Blockchain in Business Schools: MBA Students’ Interest Has Continued Despite the Crypto Crash
BY Anastasia Glyadkovskaya07 September 2022, 13:21
Artwork by Martin Laksman
Few industries are as volatile as cryptocurrency. Over the past year, the value of digital currencies has surged and then fallen, eventually imploding with a stock market crash, widely reported layoffs and losses. Despite the uncertainty, academic interest in the sector has not waned, say the professors.
“Crypto price goes up, down; interest doesn’t correlate with that,” says Gregory LaBlanc, who is a lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “Crypto is one of those things that people think they need to know if they want to be an educated person in today’s business world.”
And crypto is no longer a niche. Companies at all levels, from traditional banks to sectors beyond finance, are increasingly exploring crypto options. Therefore, business students in MBA programs should familiarize themselves with digital assets and the advantages – and disadvantages – of a decentralized banking system.
“There is no doubt that there is still a lot of uncertainty, immaturity and hype in the blockchain space,” acknowledges Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School. of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Wharton’s Digital Asset and Blockchain Project. Even so, the need for business schools to incorporate this emerging industry into their curricula remains. “We need people who are going to work for big, traditional companies who understand that as well.”
In response to interest from MBA students and demand from potential employers, some top business schools are integrating blockchain and cryptography into their curricula. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Evaluate the Cryptographic Content of an MBA Program
Although the idea of teaching cryptography in business schools is relatively new, several schools offer relevant courses: Stanford, Columbia University, Fordham University (Gabelli) and Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami. Due to overlapping content, these courses may be housed in a business, law, or engineering school, or even taught in conjunction with these schools.
Whichever program you choose, first try to get a basic understanding of the barter system, the gold standard, and modern current accounts – this history will help put decentralized finance in context. Without understanding the basics of business, technicality alone will not help you succeed, and vice versa.
“Generally, for most people, the breadth you get is more valuable than anything narrower,” says Werbach.
For those who simply want to understand the concept, a cryptography course could serve as a starting point to explore other areas, such as data architecture, payments infrastructure, or contract enforcement. “Crypto really serves as a clearinghouse for a whole bunch of business areas,” LaBlanc says.
For those who want to found or work for a crypto startup, an extra training step will go a long way, like a acceleration programoffered by Berkeley Engineering.
Due to the rapidity with which this field is changing, it is important to seek training that is not only taught by academics. As in other sectors, a program that uses visiting practitioners will help balance theoretical concepts with hands-on learning.
“It’s almost like trying to hit a moving target,” says David Yermack, professor of finance and business transformation at New York University (Stern), who helped lead early crypto course offerings. from school. The school was among the first in the country to do so in 2014.
Location could also be significant, according to Yermack. Some schools are close to major employers, offering a curriculum tailored to meet the demands of the local economy – and this proximity could be invaluable when looking for a job. Programs should also ideally be housed in schools with a naturally strong technological focus, and those that do at least some research in the field.
Ultimately, even if your first choice MBA program doesn’t offer courses in cryptography, look for other related courses, like fintech, cybersecurity, and risk management. Although Berkeley does not currently have a faculty-led cryptography class, its fintech class does contain some relevant material. The school does, however, offer student-led crypto courses available for credit. LaBlanc will teach finance at Stanford Business this fall, where he plans to take crypto classes.
MBA graduates in blockchain, crypto roles will always learn on the job
Students looking for post-graduation jobs in blockchain or crypto should expect to face stiff competition. With many startups closing this year, this trend is expected to continue in the future.
“Some people like to take risks, and MBA students tend to fit that profile,” Yermack says. “In many ways, crypto is ideal for them.”
Business school students should also be prepared to continue developing their skills after graduation. “A rapidly changing field like cryptography – no matter what you learn in an educational program, you’re going to have to learn a lot on the job,” says Werbach.
Wherever you end up working, whether in crypto or outside of it, there will be a demand for that expertise. In Werbach’s opinion, one of the best positions to be in is working for an employer that isn’t primarily focused on emerging technologies, but where you have more expertise than others.
Students should aim to develop a “personal acquaintance network” after graduation, engaging with resources, like podcasts, and a community, like an online forum, that is relevant to them, Werbach says. . This will help you keep up to date with the latest trends and developments.
Professors are slowly building up the graduate offerings available on crypto and digital assets. It’s an area “where teaching and research need to evolve,” Yermack says. It will take time, but it is inevitable.
More businesses will turn to blockchain for a range of management strategies, like supply chain coordination. “These things will become so unexpected that they’ll just be part of the normal business landscape,” LaBlanc says. When that time comes, there will be no need for special crypto lessons; it will be anchored in the business curriculum. For now, the field remains green.
“It’s really important to develop a healthy skepticism and BS detector, because there are a lot of incredibly exciting technologies out there,” says Werbach, before warning that some developments could turn out to be a scam. “To be successful, you must be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
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