss any cross-functional leadership experience you have had. As business becomes ever more connected across the globe, the ability to work well with colleagues abroad will become critical to success. If one of your projects crossed international lines, you can talk about how you managed working with different cultures across time zones and what you learned from the experience.
Show examples of when you solved a problem or overcame a challenge by coming up with a unique or innovative solution. Did you resolve a conflict, demonstrate teamwork, or act with integrity? The thesis of the essay should be based on one of these qualities that an MBA admissions committee would value, not technical details.
Another place to differential yourself from other IT applicants is when describing your professional goals. Where do you envision yourself five or ten years from now? Rather than stating a generic goal such as transitioning into strategy consulting, think about whether you ultimately see yourself owning your own business, creating innovative ways to improve cybersecurity, or becoming the CTO of an environmental non-profit.
While information technologists may fret about competing against a sizeable pool of similar applicants, your MBA essays provide the ideal platform to show you are more than your job. Use the essays to focus on the aspects of your personal life that make you unique: hobbies, community service activities, passions and interests that make you stand out.
When we began working with Abhi, an Indian engineer with his heart set on attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, his biggest roadblock was pertaining to an overrepresented demographic that would be competing with literally thousands of other MBA applicants.
Fortunately, Abhi had an admirable record of community involvement. But to make his candidacy really stand out from the masses, we decided to focus on a unique event in which he had coordinated a sizeable group to train for a marathon with the goal of raising funds to help a six-year-old girl with leukemia. In his essays, Abhi focused on the leadership aspects of the experience: how he recruited participants, organized several fundraising events, and dealt with the inevitable obstacles that arose during the planning phase.
By allowing the MBA admissions committee to better understand who Abhi was as a person, and what motivated him and ignited his personal and professional passions, he became much more than just another male IT candidate from India in the pile… and Wharton ultimately did extend an offer of admission to him.
No matter what your professional background is, the MBA essays are the place to show off your individuality, leadership potential, and exactly why you are b-school material. So don’t let industry jargon or the nitty gritty of your job description get in the way of creating memorable essays that capture the interest of the school of your dreams.