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Nichole Jordan

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Hometown: Vacaville, CA

Title: Executive Manager

Company: Pacific Gas & Electric

My Story About Me

You get so inspired by your classmates who are already entrepreneurs and have been really successful. And you think, 'I can do it. What's holding me back?

Trailblazer is one word to describe Nichole Jordan — persuasive is another. Why? The executive manager for the services/sales department at Pacific Gas & Electric not only convinced her company to create a sponsorship program for employees interested in pursuing an MBA, but she was also the first to take them up on it. Nichole admits that she had an inside advantage. When she started at Wharton, she was working in human resources, managing PG&E's MBA Leadership Program, which recruits students for a two-year rotation program.

Nichole is also breaking ground at Wharton San Francisco's campus, working to recruit minority women to apply to a program she calls "amazing." She talks about learning from fellow students and the "perks" of being the minority gender in the program.

Why an MBA now
My background is in civil engineering, but I wanted to be more involved in management. So I've had a lot of jobs, particularly at PG&E, where I've been supervising and leading groups. I was figuring things out as I went along, because I didn't have the basic business skills. I felt I needed more of a background in economics, sales and finance to go into a more senior role at PG&E.

Wharton highlight
I definitely think the highlight of my Wharton experience was getting to know a wide variety of people — learning from such diverse experiences. And making friends with the most unusual of suspects — people you'd never expect to meet or be that close with. Also, I was very excited about representing Wharton | San Francisco on the Alumni Association Board. That experience was very valuable to me. I got to fly to Philadelphia twice throughout the course of the last year. The people who I met were great, and I got to see how Wharton functions from that high of a level. It put everything I was doing at Wharton | San Francisco into perspective.

We don't feel like we're as tied to the Wharton campus as the full-time students are, but we still feel a connection. We have the same professors as the full-time students, and a lot of people interact online with the East Coast students. In the end, we still felt like we were a part of the Wharton brand. It wasn't like just wearing a shirt that says Wharton; we felt like we were part of the school.

Uniquely Wharton
Enjoying accounting! I could not imagine learning that material from anyone else other than Professor Lambert. I could not imagine doing as well as I did or even absorbing the material as well as I did with anyone else. Those were some of the fundamentals I was missing as an engineering major — debits and credits, understanding financial statements, all the basic accounting skills. You go through the material so quickly at Wharton, but the professors are so organized, so timely in giving you feedback, and always available. I don't think I would have had that caliber of professor at any other school. The professors made the learning experience a lot easier for us given the fact that we had to sit through hours of classes in one day. They made it possible for us to absorb it all. And I really liked the class on organizational change with David Pottruck, former CEO of Charles Schwab. He talked a lot about his experiences as CEO. To me that's great. That's the stuff I want to learn about — not the stuff that happened 20 years ago with Wal-Mart.

Value-added student input
That is also something unique to the Wharton executive experience. In class, we would discuss cases about, say, Cisco, and there was often someone in the room who had been involved with the deal we were discussing. You can't put a price tag on that kind of learning.

Inspired by classmate entrepreneurs
I want to be an entrepreneur. I always have something going on the side, and one day, I'll get to the point where I'll want to work on it for good. Right now, I'm working on a merchandise and social networking site called "Women Against Fantasy Sports." It's an online group where women can vent and buy merchandise, which started as a class product. You get so inspired by your classmates who already are entrepreneurs and have been really successful. And you think, "I can do it. What's holding me back?" And then you see classmates who talk about failing with some of the ventures they've tried and hear about what they've learned. It gives you the extra push to try it yourself. I have no idea what's coming next, but I'm excited.

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