Top (or Not) 5 Ways to Answer the “Why Technology?” Question in an Interview
by Phil Han
During the past few years at UCLA Anderson, about 30% of all FTMBA students have found summer internships or full-time employment in the Technology industry. As students go through the recruiting process, one of the most important and common questions they need to answer is “Why Technology?”, especially if they are career switchers. On the surface, this seems like a very simple question, but in this day and age in which the popularity of the Tech industry as a career option is extremely high, it’s actually quite difficult to answer in a unique and/or memorable way. Having advised many students through that process at Parker, here are my top (or not) recommendations on how to best answer that question.
5. I’ve loved technology since I was young and use it all the time.
One of the most common answers that I hear from students is a variation of how they “love” technology and use it all the time (i.e. “I built my own computer in high school” or “my parent brought home a computer and I fell in love with it”). While this may be the truth, compared to when “loving technology” or being a “tech geek” was novel and perhaps even rare, this answer doesn’t have the same impact today. If today’s MBA student is about 29 years old, that means that GUI was the normal way to interact with one’s computer and the internet has always been available (even if it was through a 2400 baud modem) to them. By middle school, mobile phones were pretty common, and the iPhone was just around the corner. So, while I am not dismissing the validity of your interest in technology, unless the there is a truly unique story to illustrate this passion, it may not leave much of an impression anymore.
The next two are also common answers that I hear from students that are definitely true, but…
4. Tech industry is “innovative” or “disruptive.”
This is very much a true statement, but it can be a bit cliché and generic unless you have specific and relevant examples to back it up. We all understand how various industries, including tech itself, have been (and will continued to be) changed/revolutionized/”disrupted” by technology, and most people can come up with the multiple examples of this, such as e-commerce (retail), fintech (payments/banking/lending), cloud (storage, IT, workplace collaboration, or actually everything), mobile (communication, or actually everything), streaming content (media), adtech (advertising), social media (communication, society, news), etc. However, these and other examples become common knowledge enough that you need to be extremely articulate and specific in order to effectively use this as a “why technology” answer.
3. I want to make a big or bigger “impact” through my work.
This answer has started to surface in recent years, and it is also a true statement in that many of today’s leading technology companies can have large scale impact on millions, if not billions, of users through their products and services. Having said that (I know I say this a lot during advising meetings), you should first consider whether the idea of making an impact is applicable or relevant to the interviewer and the company that you are interviewing with. Also, does “making a big impact” mean just affecting a large group of people or organizations as users of the product, or is there some sort of a desire for a “social impact” that you truly care about? Does that even matter to the company? Students often throw around the word “impact” without context or relevancy to the organization they are interviewing with, and that lessens the validity of this answer.
2. I am interested in this specific sector of technology.
Tech is a broad industry that covers product and service categories that are too numerous to list. So, a good approach to answer the general “why technology” question would be get specific about the technology area/topic that the company plays in and why you are interested in it. This requires a deeper level of research and understanding of that particular sector and how you relate or connect to that particular technology and its development. Utilizing examples from the company’s own position and contributions to that sector can also be useful. This type of specificity serves two purposes: 1) it shows that you’ve done your research and have a deeper understanding of the technology and products of the company and 2) it can be easily integrated into the research you need to do anyway for the company and its product itself. A downside to this approach is that it can be harder for the tech giants that have products in multiple areas, unless you can pinpoint the core technology of that company and articulate how everything fits together to form an “ecosystem.”
1. I personally experienced how technology changed/affected my profession/employer/life, etc., and I want to be part of an organization that is creating that impact.
I believe that one of the best ways to answer the “why technology” question for career switchers is an elevation of the #3 & 4 answers above, taking them up to a professional (and may be a personal) level that frames and solidifies the “disruption” or “innovation” offered by the technology to you and the interviewer. As mentioned previously, various forms of technology has affected most people in one form or another, and each innovation/disruption has changed how we live, work, and play. My guess is that in your past professional experience (preferably), you’ve seen, felt or experienced that disruption directly in various ways, either positively or negatively. I don’t mean that you can’t live without your phone or that a streaming service has changed how you consume content, but more specifically and seriously how a technology or product has significantly impacted the actual job or function that you performed or the organization itself, resulting in an honest-to-goodness desire to join the industry or company creating those products and services. Rather than expounding on a generic concept of “impact,” personalizing it and making it specific helps that story be “real” and memorable. Obviously, this answer is most impactful if it illustrates a product or service in a professional context, but even if is more of a personal story, this shows that technology and its innovations had a real impact on you which serves as a deep-seated motivation to join the industry.
All of these suggestions are under the caveat that context is important. Your “why technology” answer during an interview needs to be framed appropriately depending on the role and organization that you are interviewing with and how it fits with the rest of your story. So, as you think about this question both now and in the future, remember to be personal (within a professional context), specific and authentic on how you want to be a part of this awesome industry that changed how you and many others live and work every day.
Director, Recruiting Operations and Career Advisor Healthcare and High Tech
Phil joined UCLA Anderson in August 2004 as a Career advisor. In late 2007, Phil transitioned into his role as the Director of Recruiting Operations, supervising the Parker CMC's Recruiting Team and overseeing on-campus recruiting operations, data and technology management, and office logistics. He also manages and develops several employer accounts to facilitate their campus recruiting activities and strengthen the connections to UCLA Anderson students.
Prior to joining the Parker CMC, Phil was a Career Advisor at Claremont Graduate University, working with graduate students in business, organizational psychology, and economics. He also taught middle and high school science in New York City for four years.
Phil has a BS in biology and psychology from the University of Michigan, an MA in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business.