Wharton Stories

Wharton’s First Vice Dean of Teaching and Strategic Initiatives Gets To Work

“My goal is to have these results ripple outward so that students tell their friends, colleagues and other prospective applicants that Wharton is the best business school because the classroom experience is truly transformative.”

In his operations strategy research, Gérard Cachon examines what the most successful companies do differently and how their technological or management innovations deliver results. As Wharton’s newly appointed Vice Dean of Teaching and Strategic Initiatives, Cachon is now charged with finding and employing game-changing approaches that will ensure educational excellence across the school’s academic programs.

Cachon, professor of Operations, Information and Decisions (OIDD), has a good understanding of the student experience at both Penn and Wharton. He has taught the MBA core Operations Strategy class for 18 years and the undergraduate core Operations class for nine years. He also attended Penn as an undergraduate and graduate student himself.

Most recently, Cachon served as Vice Dean of Strategic Initiatives, taking on big-picture, cross-programmatic projects that required data collection and engaging large groups of stakeholders.

“During that time I worked on reevaluating both the undergraduate and MBA curricula,” he said. “Each one was a long-term process that involved over a year of talking to students and faculty to ensure that we were taking the right steps to move forward and improve student satisfaction.”

When that process was complete, Wharton needed to examine how students are taught and how the school could actively maximize its native talent. Given Cachon’s experience and research interests, he was a natural fit to lead the charge.

“It’s not that teaching excellence was ever not considered a priority at Wharton,” he said. “Wharton has always hired the best people, but there was an assumption that this exceptional talent would be solely responsible for creating that experience.”

Cachon’s goal is to better operationalize excellence. As such, he’s developed several key initiatives that are already underway.

“We’re taking a portfolio approach. As Vice Dean, I will be interacting with student organizations to open up more dialogue and establish some priority areas. We will reward faculty successes based on student satisfaction, and also reward faculty who go beyond the call of duty with innovative contributions that may not be directly measured by student satisfaction.”

Cachon has also created a Teaching Excellence Committee, comprised of senior faculty: Management Professor Sigal Barsade, Accounting Professor Jennifer Blouin, Marketing Professor Jagmohan Raju, and Finance Professor Michael Roberts. They will serve as the eyes and ears for the school to gather, promote, and disseminate best practices in the classroom.

Critical to the program’s success will be the development and deployment of a formalized mentoring program. By matching up subject-area faculty mentors throughout the school with younger or less experienced instructors, Cachon hopes to spur an exchange of support and advice. At the current time, faculty involvement is strictly voluntary, with information about the initiatives distributed at faculty meetings.

“We think we’ll see better outcomes if it’s not mandatory. Our hope is that once the word gets around our instructors will be eager to work with mentors and learn new approaches that can help them take their teaching to the next level.”

While there’s no one best measure for assessing the quality of teaching, Cachon says that excellence can be defined by two factors: How the teacher engages students in the classroom and how the teacher demonstrates the applicability of the material for use outside of it.

“That can be a matter of pedagogical techniques or a scintillating personality. The good news is that there’s no shortage of teaching excellence at Wharton.”

Data will be gathered in a number of different ways — by surveying students on their satisfaction levels and monitoring these results at regular intervals; by interviewing stakeholders and faculty across Wharton programs about the efficacy of learning in their classrooms; and by gathering anecdotal information through meetings with student groups. Much of this data will be made public through reports so that the school community can track changes as improvements are implemented over time.

Cachon sees no discernable differences in teaching quality between the undergraduate, MBA or Executive MBA programs. While he will be overseeing excellence across all divisions, the initial efforts will be focused on core classes in the undergraduate program.

“At Wharton, our goal is to create knowledge and disseminate it to students. I think that it’s important to not see teaching and research as necessarily opposed or as a tradeoff but as synergistic parts of what we do. Some of the best scholars are the best teachers and we want real-world problems in our classrooms. As a premier institution, we have to be excellent at both parts of that equation in all of our offerings.”

Wharton’s new facilities and their classroom innovations will bolster these endeavors with a built environment that supports learning.

“As someone who studies companies that are doing things differently, I’m excited to use innovation wherever possible,” Cachon said. “One of the things I’m most excited about is our classroom updates.”

That includes the recent introduction of Structured Active In-Class Learning (SAIL) rooms, which unlike traditional tiered classrooms, are flat and square with tables to encourage students to work in teams and learn from one another during activities. The physical architecture dispels the notion that the professor is there to deliver a stream of information to passively waiting students.

Just as often, though, Cachon anticipates that innovation will come in the form of pedagogy and ensuring that Wharton’s instructors have access to the latest thinking in education.

“Much of our work isn’t about whiz-bang technologies or facilities. We’re looking for teaching methods that encompass those two fundamentals of engagement and application in the most effective way.”

Empowering teachers is only one piece of the puzzle. Another is continuing to foster a culture of learning. To address the rising problem of distraction, the Teaching Excellence Committee will assess the use of personal technology devices in the classroom and make recommendations to the faculty accordingly.

“In most cases, we believe that individual professors are best positioned to determine the use of electronics in their own classrooms. Occasionally, it makes sense to have these devices so a blanket policy really doesn’t make sense at this time,” he said.

Of equal if not greater concern to Wharton faculty is a high-stress, over-committed student body. Cachon will be examining ways to emphasize the importance of present, active learning.

“At Wharton, we’ve never had a problem with motivating students, but we have to continue to address the fact that our students are extremely high achievers who are doing many things at once,” Cachon said. “We’d like to see them focused on fewer things so they can be more engaged in the classroom experience. This is more about a cultural shift and that could take time to accomplish.”

In some ways, Cachon’s newly created position signifies a circling back to Wharton’s core values and an ongoing commitment to best-in-class education—embracing innovation to stay ahead of the curve.

“My goal is to have these results ripple outward so that students tell their friends, colleagues and other prospective applicants that Wharton is the best business school because the classroom experience is truly transformative.”

— Elisa Ludwig

 

Posted: December 13, 2018

Wharton Stories

Q&A with Investor Phil Nadel: How College Students Can Seize the Entrepreneurial Spirit on Campus

“A college atmosphere brings with it lots of opportunities. You have opportunities to address a dense cluster of people that you can experiment with and try selling products and services to in a very tight geographic area.”

Listeners of Gimlet Media’s The Pitch podcast will be familiar with Phil Nadel, W’88, as a featured investor who delivers thoughtful critiques to hopeful startup founders as they vie for investment. It’s an expertise Phil has honed over the course of his 30-year career as a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, author, and well-known industry speaker. What fans of the show may not realize is that his passion for business began as an undergraduate student at The Wharton School majoring in entrepreneurial management. It was a bit of a homecoming for Phil when he returned to the Wharton campus for The Pitch’s first-ever live show on the road to hear from three young, local startups embarking on their own entrepreneurial paths.

Before the taping, we caught up with Phil to learn more about what makes a startup stand out from the crowd, his advice for student entrepreneurs, and what Wharton was like in the ’80s.



What separates a good pitch from a great pitch?
I think there are some tangible things and some intangible things that separate good pitches from great pitches. I would say the founders’ vision and passion are some intangibles that are really important that we like to see. We like to invest in founding teams or founders that have a vision for where they are taking this company beyond the current product or solution that they’re offering. What’s next? Where are they taking the company in the future? What do they see as the long-term vision for the company? That’s one thing. Passion is another, and that’s just about really having this burning desire to do what they are doing. That can come through during a sales pitch or a pitch for their product, service, or business. So, when you are pitching, whether it be to the customer or the investor, the passion really needs to come through. We like to see that as well because it’s an indication that the founders are in it for the right reasons and in it for the long haul.

A couple of things I would mention: the best pitches have the founders authoritatively teaching about the opportunity. They’re teaching the investors about the problem that they’re solving, how they’re solving it, and why it makes for a good business. As investors, we want to invest in someone who knows the business and is an authority in that business.

The final thing, which I guess is more tangible, is that founders who are pitching need to know everything about the market, the competition, and their numbers and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). They need to know the metrics that drive their business. If we ask them during a pitch: “What’s your customer acquisition cost?” Then they need to know it cold. There can’t be fumbling around, or promises to get back to you. If that’s a key metric, then they need to know that.

Along those lines, what’s a question that entrepreneurs are rarely prepared to answer, but should be?
The question that entrepreneurs are rarely prepared to answer — and probably because they don’t get asked this question very often — is: “What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?” The reason I ask that question sometimes is to get a measure of how dedicated they are to this business and to see if they really have the burning desire, the passion, for doing this. If the answer that they give is something like: “I’d probably be working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs,” that’s the wrong answer. I don’t want to hear that their fallback position is a cushy job at Goldman Sachs with an annual salary of $150K plus lots of bonuses and perks. That’s not going to make them hungry to make the business a success. I want to hear that their fallback position is nothing. This is all they want to do. This is all they think about doing and not doing it is not an option.

When you ask that question, do any entrepreneurs give good answers?
I don’t think any of them are prepared to answer it, but the ones who are the truly outstanding founders, who are truly dedicated to the mission and the vision of the company — their answer really comes through very honestly. They don’t have to think about it. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction: “Well, this is all I want to do, this is the only thing.” Whereas other founders will think about it and come up with: “Well, I guess if I weren’t doing this I would be working for my parents’ business or doing this or that…” Those people didn’t prepare for it, but it’s not a matter of preparing, necessarily. What I’m looking for is someone who really hasn’t thought about doing anything else. So, it’s not that they should be prepared. It’s a question I like to ask that I know they haven’t really prepared for.

Phil Nadel on stage with fellow investor Jillian Manus and host of The Pitch Josh Muccio as they kick off the competition.


What’s your advice for student entrepreneurs?
I think that generally speaking, college is just a great time for aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s a great time to experiment and take lots of risks because, in college, you really have the lowest cost of taking risks. You don’t have a family, you don’t have big financial obligations. You’re still, for the most part, being supported by your parents, and you have a world of options available to you. It’s a great time to experiment. These days, it’s become so inexpensive to start a new business that you can run all sorts of low-cost experiments on different businesses to try, different products, different methods of selling. Even if these things fail, you inevitably learn a lot in failure and you can apply those lessons to future opportunities and businesses. By doing this, students can dramatically enhance their classroom education. They should be focusing on the education they can get while at school, not just in school — beyond just in-classroom learning. A college atmosphere brings with it lots of opportunities. You have opportunities to address a dense cluster of people that you can experiment with and try selling products and services to in a very tight geographic area. You have opportunities to network with students and professors, to build up your long-term network. I still keep in touch with and do business with people from when I was at Wharton.

Another thing: we all know that businesses start and end with sales. If there are no sales, there’s no revenue, and there’s no business. I feel like every aspiring entrepreneur needs to understand and be good at sales — even people who are tech founders and strong on the product development side. So, why not think of a product you want to sell and take out some ads online? Do some Google AdWords, do some ads through social media and work on the ad copy. Force yourself to focus on the benefits of your product instead of just the features, and force yourself to distill down to the most essential sales attributes, on conversion rates and getting your customers fully onboarded and keeping the customers happy. Even if you have no interest in pursuing those experiments long-term, you’ll learn a lot about sales.

As an investor, what are you looking for in early-stage companies?
In order to justify an investment, you ultimately have to have the potential for a large exit, a large sale. And in order to have that potential, you have to be addressing a large market. We want to see that the entrepreneur is solving a real problem or somehow making their customers’ lives better, improving their lives in a meaningful way. We like to see that what they’re developing or what they have developed is proprietary or defensible in some way, so that they can defend themselves against potential competitors.

We also like to see sort of the early indications of product market fit. What that means in my world is, I like to see that someone, at least one person or one customer, is willing to pay some money for the product or the service. We can listen to pitches and look at projections until the cows come home, but until there’s a sale, it’s all speculation. We like to see that early indication that the company has actually sold their product or service at least to a small degree. And, in that same vein, we like to see that there’s some early indication that the company knows how to acquire customers in a scalable way. The companies we invest in certainly don’t have to have all the answers when it comes to customer acquisition, but they should be in the beginning phases of understanding what sales and marketing channels they can use.

And, we want to see that they are raising a realistic amount of money. That, based on the projections, they are going to have at least twelve months of runway, but preferably more like eighteen months. We don’t want entrepreneurs having to focus all the time on raising money — we want them focused on building the company.

For you, a Wharton student who graduated in 1988, did you feel like there was entrepreneurial spirit when you were here?
I was an entrepreneurial management major at Wharton. For me, although I certainly appreciate the importance of finance, I’m all about entrepreneurialism, and I was able to feed my passion for entrepreneurialism at Wharton. There were certainly a lot of people in my class who were focused on finance, but there were a large number also who were focused on building businesses. It’s just a matter of the groups you participate with. I thought that the classes I took at Wharton taught me how to think about starting a business, taught me how to write a business plan, taught me about sales and marketing.

I think Wharton is sometimes known as the finance school, but I don’t see it that way myself because I know so many fantastic entrepreneurs who graduated from Wharton, and I know that the entrepreneurial spirit not only was alive and well when I was there but is thriving today. I saw it through my son, who just graduated and friends of his at Penn and at Wharton who also were starting businesses. I talk to a number of recent Wharton graduates, founders who are pitching to me, so I see it day-to-day. I see Wharton’s imprint on young founders all the time. I know that the school is continuing to educate future entrepreneurs because I see it.

— Gloria Yuen, Elis Pill, Mike Kaiser

Posted: December 12, 2018

Wharton Stories

How this EMBA Alumna Transitioned from the Corporate World to Venture Capital

With 22 years of experience working in technology and marketing at Agilent (a spinoff from HP), Cynthia Cai, WG’01, recently joined Northern Light Venture Capital, where she is now a senior advisor and U.S. healthcare investment lead. “I spent many years in the corporate world and that experience combined with my Wharton MBA enabled me to make this recent career change. It also shows that I’m willing to learn, which is very important for advancement,” she said.

A willingness to learn has been an important theme for Cynthia throughout her career. After graduating from Tsinghua University, she planned to work as an engineer for HP in China, but an unexpected event led her to a sales role, where she committed to learning as much as she could without any background in sales or marketing. Within two years, she was the top salesperson for the Far East region at HP.

Her drive to “learn more and do better” continued, and she came to the U.S. to earn her Ph.D., rejoining HP in Delaware after graduation as an R&D application chemist, and then a product manager.

That move from a technical to a business role motivated Cynthia to get an MBA. “I wanted to get a systematic understanding of business from a top business school to continue advancing myself,” she explained.

In the years after graduation, she became director of business development and senior director of strategic marketing for her division. Cynthia points to five key learnings from Wharton’s EMBA program that have impacted her career:

1. Look for the optimal approach to problems.

“As an engineer – and as someone who was educated in China – I used to look for the one correct answer to a problem. However, that is not the case in business, because there could be multiple approaches to one business problem. I learned at Wharton to look for the optimal approach to achieve the best outcome.” said Cynthia.

2. Be open to different perspectives, and understand the people aspect in business.

“In the past, I thought high-tech companies should mostly care about science and technologies, however coming to Wharton I learned early on that people aspects are just as important in business,” she said, pointing to her first team project as an example. The assignment was to analyze a case and make a five-minute presentation. “Anyone in my group could probably have completed that task in 30 minutes, but it took us seven hours. The reason was that our study group had very diverse backgrounds, so each member had different approaches – no one was right or wrong. We had to learn to appreciate our differences and work together, and at the end of the school year, we had made great relationships and lifelong close friendships.

3. Always be willing to learn and don’t underestimate real-world experience.

“I learned that it’s important to stay open-minded because no matter how good you are at something, you may be surprised to learn from other angles. For example, [in a class] I used my strong math and modeling skills on a finance case to calculate WACC (Weighted Average Cost of Capital) for a candy company. Five minutes after I sent out my model, a teammate suggested that I recheck my calculations because the result seemed much lower than an average WACC in the real world. I did and discovered he was right!”

4. Stay connected to the best and brightest people.

“We can all continue to challenge ourselves and learn by staying connected with the best and brightest people.” This takeaway helped Cynthia transition to her new role as a venture capitalist. She explained, “The founder of Northern Light Venture Capital, Feng Deng, WG’05, was not only a college classmate from China but also a Wharton EMBA alumnus. We reconnected at a college reunion a couple years ago and I was interested in his perspectives when I was ready to make a career change.”

“As we talked, I identified healthcare as a growth area in a global market and saw how entrepreneurs who immigrate from China often lack access to funding and networks in the U.S. I wanted to help those entrepreneurs advance the world of healthcare. I am glad Feng shared my goal and is letting me use his VC as the platform to achieve it.”

In the VC world, Cynthia adds one more takeaway to her list of how Wharton is impacting her career.

5. Build a strong and accessible network.

Cynthia noted that the Wharton network is providing great value, as there is a strong representation of people in healthcare as well as in venture capital in the Wharton alumni network. “I can easily connect with alumni and discuss possible collaborations. I also can talk to my professors, like Prof. Michael Useem who I recently spoke to about the next generation of Chinese entrepreneurs.”

Looking back, Cynthia sees Wharton as a worthwhile long-term investment. “Wharton opened my mind to new knowledge and perspectives and provided access to the best and brightest network of faculty and alumni.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: December 11, 2018

Wharton Stories

How a Penn/Wharton Student Team Is Helping the Barnes Foundation Reach Bigger Audiences

Image: Vincent van Gogh's "The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin)" at the Barnes Foundation.
When the Barnes Foundation had questions about its attendance data, a team of Penn students answered through the Wharton Analytics Accelerator Challenge.

One of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings, the Barnes Foundation experienced a transformative move in 2012 from its longtime home in Merion to a new building on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. Remarkably, the number of members went from 400 to 20,000 by the time they opened in Philadelphia. Attendance more than tripled the first year.

“Our mission as we moved to Philadelphia was to welcome people of all ages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds,” said Peg Zminda, executive vice president, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer of the Barnes. “The scope of our operation is very different now compared to when we were in Merion.”

But with that broad success came some new challenges.

“When we opened we were the hottest ticket in town,” said Zminda. “What we’ve seen over the past six years is that demand has declined. You expect that from a new cultural institution, but we have not yet figured out what a steady state looks like.”

The Barnes heard about Wharton’s Analytics Accelerator Challenge, submitted a proposal, and was chosen for the data challenge.

Bringing the Classroom to the Real World

Now in its second year, the Analytics Accelerator Challenge, a program of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI), once again paired student teams with corporate and nonprofit partners to solve real problems with analytical solutions. 200 students and 30 companies applied. The Wharton Data Analytics Club helped choose 24 students and assign them to teams to address the problems of four selected organizations, which, in addition to the Barnes Foundation, were Fuel Cycle, Hachette Book Group, and Reed Smith.

The students were given four weeks to work with datasets provided by the organizations. Their hard work culminated with the final Summit on Friday, November 2, where they presented their findings to an audience of corporate partners, students, and other analytics enthusiasts.

The Barnes student team — Catherine Bache (W’21), Karen Chi (C’19, W’19), Anuj Gupta (WG’20), Huey Han (WG’20), Sid Jaiswal (ENG’21), and Kai Lu (C’21) — included MBAs and undergrads from several Penn schools.

As Mary Purk, executive director of the WCAI, said of the accelerator: “One of the objectives is to bring all the disciplines together to solve problems.”

Quality over Quantity

The goal for the Analytics Accelerator Challenge team was to create a model for predictive analysis, incorporating pricing, revenue projection, visitation and attendance behavior, products, and offers. It was a big task to complete in just four weeks.

The Barnes Foundation had robust development and admissions data systems, but it was difficult to forecast attendance when only the past five out of 95 years of history were relevant for the analysis. Ultimately, the team found they could use the Barnes’ aggregate data for their model.

“We used the ticket data aggregated by month rather than granular raw data because it would be more useful for forecasting,” said Kai Lu, an undergraduate member of the team.

Kai Lu, C’21 (left) with teammate Karen Chi, C’19, W’19

“Since they already process data into aggregated sets, we wanted to give them something they could use easily,” MBA Anuj Gupta explained. “We didn’t want to give them extra work.”

The team forecasted attendance in a “do-nothing” scenario and then anticipated various scenarios that could make an impact. They structured two separate models — one for non-members, and another for members and free tickets. They hypothesized that demand and attendance could be influenced by Barnes actions (prices and discounts, special exhibitions) and macro factors (seasonality, market health).

The team determined that in a “do-nothing” model, Barnes attendance would have a 10% year-on-year decline. However, the team found that they could create modest discounts in price that would stabilize attendance and remain revenue-neutral — a 1% reduction in price would have a 1.5% increase in attendance. They also recommended two special exhibitions per year in Q1 and Q3, since seasonal attendance otherwise spiked in Q2 (summer) and Q4 (winter holidays).

Special exhibitions at the Barnes are limited by space.

“We only have one special exhibition space so we can only do one at a time – this is a new activity for the Barnes so going from zero to one felt like enough,” said Zminda, who said they are also looking to create additional venues within the building for special exhibitions.

Still, the student team found that one exhibition at a time was enough.

“It wasn’t so much the number of exhibitions that made a difference,” said team member Catherine Bache. “For non-members, it was whether or not there was one in the quarter. For members, the factor was whether there were members-only special events.”

“The quality of the exhibitions matter more than the number,” said Anuj. “The Picasso exhibition was more impactful than others because of the profile of the artist.”

Anuj Gupta, WG’20, presenting at the Summit

What the Barnes Got out of It

“We’ve been looking for the pricing sweet spot,” Zminda said. On the one hand, a higher ticket price generates memberships because [of] the higher the ticket price, the more attractive the membership. On the other: “Our ticket price has been relatively stable, but we’ve been concerned that since we changed our ticket price in 2016, it pushed us to the top of the price list among our peers. We’ve asked ourselves whether we pushed it too far.”

What the student team discovered surprised the Barnes.

Zminda reflected: “The student model indicates that we could reduce the price and the impact would be revenue neutral. We’ve been thinking hard about the price of our ticket and whether it’s too high, and a model that helps us understand what happens when you lower price would be very useful. In the field, the thinking is that museums are price insensitive but this model suggests the opposite.”

What the Students Got out of It

“It was a cool experience,” said Catherine, who was especially interested in the mission of the Barnes Foundation. “We all had different backgrounds. The MBAs obviously had work experience coming into it. I hadn’t even taken any coding classes, but I was able to learn more and work under their guidance. We were split off into smaller teams to tackle different problems together.” Catherine served as project manager, bringing logistics and organization to the team.

Catharine Bache, W’21

Her teammate Kai, an economics major in the College, brought analytic firepower. “I’m interested into the mathematics of economics,” he said. “I looked into this opportunity to have more of a business focus in analytics. Work on my projects is very individual-based and I don’t have a lot of collaboration, and that’s an important skill set. Catherine’s a great project manager. She made sure we all met on time and communicated and motivated us to put in that extra meter of work.”

Both Catherine and Kai are taking what they learned to their next endeavors.

“The project has shown me how interesting analytics can be and that you can apply it to any industry,” said Catherine. “I’m interested in getting an internship this summer that’s related to data analytics.”

“I’m using what I learned in forecasting demand and how I can apply that to different industries,” Kai said. “Right now I’m working with a friend on how to reduce food waste in the airline industry.”

What’s Next

The Barnes isn’t finished with the data yet.

“I want to back-test data and evaluate the budget for 2019 and see how it fits the budget the students have developed,” said Zminda. “We’ll use it as a check. Going forward, I want to evaluate to see if it’s a tool we use all the time to forecast admissions revenue. It was great to have someone who was able to look at the challenge with a clear eye.”

The Barnes Foundation, which has a historic relationship with Lincoln University, is committed to working with educational institutions in the region.

“Being forward-thinking is important to us, and part of that goes back to our founder who was a forward-thinker in the field of education,” Zminda added. “We see part of our mandate to be a progressive institution. For me, the place where progressive stuff happens is in colleges and universities. They have smart students and resources and think about things in a different way.”

Partnerships like this benefit both the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative and the Barnes Foundation.

“The most interesting data is sitting out in practice and that’s the foundation of everything we do,” said Prof. Eric Bradlow, faculty director of WCAI, in his introduction to the Summit.

“We’re a relatively small organization relative to our peers. We can’t do this all on our own,” said Zminda. “If we can bring our assets to the table and they can bring theirs to the table, the sum will be more than one plus one.”

Read more on this year’s Analytics Accelerator Challenge Summit and the student team that partnered with market research firm Fuel Cycle.

— Kelly Andrews

Posted: December 6, 2018

Wharton Stories

Balancing Work at Microsoft, Wharton’s EMBA Program, and the Norseman Extreme Triathlon

Former Navy Officer Eric Roe, WG’20, says the key to his success was “careful time management and an efficient training plan.”

Students in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives balance a lot on their plates with school and full-time jobs. Eric Roe, WG’20, juggled even more. He trained for the Norseman Extreme Triathlon during his first quarter at Wharton, competing in the race just a few days before his first final exams. “I knew this was going to be a major time management challenge, but I was passionate about this race and made it work,” he said.

The distances of the Norseman are similar to an Ironman race, but with steep elevation gain. The Norseman begins in a fjord, where competitors swim 2.4 miles before transitioning to their bikes for a 112-mile ride through the mountains with 10,000 feet of climbing. Then – if they completed the first two legs in the top 50% – they run a marathon up a mountain. As the race is unsupported, competitors bring their own backup crews.

Only 300 athletes a year can enter the Norseman, and slots are won by lottery. To enter the lottery, athletes must qualify based on past race experience. Eric, an avid runner and program manager of geostrategy at Microsoft, applied to the race every year for the past six years, finally winning a race slot six weeks before learning that he had been accepted at Wharton. “I was very excited for both the race and Wharton, but I was also concerned that I wouldn’t be competitive in the race because I knew I’d have to cut back on my training.”

Eric Roe runs the Norseman Triathlon in Olso Norway on an open tree-lined road with a small group
Eric Roe runs the marathon portion of Norseman Triathlon in Olso Norway with help from his support team.

The former Navy officer came up with a plan that involved a more efficient training schedule. This meant waking up at 4:30 a.m. to exercise and then biking the 26 miles from his home to his office at Microsoft.

On class weekends, he found other runners in his class to join him on Saturday morning runs. Waking up at 5:30 a.m., they ran 16 miles through the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then back to the hotel in time for morning classes.

On Sundays, he would do a long three-to-six-hour bike ride. “I put my bike trainer inside so that I could read my Accounting textbook while I rode,” he said.

Overall, he was able to average 10 hours of training a week. In the final weeks before the race, he averaged 10-15 hours.

When race day approached, he was ready. After his weekend class, Eric flew to Norway and made his way to the remote race location in a national park. On race day, he finished the swimming and biking legs in the top 50%, which qualified him to run up the mountain.

“I was very proud to have finished the race, but I knew I had to quickly turn my focus back to school,” he said. By Monday, he was back at a hotel in Oslo to continue preparing for his final exams while his family toured Norway. On Thursday, he flew directly to San Francisco for final exams.

“It was a crazy schedule, but I set my mind to it as a goal and not only did I complete the race, I also passed my finals,” said Eric. “Doing this race while in school was a big challenge, but many students are juggling big things in their lives. Some are traveling for work and others are having kids or dealing with other responsibilities. It takes a lot of planning, but it’s all doable. You don’t need to give up things you are passionate about.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: December 5, 2018

Wharton Stories

How Combining Two Passions Landed this Senior a Job at Facebook

Melissa Matalon, W’19, is making connections between her diverse concentrations and the real world, integrating lessons from consumer psychology to statistics.

Melissa Matalon, W’19, has a unique blend of academic passions and now, a dream job at Facebook.

Currently concentrating in Statistics, Operations, Information, and Decisions (OIDD), and Behavioral Economics — while also minoring in Consumer Psychology — Melissa seamlessly combines her qualitative and quantitative skills to work on a variety of enriching projects.

Armed with academic depth and breadth as well as a wealth of real-world experience, she shared insights into her life at Penn and beyond.

Finding Academic Passions

Wharton underclassmen may find it comforting to know that Melissa didn’t narrow her academic focus down very early on — she discovered her passions organically over time.

“I definitely didn’t come into Penn knowing what I was going to study, but I joined the Wharton Undergraduate Data Analytics Club (WUDAC) in my sophomore year, and that was a really great learning experience for me,” she said. “I just really enjoyed the club, so I stuck with it, and now I’m part of the leadership for the group.”

Melissa adds more humanistic elements to data analytics by also studying psychology and economics.“Behavioral Economics and the Consumer Psychology minor are very much intertwined, so I separate [learning] into a ‘psychology’ component and a ‘numbers’ component,” she explained. “I think in order to make hypotheses that you use numbers to confirm, you need to have an understanding of how people think and what motivates them.”

Overall, Melissa believes that young Wharton students don’t need to worry about choosing their future careers — or even concentrations — too soon.

“You’re not alone in feeling like you don’t know what you want to do. Sometimes with your life, you just have to make educated guesses about the best thing for you right now — and know that later, you’re never stuck on one possible path.”

Gaining Real-World Experience

Although Melissa believes that classroom learning provides a great foundation for her career aspirations, she highlights the value of gaining real-world experience as early as possible.

“I think there are lots of different ways to get involved with research and different projects that are more real-world. In hindsight, as a senior, I think it’s so important beyond classes to get involved with things like that. It really prepares you for the real world and getting a real job,” she said.

WUDAC consulting work provided Melissa with this exposure, including a project she did for the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) Accelerator Challenge last year. Her team worked with Clientivity.com, a hotel-booking platform. Melissa explained: “We were trying to improve their travel-agent acquisition efforts to figure out who was most engaged on the site based on which industry people were a part of.”

Her first year in the club, Melissa also completed a project for EA Games involving data on players’ in-game behavior. Her team predicted the likelihood of someone buying new versions of a game based on the way they played.

“That was my first experience doing anything like that,” Melissa said. “Getting to work with real data… you have to make sense of it and clean it. That was a really great experience and I learned a lot from working with the rest of the team.”

Launching a Career

The summer after her sophomore year, Melissa landed an internship at CBS Interactive, where she optimized and measured advertisement campaigns on CNET, a major technology-based media website. At CBS Interactive, Melissa built an algorithm predicting optimal times to show advertisements to website visitors. Melissa said that the job was “enlightening,” and she learned a lot by herself.

“I got to use all these algorithms I hadn’t even learned about in class yet,” Melissa said. “In the end, I could really feel the impact I made. People really appreciated what I did, which is really important in terms of measuring my own success.”

The following summer, Melissa was hired by Facebook, a company she had long dreamed of working for. At Facebook, she was tasked with building a tool to automate the process of extracting insights on how people behave in groups.

Again, Melissa learned a lot on the job. She said, “No one in my team had worked extensively with groups before, so I did a lot of my own digging and reaching out to people on the Groups team. I got to do a lot of my own research and had a lot of freedom.”

She also had first-hand experience dealing with issues of data security and privacy. Melissa said: “What I found is that they’re taking [the issues] extremely seriously. Anytime you want to push anything through, there’s a huge process of working with the legal team and the data communications team, and that was also a really awesome, really interesting component to see.”

Melissa has been offered a full-time position post-graduation in the same group she interned with. She’s excited about what the future has in store. “The Technical Program Manager is a really cool role… there’s a lot of task identity, so you really get to see something built from the ground up.”

— Linda Zou

Posted: November 28, 2018

Wharton Stories

Slowing the Rising Tide of Early Internship Recruiting at Wharton

Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett and Undergraduate Vice Dean Lori Rosenkopf discuss how easing sophomore recruitment stress had to be a collaborative effort.

At the Wharton School, undergraduate students are unsurprisingly laser-focused on career preparedness, as well as landing their dream gigs right out of college. Summer internships, especially those for rising seniors, aid very directly in full-time job placement, acting, more often than not, as “try ons” for both the firms and the students.

Such high first-job expectations require hard work and grit to fulfill, which adds extra weight on students’ shoulders, not only to “get good jobs, but to get good jobs early in their college careers,” explains Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett. That pressure was only heightened in the past year or so as several banks increasingly inched up recruiting schedules — to students’ sophomore years.

“We got to this absurd extreme where a firm wanted to try to lock students up for internships that would start in 21 months time, at a time when the students had only two semesters on campus,” says Garrett. “We were thinking, ‘Come on, this is just not right.’ The alarm bell went off for everybody.”

The Rising Tide

Lori Rosenkopf, vice dean and director of the Wharton Undergraduate Division, noticed the trend in action: About five years ago, it was the norm for internship recruiting to happen the semester directly before the internship. Then it moved to the fall semester before, the summer before, and on and on. She also heard directly from students how this increasingly early internship recruiting was taking a toll on them and their academic performance.

“It’s very difficult for a student to decide as a second-semester sophomore what they are going to be doing during their junior year summer, when they haven’t even figured out how they feel about their sophomore year summer experience yet,” Rosenkopf says. “It became a wellness issue for students, trying to plan ahead while feeling unable to communicate their desire to explore different options and learn about what they most prefer because of this early time pressure. They were getting into situations that might lead to regret, and it was creating a lot of stress.”

It was starting to take away from what the college experience is supposed to be about, which is exploration, Garrett says.

“At some point, of course, our students have to think about what they are going to do after college, but we want students to have lots of opportunities to explore and find their passions while they’re here,” says Garrett. “If all you’re thinking about is your GPA and your resume and how you are positioning yourself for internships in September of your sophomore year, it’s just detracting from the whole point of college, which I think is about opening up new horizons. It’s not about the incredible early focus you need to have to get one of these internships.”

Garrett and Rosenkopf also recognized, in conversations with other deans and administrators from numerous universities and colleges, that Penn was not alone in spotting this excessively early recruiting problem. Even though a growing issue, Garrett notes, “It felt beyond our control.”

Taking the Lead

No one school, including Penn, wanted to put its foot down first, out of concern that early recruiting firms would just move onto the next university, leaving the so-called “stubborn” institution’s students missing out. Nor did career services offices want to tell firms they couldn’t recruit on campus, for fear of the firm, instead, insisting students travel to New York for internship interviews, leading students to miss classes.

“Everybody knew what was going on was not good, but individual responses weren’t going to be able to change things,” says Garrett. “That’s a classic collective action problem.”

In a similar vein, this collective action issue affected firms, too, with no one business wanting to delay recruiting, fearing they’d lose the best candidates to firms that continued early recruiting. In addition, banks were beginning to notice, says Rosenkopf, that the earlier they recruited was not, in fact, helping to bring in better, more diverse job candidates as originally expected.

“We all ended up in a place that was not in anyone’s interest,” says Garrett.

Over the summer, Garrett, Rosenkopf, and Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett led important discussions with other higher education institutions, as well as talks with the banks’ leaders. Ultimately, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan — two high visibility investment banks — announced they’d halt their sophomore year recruiting tactics, going back to junior year fall semester recruiting, expecting that other financial services firms will follow suit. (The Wall Street Journal reported the story in late October.)

“It required leadership on both sides, the academic and the business sides,” says Garrett. “It just shows that if we collaborate, coordinate, and communicate, we can change the playing field, and in this case changing the playing field in a way that’s going to be not only good for our students but good for the people who employ them as well.”

Rosenkopf notes that, in addition to the Wharton School, these changes will also positively affect a number of students in the College of Arts and Sciences. She says she is hopeful things will continue improving and will keep working hard to make sure appropriate guidelines are played out, “not just at Penn but at partner universities as well.”

“The changes that are happening most recently have been really well-received by employers and students alike,” she says, “so that’s a heartening start.”

This story was adapted from a Penn Today article by Lauren Hertzler.

Posted:

Wharton Stories

The Rise and Future of E-sports: 3 Insights from President of Philadelphia Fusion Tucker Roberts

Image: Tucker Roberts, W'13 (right), and Jeff Eisenband, Senior Editor of ThePostGame at the Wharton Sports Business Conference on November 9, 2018.
The 2018 Wharton Sports Business Summit featured the growing business of e-sports, with President of Philadelphia Fusion Tucker Roberts, W’13, stating that there is “no ceiling on how big it can get.”

On a rainy Friday morning, over 300 students from the University of Pennsylvania and other schools across the U.S. attended the second annual Wharton Sports Business Summit. Organized by The Wharton Sports Business Initiative and The Wharton Undergraduate Sports Business Club, the day’s agenda was packed with keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions led by notable sports industry leaders and Wharton alumni. To the surprise of some in attendance, e-sports, the rising phenomenon of video game competitions, was referenced again and again in most of the sessions.

The back of a student in a suit. He sits at a desk with a red and blue Wharton Sports Business pamphlet in front of him.

Professional video-gaming has become increasingly popular over the years. Though e-sports has attracted a large following (more than 10 million people tuned in to watch the 2018 Overwatch Grand Finals in July), confusion and speculation regarding this new concept still remains.

E-sports is essentially a genre: in the same way that soccer, tennis, and football are all under the larger umbrella of “sports”, e-sports encompasses all types of video games. From team competitions in fantasy worlds such as Overwatch and League of Legends to a virtual version of a real sport like FIFA or NBA 2K — as long as the digital aspect is present, then the details of the game are irrelevant.

Tucker Roberts, W’13, is the President of the Philadelphia Fusion, one of the original twelve teams in the Overwatch League. During a breakout session he shared three insights on the popularity and potential within this emerging sector of the sports industry.

Tucker Roberts wears a shirt and jeans and looks to Jeff Eisenband, who wears a suit. They sit at the front of the class.
Tucker Roberts, W’13 (right), and Jeff Eisenband, Senior Editor of ThePostGame, speak on the growth and potential of the e-sports industry.

Growing Popularity Over the Years: Global Audience

There is no doubt that the e-sports industry is booming and on the cusp of entering the mainstream. Tucker cited influential celebrities such as Drake and Michael Jordan, who have both invested in e-sports organizations. If you type “LOL” into the Google search engine, results for League of Legends dominate the screen. Intel Corporation is lobbying the International Olympic Committee to include e-sports at future Olympic Games, which would introduce the industry to non-gamers and help solidify its status as a professional sport. Ninja, a popular gamer, will be broadcasting live from Times Square this New Year’s Eve. Colleges are also starting to incorporate their own e-sports leagues and grant scholarships to talented students. There are even Fortnite coaches and tutors.

Global viewership is another indicator of the popularity: there were more viewers for the 2016 League of Legends World Championship Finals than the 2016 NBA Finals. During the Breakout Session on the Panthers’ acquisition, Charles Baker, co-chair of O’Melveny’s Sports Industry Group, mentioned how “e-sports is more global than any of the five American Leagues.” The live experience is incredible as well. Tucker recently supported his team at the Overwatch League Grand Finals, and he emphasized how social media platforms specifically for gamers, such as Discord, make e-sports events “like a high school reunion: you know everybody.” E-sports continues to capture a larger audience every year, in part because of continuous improvements and additions to the industry, including YouTube Gaming and tournaments broadcasted by ESPN and Turner.

High Profit Prospect and Advertising Appeal to a New Demographic

As an industry that’s on track to crack $1 billion in revenue within the next year, e-sports presents an attractive new market with a high potential for profit. It possesses a unique audience demographic: the majority of viewers are young, and the largely millennial fanbase of passionate and tech-savvy viewers provides a lucrative market for companies that are interested in reaching different segments than the ones dominating traditional sports. Tucker emphasized that fans’ view the brands that sponsor the leagues as “helping the community grow.” Mercedes-Benz, Gillette, Red Bull, Comcast Xfinity, and Mountain Dew have already made sponsorship and partnership deals with various tournaments, leagues, and teams. Will Deng, W’04, mentioned the club tournaments that the NFL has hosted, as well as the skins they have recently started selling on Fortnite.

Unique Advantages: Intimacy with gaming

The fundamental principles of traditional sports remain the same — competition, skill, pressure, teamwork, and practice are all essential components of every e-sports game. However, there are certain advantages to e-sports that traditional sports lack.

Tucker stressed the unique “intimacy with gaming” that professional gamers often develop with their fan bases, and how they “play games with their fans.” During the Sports Content Distribution and Monetization panel, Zach Weiner, C’14, pointed out how NFL and NHL players wear helmets, making it harder for fans to connect with them, whereas in e-sports you can watch the players’ expressions as they react to the game. Weiner said this human element is “super powerful” towards creating a strong affinity between the players and fans. Another advantage is accessibility. E-sports fans can play every game that they watch. The games offer broad appeal and often have one simple objective. E-sports is also one of the few platforms where men and women are able to play on the same team.

Tucker Roberts and Jeff Eisenband gesture and smile widely, facing the class. Tucker wears a shirt and jeans, Jeff a suit.

E-sports’ biggest challenge is overcoming the negative perception and confusion that currently plagues the industry. More exposure to the concept is essential to dispel the misconceptions held by mainstream consumers. Tucker recalled how Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch “accelerated things tremendously” for the industry. He said that the industry “needs structure [and] needs institutions.” The increasing number of scholarship and college programs, coupled with a potential adoption at the Olympics, are all monumental steps in the right direction.

Despite some of the misconception surrounding e-sports, there is no denying its popularity, resilience, and positive future prospects. When asked about e-sports during The Economics of Advertising and Television Sports session, Bruce Lefkowitz, C’87, commented on the “attractive” industry, saying: “E-sports is going to be a huge entity in 10-15 years.” Tucker also believes that the future of e-sports is bright, declaring that there is “no ceiling on how big it can get.”

– Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: November 26, 2018

Wharton Stories

How Wharton’s EMBA Program is Helping this Student Improve Urban Rivers

Josh Yellin, WG’20, is using the knowledge, network, and confidence he’s getting at Wharton to scale his nonprofit globally.

Students in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives come from diverse backgrounds. Josh Yellin, WG’20, is a great example. After working for years as a backcountry guide, he is now the cofounder and chair of the nonprofit Urban Rivers and head of global strategy and operations at Google’s Launchpad.

After college, Josh considered pursuing a PhD, but decided to take some time off from school and joined the Montana Conservation Corps. “I was interested in getting closer to nature. I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so I spent six months living in the backcountry of Montana building hiking trails.”

Wanting more outdoor experiences, he then got a job in Alaska as a backcountry guide on canoe trips. Several years later, he moved back to his hometown of Chicago, where he managed a canoe program on the Chicago River.

Josh unfurling a sheet as he stands on a canoe sailing down the river

“I was struck by the difference between that urban river in Chicago and the wild rivers in Montana and Alaska. I wondered how we could make the Chicago River experience more like those other rivers, which make you feel more connected to nature,” said Josh.

Going back to school, Josh earned a Master’s in Environmental Sciences and wrote his thesis on how to increase wildlife habitat in the Chicago River. “In Chicago, you see large numbers of geese crowded onto these very small pilings. While the water has become relatively clean thanks to dedicated effort by the city and various environmental groups, there is little habitat or food, so it’s not a highly functioning ecosystem.”

As part of his research, he installed a small floating garden and found a statistically significant increase in the abundance and diversity of fish using that habitat versus surrounding areas of the river. “I came to an ‘if you build it they will come’ type of conclusion,” he said.

Based on those findings, he cofounded the nonprofit Urban Rivers in 2014 with the goal of transforming city rivers into urban wildlife sanctuaries. “You shouldn’t have to go to the backcountry of Alaska to have this type of experience with nature. We can have it with thoughtful design in cities,” he said.

Josh pulling a small floating garden on the river

Through a Kickstarter campaign, corporate donations and grants, Josh and his team  raised over $100,000 in 2016. The following year, they installed the initial 1,500 square feet of floating wetland and prairie habitat on the Chicago River, which was Phase I of the 2020 vision of a mile-long floating eco-park. Josh and the Urban Rivers team also raised funds for the first-ever user-controlled trash robot. Phase II of the “Wild Mile” will be installed next Spring, consisting of a floating forest, walkways, and additional wetland and prairie habitat.

“This started with one small installation and grew organically. Everyone wants to see this river come to life and we are on the path to completing our vision. Now, we want to do this globally and inspire similar projects around the world,” said Josh.

Not long after launching Urban Rivers, he made the decision to move to San Francisco. “I was feeling limited with access to resources and connections. I thought, ‘What if I had the right network, research, and knowledge to make a bigger impact?’ I could then come back to this path when I could have more influence. So, I joined a friend’s venture and led their startup community effort,” he explained.

After partnering with Google for an event, Josh was recruited to work at Google, where he built a startup accelerator and now leads a team that runs seven startup accelerators around the world.

As Josh was learning about business “on the fly,” he realized that he needed an MBA. “I’m trying to do bigger things globally at Google and Urban Rivers, and I wanted a network of accomplished and ambitious people. I also wanted to become more comfortable talking about money at a very high level and fill in gaps in my education in areas like economics, finance and accounting. I came to Wharton for the education, network and acumen I need to sit across the table from people who can deploy significant financial investment into a project and make them confident that I can manage it.”

Josh with brown hair and beard in a gray shirt speaking to an audience at Google Launchpad in front of red curtains

As a first-year Wharton EMBA student, Josh is already seeing benefits both for his job at Google and for Urban Rivers:

Content: “The content comes at you like a fire hose, but when I go back to work and have conversations, the knowledge is sticking. I can already connect a lot of dots between courses and see how it comes together.”

Network: “My network was pretty robust on the environmental and startup side, but I am now meeting classmates in finance, accounting, biotech, and a whole realm of industries where I had gaps. I can talk to classmates about professional challenges, share insights, and help others. It’s a very collaborative and supportive network. I’m also meeting people in the broader Wharton community who are interested in Urban Rivers, which helps to build momentum.”

Collaboration: “I formed a nonprofit thinking group within my cohort for people to solve nonprofit problems together. We are planning a series of talks where we look at challenges in the nonprofit environment as case studies, so we can help each other solve problems.”

Confidence: “The confidence I’m gaining in myself and that others have in me is invaluable. If I’m going to run a nonprofit and ask people to trust me with their money to do the work they believe in, they need to have confidence in me. This program gives me the credentials, so donors know I will use their funds to make a bigger impact and scale our mission.”

Meghan Laska

Posted: November 21, 2018

Wharton Stories

What Wharton EMBA Students Learn about Leadership on the Historic Gettysburg Battlefield

Image: Prof. Michael Useem takes a group of EMBA East students on a trip to Gettysburg to learn leadership lessons.
From Leadership Ventures to a weekly radio show, Prof. Michael Useem wants to help everyone improve their leadership skills.

Wharton Prof. Michael Useem leads students in the MBA Program for Executives on a Leadership Venture annually to Gettysburg National Military Park. The one-day optional program takes them on a tour of the U.S. Civil War battlefield where they learn about decision making, strategy, and leadership through the eyes and experiences of the Union and Confederate commanders who engaged there. “Our Venture puts students in a place where the concepts from our leadership class become that much more indelible,” he explained. Prof. Useem is faculty director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management and McNulty Leadership Program, editor of the Wharton Leadership Digest, co-host of Leadership in Action on Wharton Business Radio, and the author of several books about leadership. We talked with Prof. Useem about his class, Leadership Ventures, and current research projects. 

A large group of Wharton Executive MBA students stand on the Gettysburg battlefield on a cold day.
Wharton Executive MBA East students stand on the Gettysburg battlefield on October 21, 2018, as part of a Leadership Venture led by Prof. Mike Useem.

Why did you choose Gettysburg as the location of a Leadership Venture?

The Civil War battle at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 could have gone either way. Much of the outcome – the Union ultimately prevailed – came down to the leadership decisions that the army commanders made during the deadly engagement that resulted in more than 50,000 casualties. We stop during our battlefield visit at several key points that provide for detailed discussion and reflection on the engagement’s historic actions.  

At one of those venues, for instance, we reflect on how a Union commander, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, creatively devised and then decisively executed a successful defense of the Union line against a forceful Confederate attack. We stand where Chamberlain stood to help us recreate and better appreciate that moment when his resistance made an enormous difference in the battle’s outcome. We seek to make that instant as graphic as possible and then ask participants to reflect on how this commander had acted in ways that might help them address moments of decision in their own workplace.

We do the same at several other decisive locations on the battlefield, and we conclude with a visit to the venue where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a national cemetery after the battle. The speech numbered fewer than 300 words, but they were extremely well-turned for advancing the president’s long-term agenda for reunifying the country. We are here reminded how important it is for leaders to think not just about the present day, but also the distant future – and to make a persuasive case for building it.

What are some of the lessons that you want students to take from this Venture?

We focus on how to build confident and credible leadership throughout the ranks before it is needed – for whatever challenges lie ahead. In the case of both the Union and Confederate armies at Gettysburg, we identify instances when their mid-level leadership – or its absence – proved decisive on the battlefield. Here we are reminded of the importance for the business world of mentoring managers one or two levels below you to ensure that you have the bench strength for the challenges that lie ahead.

We also review examples in both armies at Gettysburg of the power of a commander’s reputation for leadership in moving others into action. Whatever the formal powers of the office, a commander’s ability to inspire troops during the battle was significantly enhanced by an aura of respect and authority. We ask how those who led on both sides at Gettysburg acquired that reputation, and here we identify a range of actions that are as important today as they were at the time of the battle, including the articulation of a compelling vision, confidence in oneself and others, and the communication of high- performance expectations.

What other Leadership Ventures can EMBA students participate in?

Several of our Ventures are open to all MBA students, including one with the U.S. Marine Corps and a second with the Fire Department of New York. Others are designed just for executive MBA students, including our Gettysburg visit and a venture in Alaska.

How did the Leadership Ventures begin?

The Ventures came out of my personal experience in offering an EMBA course on leadership. A student pointed out that while classroom learning is good for thinking through theories of leadership and for dissecting dilemmas in leadership, we could do more to drive home the enduring principles of leadership in ways that makes them more memorable and more readily applicable when students are back at work. That’s why I first began taking executive MBA students to Gettysburg, and since then the Wharton Leadership Center and McNulty Leadership Program have added a host of other hands-on learning experiences for MBA, executive MBA, and undergraduate students across a broad range of venues.

What class do you teach in the EMBA program? What do you want students to learn from that class?

I offer a core first-year course on both coasts that is an introduction to leadership and teamwork. Many students come to this program with extensive work experience, and they express a high need to learn more about the exercise of leadership since they have moved well up their firms’ ladders and have increasingly taken personal responsibility for groups, operations, and sometimes the entire enterprise. I work to bring in research, experiences, and cases that help them strengthen their personal and team leadership capacities, including an ability to think strategically, communicate persuasively, and act decisively.

What do you like about teaching EMBA students?

Since our EMBA students arrive with extensive work experience and have personally experienced many of the challenges in leading others, there is a very high level of classroom engagement. Also, with a decade or more of work, students come with a wonderful repertoire of leadership moments and personal experiences, making for richly informed classroom discussions. One of my personal goals has long been to help others in developing their leadership, and it has thus been a privilege to be part of this program.

What is your motivation for hosting a weekly radio show on leadership?

I cohost Leadership in Action on SiriusXM Wharton Business radio, channel 132, with my colleagues Anne Greenhalgh and Jeff Klein to help leadership ideas and methods reach an even broader audience. Our weekly show seeks to help listeners learn more about tangible practices and enduring principles for strengthening their own leadership. We hear directly from other leaders about what they are thinking when they lead, and what happens in and around their office when it comes to their most consequential decisions.

What research projects are you working on these days?

I recently finished a book with a colleague on enterprise risk management, focusing on what companies are doing to prepare themselves against low-probability but high-consequence setbacks, whether from natural disasters or management-induced calamities. I have also completed a book with three others on how company executives and directors can think more long-term, and I am now working on what’s new and emerging in enterprise leadership, how innovations and disruptions are changing what is required to grow and lead an enterprise.

Posted: November 16, 2018

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