Monday, October 25, 2010

The power of ten ...

October 23rd 2010 was a landmark date in the history of WEMBA West - something that many of us will remember for years to come. After a lot of planning (thank you Juana and Doug!) we had an event that brought together all batches to ever be part of WEMBA West - from class 27 all the way to class 36. How cool is that!

The event was kicked off by Mike Useem with an engaging lecture on leadership. For those of us in class 36 it felt like a continuation from earlier in the day when we had just finished our leadership simulations and lectures for his class. All ten cohorts have had the rare privilege of learning leadership from Mike, so it was only appropriate that he kicked off the event. It was fun to watch cohorts that graduated years ago volunteer enthusiastically to answer questions that Mike posed to the audience. Of course there was the pride in one's own class evinced by the cheers that the responders got from their classmates.

This session was followed by a wonderful reception hosted at the Wharton Pub. Great food, great music, and an important announcement from Doug - stay tuned for an official update when its ready to be announced. The warmth with which classes from years past greeted us class 36ers and engaged with us was quite refreshing. It was also fun to observe them meet each other and catch up, after a long hiatus, in a school setting.

What did I learn from this event? School is school irrespective of what age you graduate from it - nothing like a ten-year reunion to drive that home. The growth of the WEMBA West program in the past ten years has just been amazing, and the next two years will expand and solidify our presence here in the Bay area. So applicants, now's your turn to claim a piece of WEMBA West history and make it your own!

What else? We got done with managerial accounting last session with an "interesting" final to wrap things up - alas, no more Ittner or Useem for the rest of the program. It was a pleasure to learn from them. In terms of visitors who came to speak to the class, we had David Pottruck, the ex-CEO of Charles Schwab who came to talk to the class despite not being in the best of health. We also had Stephen Denny, the author of "Killing Giants", give a riveting lecture on what companies can do to stand on their own against giants in their own market. We had animated sessions to discuss which electives to vote on for Year 2, with the different focus groups recommending electives important to them. Some of us were out partying with Berkeley-Columbia folks Friday night as well. And oh, did I mention the upcoming mixer on the 5th where we will have WEMBA, Berkeley-Columbia and UCLA folks attending! All in all, the sessions end up being so packed with action that one needs all of Sunday just to recuperate and get back to regular life!

That's it for this update. For folks that are looking to apply, visit us, attend a reception, and let us know if we can help answer any of your concerns. Until next time, goodnight, and good luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Come Visit!

Hey all you out there (yes, you!). If you're thinking about Wharton's program in San Francisco or knows someone who might be, I encourage you to schedule a campus visit. No matter what we write (although it is fun for us to keep the blog), it's hard to convey the energy of our class. It's sort of magical to be honest... like fairy dust. No, not really, but seriously I am a believer in things always working out the way they're supposed to, even if it's not what we expect. I found a home at Wharton and if you're looking to do an MBA, I encourage you to find a home that fits you and I hope that 101 Howard is on your journey.

Learning from the Best

It's been awhile since I wrote about my experience at Wharton directly but have been thinking about this post for some time. 
Okay - Wharton EMBA is not cheap. Seriously. The value (to me) is in the classmates, the network, the brand, and of course, the professors. When I was talking to people from other schools the had mixed reviews about the professors, in stark contrast was the way the Wharton students talked so highly of their professors. Now I'm living it first hand.
Term 1: Great professors to ease you back into school work, detailed explanations and gentle teaching
Term 2: I was apprehensive since our professors were so awesome in Term 1 but was pleasantly surprised when we got: one of the best storytellers I've ever met (great for a leadership class), a fast talking British statistics professor, a quirky and operations-loving cost accounting teacher, and an uncensored macroeconomics dude. Sure, they might be eccentric but they are PhDs after all! (Can I say that since I was in a PhD program?) 
One thing that strikes me about all the professors is how much they care about the students. They genuinely want us to learn, understand our passions, help us with startup ideas, and work with us to create new electives (like internet retailing and how it relates to business model, marketing strategy, and supply chain -- yes please!). 
So even though I had already settled the money factor in my head before coming to Wharton, I've been pleasantly surprised at almost all the interactions I've had. They say we get the best professors (ones that get the highest point bidding in the full-time program) out here in SF, and I believe it. It's an incredible value to connect with and learn from these amazing folks inside and outside the classroom. Money more than well spent in my opinion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The paradox of choice ...

Its time for our class to be voting on choices - where to go on international trip and which electives to pick for next year. There's a more immediate vote going on - in what we call "hell weekend" we have three midterms scheduled and two homeworks due. A vote is on to see if we can move one of them to the following session.

In the midst of all of this choice, its easy to get lost. In fact its hard not to. There are those that wish to remain generalists and pick electives from different specialties. Then there are those that wish to focus on a specialty and go deep. Then there are those like me, that love being back in school and find half the electives interesting - which means that it would take about 10-11 years in school to finish those.

The choice is on for new applicants as well, as the MBA receptions are on in full swing for many programs. We have our steady stream of visitors during our sessions, and had a reception after our last session for potential applicants. It felt great talking to all of them, sharing what I've learnt, and reliving those exciting days of taking the GMAT and writing essays. Good luck to all of you! For those of you wondeirng if the Career Management Services at WEMBA West are any good, stay tuned for updates officially from Wharton as well as from us students in the coming months ...

These are exciting times ... these are testing times .. as one decides which of the roads to take. There's but one life, but there are so many lives to live. What road at the fork will we pick and where will that lead us to?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The better half ...

Just got done with our first session post-Philly. While we did miss the fun we had at Philly, it was great to be back on home turf and settle down into our familar classrooms with familar faces sitting at familiar locations :). Had two riveting sessions on managerial accounting from Ittner, and three macro sessions from Abel where we got done with baby steps and are into the core of the macro material now. We also had a talk from Howie Kaufold about the electives process for our second year courses.

What was most heartening for me was that I got to meet two potential class 37 candidates, and both were women. Officially now I've had more potential women students contact me than men. So I thought I'd dedicate this post to that topic. As Wharton EMBA program wins yet another #1 ranking (WSJ), it is sad that like other EMBA programs, the number of women that are part of a typical cohort is not that high. I've heard various reasons for this, including the fact that the typical woman candidate has a child or children at home and that makes it even harder to strike a balance, on top of managing work and school. That the full-time programs get more women applicants because at that stage in their lives it is easier for them to make the commitment to school.

So why am I, a man, writing this post? Firstly, I can speak to the caliber of some of my women classmates out here in SF, as well as a few that I met while at Philly. Not only are they balancing great careers and school, some of them have kids at home as well! Having had the good fortune to have the women closest to me through my life all be super-women that juggled all these responsibilities, I know that it can be done. And that it can be done well if done right. For the folks with kids, I think a cooperative spouse is an amazing support system as couple of my classmates can attest to. For folks without kids, or those that are single, I do wish to learn more about reasons why the applicant pool is not as large as that for men since I firmly believe that there is no dearth of talent.

This is not a "feminist" post or something that's going to refer back to women's empowerment and all that. We all know our history and where the world is today. A woman is no less smart, no less capable, nor less ambitious than a man today. Several of my classmates and other Wharton alums that I've met are living testimony to this. So why is the applicant pool of women in EMBA programs so low?

So if you are a woman reading this blog (including the few that I've spoken to so far) - take the plunge and apply! Its not going to be an easy two years, but I believe that it will transform your lives in more ways that you can imagine right now. If you have any questions feel free to write to us, or talk to us and we're more than happy to put you in touch with folks who have been through similar experiences and can guide you.