How a 28-year-old MBA grad got a job at Google
What’s the hardest part about getting an MBA? For Fraser Ross, it was having the guts to pursue it.
MBA sceptics would tell him, “You can learn everything from an MBA in a textbook,” or “You’re too young to do an MBA,” or that the industry knowledge he’d acquire would be outdated once he graduated.
“Believing that I could do it was the first hurdle,” he told U2B via an email interview. The former marketing professional, however, is having the last laugh.
Ross went from working at a media agency and running online media campaigns for companies like Japanese automaker Toyota, to working for one of the world’s most recognisable companies — Google.
How an MBA helped pivot his career
Consulting and investment banking sectors are traditional hires of MBA graduates, but the trend is shifting. Many tech companies are snapping up MBA graduates while b-school students like Ross are also increasingly seeking opportunities with tech behemoths.
MBAs can also be useful for individuals looking to switch careers. Before embarking on an MBA, Ross was working in programmatic advertising at Zenith Media, a media agency.
“Programmatic advertising, in simple terms, is the sale of online advertising space using automated technology platforms versus traditional one-to-one deals. My job was to work with different brands including John Frieda, Toyota, Lexus and Delta Airlines, to plan and execute their online media campaigns,” he said.
The 28-year-old toyed with the idea of going back to university to get an advanced degree after obtaining a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in marketing (consumer behaviour) from the University of Manchester, a Russell Group university.
He began to seriously look into pursuing an MBA after a couple of years at Zenith, realising that his interest was in the platforms he was using rather than the campaigns he was executing with them.
“I started to look for jobs at technology companies, the majority of which asked for five years experience or an MBA,” he said.
With neither under his belt, Ross’ attention gravitated to the Alliance Manchester Business School’s MBA programme, which offered a scholarship bursary for people with less than three years of work experience.
“I applied, sat for some tests, and was lucky to be accepted,” he said.
A steep learning curve
“As someone with comparatively less experience than my peers and with a purely marketing background, I learnt a lot academically,” said Ross about his MBA programme.
“During the course, I was fortunate enough to do an exchange semester at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Whilst there, I worked a couple of days a week at a fintech startup called Upstreet.”
It proved to be a memorable experience — he learned a lot from the team, from engaging in quick decision-making to how they developed their sales and pricing strategies and pitching their business to investors.
“Although Google is a large company, I try to replicate the agility of Upstreet in my day-to-day work,” said Ross.
Another challenge of the MBA was juggling the volume of project work with an internship while making job applications. Equally challenging was trying not to get despondent when he got to a final round interview but didn’t get the job — something which happened several times.
“When we started the course, they said we’d become more resilient, which sounded trite to me. But developing my resilience is definitely the best skill I learnt to overcome the challenges,” he said.
How his MBA got him a job at Google
“When I started the course, I was clear to myself that my unfettered focus for the MBA would be to get an internship at a technology company and to try to turn that into a full-time role,” explained Ross. He began preparing his CV and cover letters for the companies he wanted to apply to, plus some smaller firms he was interested in, early into his programme.
“I applied to Google in November and eventually heard back in April! In the interim, I’d had a fair bit of interview practice and was very close to accepting an internship at another company. I interviewed with Google and was pleasantly surprised when I got the offer!
“When I finished the internship, my manager was keen to help me get a full-time role. I still had six months of my MBA left, but the Google position needed to be filled within three, so I ended up working part-time at Google whilst I finished the MBA.”
Today, he works in Go-to-Market Strategy and Operations, covering Google’s largest European Ad Manager clients.
“Ad Manager is a piece of technology that allows websites to sell advertising space. So I’m working on the opposite side of the equation to when I worked at Zenith,” explained Ross. “Day to day, I work on ways to make sales teams more efficient, on how to scale product best practices, and with leadership on how the business is tracking.”
Advice for MBA aspirants
Ross’ advice for those struggling to pick a business school is to think about their “exit strategy” and determine if their business school has strong relationships in the industry or companies they’re interested in.
“It’s clear to me now that for some sectors and roles, you’ve got better odds of landing the job you want if you’re from a preferred university for that industry or company,” he said.
When looking for an internship, Ross said it’s important to start the search for an internship “really early” and think deeply about what MBA aspirants want to do and where their skills will fit.
“If you know that yourself, then it’s easier to persuade someone else. I think this is really important because it makes it easier to talk (or ‘network’ in MBA speak) to people in the companies you like. In doing so, you learn both more about the companies, but also more about what actually drives you,” he said.