I have an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, but over the years I moved into management and helped run and sell a small business. After that business was bought by a larger company, I realized that in order to really succeed at the larger company, I needed a formal business education. For example, I had a hard time following the discussion when my company’s executives discussed financial topics, such as debt and capital markets.
I decided it was time to go back to school. I could have attended an MBA program in New York City, but I did my research and found that Wharton’s EMBA program was not only very rigorous and provided an undiluted MBA experience, it also required a Friday night stayover. I thought the residential requirement would help me get to know my classmates better.
Myths vs. Reality
Before coming to Wharton, I had a few preconceptions about the school. I had heard how this is a quant school. The reality is that it is a quant school. We were doing calculus in Microeconomics in the first semester. As for the preconception about it being competitive, in general I did not find that to be true. We realize that at this point in our careers, grades aren’t as important as learning. I also saw how my classmates are really interested in helping advance each other’s careers.
We’ve had several students hire classmates into their own companies. For example, one student started a metals processing company and hired a classmate to be the CEO of the startup. We’re all in positions where we have insights into the senior-level roles in our companies; when we see classmates that might be a good fit, we reach out. I’ve been contacted a few times by classmates, including a student on the West Coast. I knew that Wharton would have a great network, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing.
Developing Work-Life Balance
Before starting the program, I had heard that students spend about 20-25 hours a week on school work. That has turned out to be pretty accurate. However, I travel a lot during the week for my job so I tend to do my reading on planes and trains and save the rest of the work for non-class weekends.
My husband is a surgical resident and works long hours, and we don’t have kids. So I don’t have the same family pressures as some of my classmates. For me, the biggest challenge is not having enough time to see my friends from before Wharton. I’ve had to decline attending friends’ weddings and other events that were held on school weekends. The bright side is that I’ve gained a lot of friends at Wharton who understand the time constraints of school and who I think will be my friends for life.
In the fall, I spent a half semester at Wharton San Francisco. I took half-credit courses so I was able to fly out there for four weekends to attend those classes. By doing that, I met over 90% of the students on the West Coast. They are a fun and friendly group and I keep in touch with many of them. I really enjoyed that experience — and it basically doubled my network at Wharton.
I’ve done two independent study projects during my time at Wharton. These projects usually involve coming up with a business topic that interests you, and then asking a professor to sponsor you as you investigate the topic over a semester. One of my projects was under the guidance of Wharton Marketing Prof. Patti Williams, who is fantastic.
I investigated a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for the government contracting industry. This is something that is very much needed in that industry. Prof. Williams provided guidance for conducting market research and offered introductions to senior IT professionals. In the end, I conducted primary research to determine the most-needed features for a new government contractor ERP system.
We definitely bond a lot on class weekends. It’s not unusual to hang out together until pretty late on Friday nights. I also bond with the other students who live in New York City because we all take the same train to Philadelphia and back. On the way home, we relax in the café car together. Sometimes, the NY crew goes to plays or dinners together when we’re not at Wharton. One of my classmates asked me to be her bridesmaid at her wedding this summer – the groom is another Wharton classmate.
An interesting thing to note about Wharton’s EMBA program is the significant number of women students. I work in the tech space, and I may go a week without talking to another woman. At Wharton, there are many women-focused events and we have a Women of Wharton Facebook page. Having that opportunity to bond with other women students is important to me. We’re all going through similar things and we support each other.
Posted: April 5, 2016