Wharton Stories

How the Co-Founder of Harry’s and Warby Parker Navigates Constant Disruption in the Retail Industry

Jeff Raider, WG’10, and other leaders in retail shared their insights into keeping ahead of industry trends at the 2019 Wharton Graduate Retail Conference.

“The lines have blurred, and continue to blur, around the definition of retail,” said Marketing lecturer and AlixPartners’ Managing Director Bryan Eshelman at the 2019 Wharton Graduate Retail Conference.

On Friday, February 22, MBA students gathered in Center City Philadelphia to hear retail professionals discuss brand-building, partnerships and strategic alliances, and health and wellness. The annual conference, hosted by the Wharton Graduate Retail Club and the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, covered current trends and developments in the ever-changing retail industry.

A man and a woman sit in armchairs with a table between them. The man is speaking.
Maya Bodinger, WG’11, and Prof. Bryan Eshelman discuss the pros and cons of partnerships and strategic alliances.

The event featured panelists from popular companies Away, Sweetgreen, The Wing, Theory, Lola, Aaptiv, and more. The professionals discussed important topics such as disruption caused by DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands, rushed omnichannel attempts by traditional retailers, and rising consumer power.

In the afternoon, keynote speaker Jeff Raider, WG’10, co-founder of Warby Parker and co-founder and co-CEO of Harry’s, shared insights from his own successes as an entrepreneur.

His 3 Key Takeaways:

1. Understand and Cater to Your Customer Base

In retail, supply outpaces demand, making customer loyalty the number one driver for success. Raider stressed the importance of communication in understanding how to better serve the target market and build a loyal customer base. For example, after receiving countless requests to release a body wash product, Harry’s R&D team responded to customer needs by launching one. Harry’s also follows up with an email after every sale, and 10 percent of customers respond and engage in an open dialogue with the company.

2. Have a Strong Brand and Clear Value Proposition

With today’s surplus of brands, differentiation is key in capturing market share. Brands must address a dearth in the market, understand their core customers, and cater directly to their needs in order to remain relevant in this overpopulated industry. Harry’s value proposition of “a great shave at a fair price” is based on the founders’ frustration about shopping for razors: “We as consumers were not given the experience that we wanted,” Raider said. In order to uphold their motto, the company sought clarity and simplicity. They avoided confusing promotions and guaranteed a fair price consistent across all distribution channels.

3. Recognize Growth Opportunities

The popularity of e-commerce has become a growing threat to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but Raider believes that “brands need a home” and that physical stores are a great marketing resource.

After the success of Harry’s first physical location, a barber shop in New York City that was open for five years, Raider hopes to build permanent stores in the future. Additionally, Harry’s has partnered with Target to sell their products in physical locations, generating exposure to new customers and creating another way for current customers to shop their products.

The Future of the Retail Industry

Raider predicts that the low barriers to entry and evolving consumer preferences will encourage innovators to create more brands in the future. Just as Warby Parker and Harry’s changed their respective industries, there are countless opportunities to fix current deficiencies in the market.

“The goal is to expand to other CPGs (consumer packaged goods) to solve unmet customer needs that create better experiences for people. Huge brands dominate the retail shelves, maintain market share, and may not put customers first,” said Raider. “They are not going to be the brands that our kids use.”

Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: March 21, 2019

Wharton Stories

How the MIINT Program Trains Students to Think Like Impact Investors

The MIINT gives hundreds of business school students across the globe a hands-on education in impact investing.

At Wharton Social Impact, building the evidence base and talent pipeline for impact investing is our priority. We’ve seen that students at Wharton and beyond are eager for hands-on training in impact investing. That’s why it’s no surprise to see the MIINT program growing to over 30 business schools and 550+ students worldwide this year.

What is the MIINT? A collaboration between Bridges Impact Foundation and Wharton Social Impact, MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) is a year-long experiential program designed to give students at business and graduate schools a hands-on education in impact investing. Students learn about integrating social and environmental impact into the investment process as they assess early-stage impact venture capital deals.

How It Works

Graduate students at participating schools form teams. They complete several training modules and get practice in sourcing and due diligence. During this sourcing and diligence, teams select a seed-stage company that is actively raising investment capital and exemplifies the promise of impact investing — deep impact and the possibility of strong financial returns.

Each school sends one team to pitch the company they sourced at the global finals (hosted at Wharton each April) to a committee of leaders in the impact investing field. And the competition is high-stakes — the winning team receives a $50k investment into the company they pitch, capturing a real impact investment for this company they’ve come to know and recommend. Winners from recent years include the Yale School of Management (with their presentation of a storm water sensor company), INSEAD (with their presentation of a health education company), and MIT Sloan (with their presentation of a financial inclusion company).

Why Impact Investing?

Organizers at Wharton Social Impact and Bridges Impact Foundation have seen significant growth in numbers of participants — reaching over 2,000 students around the world in the last five years alone. Participating schools include Harvard Business School, the London School of Economics, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy), Kellogg School of Management, INSEAD (France/Singapore/United Arab Emirates), and more.

“Student demand for impact investing training continues to grow,” said Nick Ashburn, Wharton Social Impact’s senior director of impact investing. “We are consistently hearing from students around the world who are interested in joining the MIINT competition.”

Students complete modules like “formulating an investment thesis,” “valuing early stage social enterprises,” and “structuring investments” to learn the ins and outs of impact investing. They also have access to an online curriculum of videos and articles, and each school is paired with an industry advisor to provide guidance and feedback along the way. With all of these resources, it’s easy to see why students continue to take advantage of this experiential learning opportunity.

“Many students believe that impact investing will one day be ‘just good investing,’ and they’re eager to learn how to get ahead of the curve to position themselves for the investment jobs of the future. The MIINT is one of the only opportunities for some to get exposure to this type of training,” said Ashburn.

Growing MIINT@Wharton

In past years, approximately 140 Wharton MBAs applied for around 30 spots for the Wharton MIINT team. To meet the demand from Wharton students, Wharton Social Impact significantly expanded participation at Wharton this year by not capping the number of spots available in the program.

Now called MIINT@Wharton, this program is Penn’s internal competition to select the student team that will represent Wharton at MIINT’s global finals in April.

“Through MIINT, I have gained the tools and confidence to think like an impact investor. I met so many amazing entrepreneurs and loved digging into their companies’ revenue drivers and impact outcomes. Most of all, I learned from my teammates as we worked together to select a company, perform due diligence, and build a compelling investment case,” said MIINT@Wharton participant Dawn Powell, WG’20.

Ana Ramos, WG’20, another MIINT@Wharton student, added: “It is a real experience — we source startups, run due diligence, and develop our recommendation to the Investing Committee about a company that is already operational and growing. It is a lot of responsibility to represent Wharton before entrepreneurs who feel honored to be participating in this competition.”

This week, the MIINT@Wharton teams competed with each other to see who gets to represent Wharton at the MIINT global finals. We look forward to following the global competition on April 13.

— Nisa Nejadi

Posted:

Wharton Stories

WorkingNation Town Hall Addresses Closing the Data Analytics Skills Gap

Image: (Left to right) Ravi Kandikonda of Comcast, Bhushan Sethi of PwC, and Steve Kern of the Gates Foundation speaking on the "Exploring the Landscape of Data Analytics" panel.
Business leaders and educators convened at Penn to speak on the rise of data analytics and filling the growing need for new jobs and more comprehensive education.

The evening of February 26, the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) and nonprofit WorkingNation came together at Penn’s Annenberg Center for Performing Arts for a town hall — “The Future is Now: Closing the Data Analytics Skills Gap.”

A gathering of top industry leaders and educators, the event reflected on the growth of data analytics and addressed next steps for employers and educators to maximize the field’s potential moving forward. Allen Blue, the co-founder of LinkedIn, kicked off the event with a keynote on why the analytics skills gap needs to be filled.

Founder and CEO of WorkingNation, Arthur Bilger, W’75.

The panelist lineup included representatives from Comcast, PwC, the Gates Foundation, Penn Health, Morgan Stanley, Community College of Philadelphia, General Assembly, School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Works, and the Wharton School.

“It’s been really encouraging to hear the excitement on the campus about data analytics,” said Steve Kern, deputy director of the Gates Foundation, prior to the event. “I think there could be some really interesting collaborations that come out of the Wharton School working with the medical school and [the] engineering school and bringing all the different departments together to actually help work on these common problems.”

Rising Need for Data Analytics

Panelists on stage (left to right): Ravi Kavikonda, Bhushan Sethi, Steve Kern, Kevin Mahoney and Tsvi Gal.

While data analytics positions are relatively new to the job market, trends indicate that job opportunities will continue to grow. “In 2012, there were only 12 occupations with heavy reliance on data analytics skills comprising 270,000 jobs,” said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. “Last year, there were 33, comprising almost one million jobs.”

Use cases for data analytics are vast. Morgan Stanley’s Chief Technology Officer Tsvi Gal called data analytics the “oxygen” of Wall Street. In the biomedical industry, data analytics can be used to understand the relapse patterns of multiple sclerosis patients and schedule preventative measures. Even industries that were previously seen as more qualitative, like marketing, now involve analyzing customer data.

As the need for data analytics skills increases, so does the need for useful data. “There was this big reluctance to share data,” said Kern, reflecting on the progress he’s seen in the nonprofit sector. “You can [now] build a trusting community of people who are sharing the data and know that it’s going to be used in an appropriate manner to help form decisions.”

Creativity, Critical Thinking, and EQ

Allen Blue talking and sitting in a white chair against a dark backdrop.
Allen Blue in conversation with moderator Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, contributor and former chief international correspondent at CNBC.

It’s a common misconception that working in data analytics field requires a computer science degree. In reality, said leaders at the Town Hall, it requires creativity, critical thinking, and a high EQ — skills that may be more familiar to history or English majors.

People with different educational backgrounds can offer valuable skillsets to a data analytics team. Said Blue: “Data scientists who came from physics or biology discover and invent new things, whereas somebody who came from a data science program would use a tool they already knew about.” Firms need both kinds of employees.

Closing the gender gap is another way the field can develop. Currently, men are the overwhelming majority among computer science graduates and employees working in machine learning and artificial intelligence. “We have already detected bias [in this space],” Blue added. “We’re missing huge opportunities and we’re potentially inserting bias into the system that might come back and bite us.”

At the Forefront of Change

Dr. Donald Guy Generals, Jake Schwartz, and Melanie Harris sit in white chairs against a blue backdrop.
(Left to right) Dr. Guy Generals of Community College of Philadelphia, Jake Schwartz of General Assembly, and Melanie Harris of the Philadelphia School District discuss furthering data analytics education.

One way forward is by enriching data analytics education, which means building concepts into core curricula as early as elementary school and training the teaching workforce on teaching it. Melanie Harris, chief information officer of the Philadelphia School District, outlined the district’s K–8 digital literacy program, which introduces key analytics concepts like gamification of coding by the second grade.

Wharton Marketing Chair Prof. Eric Bradlow, W’88, co-founder of WCAI, cited Wharton’s specialized business analytics major, over 50 R or Python-based courses, not-for-credit workshops, and its top-ranked undergraduate club as a model for universities bringing analytics into their mainstream business curriculum.

Above all, employers can be at the forefront of change by hiring people based on necessary skills, rather than pedigree.

“I think in the future,” said Jake Schwartz, WG’08, co-founder and CEO of General Assembly, “we’re going to find really creative ways of putting together talent needs with potential alternative pools of talent and figuring out how to use education as a bridge to get people [where] they want to be and where the companies really need them.”

Watch clips from WorkingNation Town Hall and hear from all the esteemed panelists.

Jonathan Lahdo, Elis Pill, and Gloria Yuen

Posted:

Wharton Stories

Jessica Pugh is Pushing for Diversity and Inclusion in the Tech Industry

Jessica Pugh, WG’19, will be heading to Google this fall to work on global strategy while thinking of carving a bigger space for underrepresented minorities.

Two years ago, Jessica Pugh, WG’19, left California and a career in insurance to pivot into the technology sector. She planned to return to the West Coast someday, which was exactly why she chose to spend two years studying at Wharton’s campus in Philadelphia. For Jessica, it was a chance to experience a new city while maintaining a connection to her home community.

“One thing I really love about Wharton is that it’s really bicoastal,” Jessica said. “You have a strong presence and alumni base on the West Coast in San Francisco where I’m from, as well as on the East Coast, and that was something that was really important to me.”

Last summer, she was able to leverage this bicoastal network and landed an internship in global marketing and sales at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“After I accepted my Google offer I was reached out to by, and spoke to, Wharton alumni, and I think that was incredibly helpful.” Those connections to alumni fostered a sense of community in a new working environment. “It felt even smaller because of those folks that had my back, really supported me, and gave me a lot of lessons and mentorship along the way.”

At Google, Jessica found herself in a similar academic atmosphere to Wharton. From biking around the sprawling Googleplex campus, enjoying meals in the cafeteria, and helping e-commerce companies build marketing strategies, Jessica felt at home among a set of talented and curious colleagues.

Opening Doors

Securing a return offer to Google was a process helped along by Wharton Career Services and Jessica’s own knowledge that networking was key. “I had over 40 coffee chats over the summer. I think it’s just not being afraid to reach out to people and being really thoughtful about the questions I want to ask and the insights I want to draw from those particular people. That’s one thing that I developed really early on in my career that I think I’ve brought to both Wharton as well as to Google.”

In 2017, Jessica helped AAMBAA plan the Whitney M. Young Conference, which invites prominent business and civic leaders to share their own journeys with students, alumni, and other professionals.

Bettering professional development, especially for underrepresented groups, is one of Jessica’s passions. In her previous job at MetLife, she helped develop over 90 new hires at the insurance company over the course of three years.

“I really see tech as a growing industry, but seriously lacking the infrastructure to develop, support, attract, and retain women and people of color — especially people who look like myself, who are African-American,” she said. “I think it’s an area that I’m already passionate about and can really make an impact in.”

Previously, she partnered with INROADS, a non-profit and diversity MBA admissions committee local to southern California, to organize an MBA recruitment conference. 200 prospective students of color and the top 25 business schools attended for a chance to meet with admissions officers and learn about the benefits of a business degree.

“Just recently here at Wharton, I organized a diversity MBA recruitment conference for our African-American and Latino students to meet over 13 employers,” Jessica added. “McKinsey, BCG, and all of those companies were there. It was great to, again, facilitate those partnerships.”

Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program offers a unique Tall Ships Sailing expedition that builds teamwork and endurance skills. Jessica spend two weeks near Auckland, New Zealand with MBAs in Cluster 3-Cohort I.

A Place to Belong

In addition to being an Admissions Fellow, Communications Fellow, and Student Life Fellow (and mentor to 17 MBAs), Jessica serves on the board of the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) to run programming for all first-year students. In her free time, she’s also a facilitator for P3: Purpose, Passion and Principles.

The eight-week program, which guides students towards defining their own success and happiness, is one of her favorite things at Wharton. “I think being here in business school is such a transformational point for people to challenge one another on what those things are,” she said. “But most importantly, it’s nice to meet a unique set of counterparts and really go deep with them about your past, your present, and your future.”

Although she’s at the heart of so many communities now, Jessica still remembers looking at Wharton from the outside in when she was a prospective MBA.

“I always knew that I wanted to come to business school, but never really aspired to go to a top school before. It can be very intimidating to go to a school like this, where a lot of your peers went to really great schools prior to here. There was just this feeling of, essentially, insecurity.”

Jessica in Copenhagen, Denmark with fellow WG’19 AAMBAA members during fall break in 2017.

Those fears washed away when she attended Wharton Welcome Weekend. “I didn’t assume that it would be so student-led or social. I didn’t realize how diverse the backgrounds of the students were. You can assume everyone has a similar background and whatnot, but when you dig the layers a little bit deeper, you really see how diverse we really are.”

— Gloria Yuen

Posted: March 20, 2019

Wharton Stories

Why This Couple Came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives Together

Cheryl Tamas, WG’19, and John Tamas, WG’19, saw value in earning their MBAs, together, from Wharton to fill in knowledge gaps and accelerate their careers.

Cheryl Tamas, WG’19, and John Tamas, WG’19, knew of each other as undergraduates at the University of Arkansas, but didn’t start dating until years later. Much of their relationship was spent long distance, with Cheryl working with Samsung in New York City and John with an investment firm in Dallas. As John commuted to New York City on weekends to see Cheryl, the couple started talking about getting an MBA together.

“We looked at our career trajectories and saw that the people sitting in positions above us had these amazing credentials that we lacked. It would be a shame to put in the time and energy in our careers only to be overlooked for advancement because of that,” said John.

Cheryl added: “I had always wanted to get my MBA, but for one reason or another the timing was never right. But I got to the point where if I didn’t do it now, I knew I would probably regret it.”

As soon as Cheryl and John both committed to pursuing an MBA, Cheryl signed them up for a GMAT prep course in their respective cities. They also began researching EMBA programs.

John said: “We came up with a list of schools, but ultimately we realized that the best fit for us was Wharton. So, we both applied to Wharton’s EMBA program. We wanted to share the experience and come out with the same mindset for managing our careers and our household. Also, if we didn’t go to the same school then we would never see each other.”

For the first six months of the program, the couple remained long distance. Cheryl took the train from New York City and John flew to Philadelphia from Dallas. However, in the middle of the first year, Cheryl took a new position with Samsung in Dallas. They became engaged that spring and married this past fall.

As they approach graduation, Cheryl and John say that Wharton is already adding value, both professionally and personally.

New Skills

John and his Product Design teammate preparing for Design Fair in December 2018.

With an undergraduate degree and career in finance, John noted that he was lacking knowledge in three areas when he came to Wharton: communications, legal, and negotiations. “My classes have helped me become a much better presenter and have helped refine my thinking about legal issues that are critical to capital deployment. As for negotiations, I’ve developed both offensive and defensive tactics that are suitable in almost any bargaining situation.”

Professional Opportunities

Cheryl noted that the program has opened doors to positions sooner in her career. “It’s accelerated my growth plan and increased by confidence. I know my long-term career arc will be higher,” she said.

Cheryl in NYC with her Learning Teammates during flight simulation in their first year Management class, Fall 2017.

Common Language

“I’ve always viewed things in and expressed myself in economic terms, because I believe most most behaviors may be described and decisions guided  by economic principles: marginal this, utility that, etc. I wanted us to share that dialect,” said John.

Cheryl noted: “We now speak the same language because we share the same educational experience and know what we’re each going through in this program. We’ve seen each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a different way and that has been good for us.”

Network

John added that a big highlight of the program is their classmates. “The hours I’ve kept in my career prevented me from developing a lot of relationships outside of my industry. This program has allowed me to make a lot of new friends from a diversity of backgrounds. Two of my groomsmen were classmates!” he said.

John and his groomsmen, Jason Peart (WG’19) and Jerad King (WG’19) last October.

Cheryl added that doing this program together enriched the experience. “We could motivate each other whether it was by studying, discussing material, or sharing connections. It was also helpful to have the same schedule, timeline and mindset for two years because we never felt like our life was on hold. We were on the same journey.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted:

Wharton Stories

Why This Statistics Undergrad Spent Winter Break Volunteering in Washington, D.C.

Alexandru (Alex) Zanca, W’21, was originally a biochemistry major at Penn. Now, he’s concentrating in statistics at Wharton and pursuing his passion for promoting equity.

Alexandru (Alex) Zanca, W’21, was originally a biochemistry major at Penn. Now, he’s concentrating in statistics at Wharton. When he first arrived on campus two years ago, Alex wasn’t quite sure where his Penn journey would lead. But through a range of hands-on learning experiences, he’s developed unique perspectives on important community issues, and discovered his own passions along the way.

Alex’s interests lie at the intersection between social impact and statistical analysis; in the future, he wants to use quantitative skills to research — and help solve — problems of inequality like food insecurity and homelessness.

Shifting Directions

As an international student from Romania, Alex’s academic pursuits were originally heading in a different direction.

“My education in Romania was very technical — math, physics, computer science, biology,” he said. Before he came to Penn, Alex took a gap year to work in a biology lab and a community-development educational project, too. This crucial period made Alex rethink his academic career at Penn.

“I was a biochemistry major in the College, but after my gap year I knew I didn’t really want to work in a lab. However, I really liked organizing projects, and working with the community got me really interested in public service,” he explained.

As a freshman, he took full advantage of Penn’s interdisciplinary curriculum by learning and experiencing as much as he could.

Through exploring other classes, he discovered economics, and applied for an internal transfer to Wharton. He chose to concentrate in statistics because he wanted to do social-science research. “I thought: this is cool! I could still use the quantitative skills I had already, but economic issues are more closely related to my interests.”

Alex also got involved with the Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS) program run by the Wharton Public Policy Initiative (PPI). PPRS is a supplemental course of study for Penn undergraduates that focuses on the quantitative analysis of public policy and can be pursued alongside any other major.

“In PPRS, I’m pursuing the Fiscal Policy track because I think that’s a great tool the government could use to manage resources in the economy and eventually deal with problems of social justice — inequality and homelessness and food insecurity and such,” said Alex. 

Volunteering in the Nation’s Capital

Alex joined Penn Alternative Breaks (PAB) two winters ago. Through PAB, a program run by Penn’s Civic House, students take week-long trips to volunteer at different places so that they can learn about tangible social change. In 2017, Alex traveled to Nashville as a program participant; this past winter, he became a leader for the PAB trip to Washington, D.C.

“The mission of PAB is to form a community as a team and with the people that we meet. We would go on this trip during winter break and work with a different community organization each day. We worked with soup kitchens and met people from the National Coalition for the Homeless who told us stories about their experiences.”

Before the trip, Alex and his co-leader organized activities for participants to think in advance about issues that they would engage with in D.C. He also managed communications and logistics between Civic House, host organizations, and students. Alex felt right at home with his PAB family.

Alex and his PAB team in Washington, D.C.

“I think we all returned to campus as a close-knit group, with great memories, a better understanding of social-justice problems in D.C., and each other as resources for the future,” Alex said. “We really bonded. Our purpose there was to get to know each other and to serve the community as best as we could. It really didn’t matter that I was from a different country, or that English wasn’t my native language.”

Alex believes that his experience with PPRS also enriched his trip to D.C.

“In D.C., we met with public advocators from the Presbyterian Mission Office of Public Witness, for example, an organization deeply involved in the public-policy discussions on Capitol Hill. I was able to draw on my past personal readings and discussions with other PPRS scholars about housing displacement, income inequality, and food insecurity to talk to them about these issues.”

Ultimately, Alex believes that students who participate in PAB get more out of the program than they give. “On the whole, we’re understanding and gaining more from this experience than the community does because they know what they’re doing,” he said. “We’re just kind of learning about their experience with the problems they face. We’re not in the position to solve their problems or be saviors or anything.”

“I think PAB does a really good job of grounding people and making you aware of what is going on out there, and gives you a vision you can carry with you through your life.”

— Linda Zou, C’21

Posted: March 19, 2019

Wharton Stories

WCAI Datathon Student Finalists Present Their Data Findings to Evite

Evite CEO Victor Cho, W’93, and VP Jay Neuman learned what Wharton and Penn student teams discovered about their company’s data at the Datathon finale.

On February 22, 2019, Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) welcomed Evite — a Los Angeles-based online invitations and RSVP platform — to the culmination of the WCAI Datathon, which was sponsored by the company. Student teams of all years across Wharton and Penn gathered in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall to present their findings to the Evite representatives: CEO Victor Cho, W’93, and Vice President of Data Science and Business Intelligence Jay Neuman.

Analyzing Real Data

The Datathon gave students a real Evite user dataset and encouraged them to use their analytics skills to come up with creative ways to drive the company’s business value. The exercise gave the teams a taste of working with data outside the classroom.

“One of the great things about a hackathon is that you get to work with real-world data which is very messy,” said Victor Cho. “A lot of the time, in an academic class, you get a clean, curated, almost a perfect dataset so you can learn the concepts, which is great for learning concepts. The reality of the real world is that it’s really messy. And so, they get a practical understanding of what it’s going to be like to apply these skills in the real world environment, and that’s super valuable.”

Datathon participant John Homans, WG’19, said that the most challenging aspect about analyzing real user data was balancing detail and computing time.

“There were many files with different pieces of information. Some were workable with a high powered laptop, some weren’t. The lengthy compute time meant tradeoffs between having richer data but only being able to perform shallow analysis, or robust analysis with incomplete data. This further sparked questions of what were the most important parts of the data, and what analyses could be performed with which parts,” John said.

Student team presenting their findings.

Returning to Wharton

While Evite is based in California, Cho said that as an undergraduate alumnus, he knew he wanted to choose Wharton’s Philadelphia campus to host the Datathon. What confirmed his choice was the breadth of programs offered by WCAI.

“I got invited to speak at a keynote session here a year ago, and I actually wasn’t even familiar with the [WCAI] program until then. And that’s where I met Raghu [Iyengar], Eric [Bradlow], and others and was super impressed with everything that they were doing,” he said. “That’s where I learned about the WCAI sponsorship opportunities. It was a natural fit given that [Wharton has] passion around data, and it’s at my alma mater.”

After hearing the Datathon finalists’ presentations, he was impressed with the quality of the students’ work.

“I was amazed by the amount of depth that these teams were able to produce in just a couple of weeks. The winning team actually built a working machine-learning algorithm that we could potentially plug into our site in a couple of weeks. I was blown away by the depth of the analysis that was done,” he said.

Victor Cho speaking to the audience.

New Pathways for MBAs

While data analytics remains a somewhat nontraditional major for MBA students, its wide range of applications continues to grow, along with its popularity each year. John, an incoming data scientist at Facebook, thinks there’s a demand for MBAs who understand the rigorous analysis process but are also able to communicate the results to company executives effectively.

“There is a certain technical skillset that is needed, which is mostly the ability to manipulate and visualize data using standard software,” he explained. “There, whichever route you came from [impacts] which side of data science is most emphasized in your education. [It] could be the engineering skill to work with data, the mathematical understanding of prediction models, [or] the product understanding and communication skills to influence change.”

“The latter is where I believe MBAs can be successful in the field. And, what is great about the MBA program at Wharton is that it provides rigorous training in the other sides as well.”

— Elis Pill, C’19

Posted: March 15, 2019

Wharton Stories

One Wharton Week Spotlights Immigration, Political Discourse, #MeToo, and More

Image: A packed room for Dr. Ron Granieri's lecture on American conservatism and liberalism, "Political Discourse Across the Aisle."
This February, Wharton clubs brought MBA students together for a week of thought-provoking discussions on diversity, identity, and inclusion.

Since 2015, Wharton’s student-led diversity coalition Return on Equality (ROE) has dedicated one week every year to talks, workshops, and screenings to celebrate diversity across the MBA student body, while allowing students to engage with different perspectives on issues around diversity, identity, and inclusion.

“For tomorrow’s leaders, I think One Wharton Week reminds us of the people component of managing firms, and some of the issues that may arise from managing diverse organizations after we graduate,” said ROE Co-President Kristina Sowah, WG’19.

ROE Presidents: Kristina Sowah, Sophie Romans, and Dorcy Chen, WG’19.

Kristina and fellow co-president Sophie Romans, WG’19, said this year’s programming has expanded even further through a new collaboration with the McNulty Leadership Office, as well as securing speakers beyond Wharton and Penn and adding an international focus to the Week’s traditional small group dinners.

From One Wharton Week 2019, here’s a look into a few noteworthy events.

Immigration, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

On Tuesday, February 26, students gathered in Huntsman Hall for Management Prof. Exequiel Hernandez’ presentation on immigration and economic growth. The lecture covered objective findings of research studies on the impact of high- and low-skilled immigration on wages and job growth and prompted students to form their own opinions on whether they agree or disagree with current policies.

For example, research shows that high-skilled immigrants on average actually have a high rate of entrepreneurship and positively impact wages and employment for both college-educated and non-college-educated natives. As for low-skilled immigration, there is little evidence of negative effects on the wages and jobs of native-born Americans. During the post-lecture Q&A, Prof. Hernandez noted that the impact on individual communities could also differ from the average, with some losing out and others benefitting significantly.

Ben Onukwube, WG’20, presenting during the Week’s opening event, “Deconstructing Our Identities.”

Political Discourse Across the Aisle

Dr. Ron Granieri’s presentation on American Conservatism and American Liberalism on February 27 was standing room only. The discussion focused on the value of engaging with opposing ideas in the current political landscape.

Labels can be harmful, said Granieri, who is director of research and a lecturer in international studies at the Lauder Institute. “To assume that a conservative is XYZ is to cut yourself off from the possibility of understanding the complexity of other people’s positions.”

Although technology has made more information available, people are limiting themselves to a small scope of ideas. Granieri suggested seeking out outlets that disagree with personal views in order to understand the arguments being made. “Don’t seek a well-balanced book,” he said, “seek out a well-balanced library.”

He added that being conservative or liberal isn’t mutually exclusive. In order to progress, everyone needs to embrace open discussion, tolerate disagreement, and understand that there can be multiple answers to divisive problems.

Renowned business leader and New York Times bestselling author Doug Conant speaking on “Setting Introverts up for Success.”

Mentorship in the World of #MeToo

Since the rise of the #MeToo movement, some men have grown wary of forming close relationships with female coworkers, and that trend has led to junior women losing out on valuable mentorship opportunities. On February 27, Practice Prof. Cade Massey of operations, information, and decisions asked MBA students to look at three troubling mentorship scenarios submitted by women and to brainstorm potential solutions.

Students debated intent and subconscious bias, whether female mentees should be expected to confront their mentors, and building safer conversation spaces. MBA Vice Dean Howard Kaufold joined the discussion and pointed out similar concerns in higher education, where male professors can be reluctant to hold office hours.

The consensus: while conversations and solutions are difficult, the easy way out is not trying at all. Not only can colleagues try to support each other in tough situations, mutual understanding can also help avoid unreasonable conflict.

See the full schedule for One Wharton Week 2019.

Elis Pill, Erin Lomboy, and Gloria Yuen

Posted: March 14, 2019

Wharton Stories

What Wharton Prof. Zeke Hernandez Wants EMBA Students to Learn about Global Strategy

Prof. Hernandez explains why he wants students to be globally-minded managers and decision-makers — and how this differs from domestic affairs.
Growing up in South and Central America, where his father worked for a global nonprofit, Prof. Exequiel (Zeke) Hernandez developed an interest in international business and global strategy. In his core EMBA class on Global Strategy and during Global Business Week in Argentina, Prof. Hernandez brings that passion for global strategy to life for students with real-world examples and cutting-edge research about the current opportunities and challenges faced by managers. We recently asked Prof. Hernandez to tell us more about his class, Global Business Week, and his research on global strategy. Here is what he said:

Why is it important for EMBA students to learn about global strategy?

Companies have become and will continue to be globalized. Anyone in a moderate to high level of management will encounter globalization because their firm or competitors are in multiple countries or their firm is affected by policies related to globalization. The models, principles, and frameworks for managing a firm across borders are different from the ones used to manage a firm in one country. If you apply what you do in a domestic market to every other market, then you will fail, and it will be a costly failure.

What do you want students to take away from your class?

I want my students to be globally-minded decision makers. I organize the class around the major decisions that managers need to make when considering expansion into foreign markets: Should I expand abroad? Where? What strategy and organizational model should I use abroad? Being a good global decision maker isn’t the same as being a good local decision maker. I want students to have a toolkit of concepts and ideas that they can use for anything they do in a foreign market whether it’s a decision to expand or about choosing a location or about an ownership model. Those tools are applicable for all industries and contexts.

How is your class structured? How do you bring in real-world examples?

I have a rule that I don’t talk for more than 10 minutes straight. The class is very interactive – it’s a mix of case discussion, group activities, and quantitative analysis. As for real-world examples, it’s easy to talk about current events with news stories about protectionism, tariffs, neo-nationalism, emerging markets, etc. In addition to traditional cases, I write my own case studies and use news articles as part of the basis for class discussion. And because it’s an EMBA class, we discuss students’ own experiences too.

What do you like about teaching EMBA students?

Wharton EMBA students are here for no other reason than to learn. They have successful careers and they want to apply what they learn in class each week. I have a line of students during class breaks who want to talk about real-world issues at their organizations. And because they have a lot of experience, there is a high level of discussion in the class. When I talk about making decisions to invest abroad or managing people across locations, there are students doing that now, or who have done that in the past, which means we get can jump right into the issue and get very deep.

You often lead a Global Business Week trip to Argentina, where the focus is on managing in turbulent environments. Why is Argentina a good location for this topic?

EMBA students standing outside on a dusty plain holding a Wharton banner

Students see a lot of headlines in the U.S. and Europe about things like Brexit, protectionism, trade wars, populism and rising dissatisfaction of income inequality. These things create uncertainty and turbulence for companies because it’s hard to know what the future holds. Many students are used to stable environments where policy is predictable and society is stable, but those things have become a bit unhinged lately. We visit Argentina because that is a country where the society and economy have been volatile for 100 years. The conditions that concern managers worldwide have been present in Argentina for a long time, so it’s a good place to study how you manage when the macro environment becomes very turbulent. We meet with all sorts of companies, big and small, local and foreign, high-tech and low-tech, etc. The idea is to learn how managers deal with unstable environments and develop resilience.

This trip is a natural follow-up to my Global Strategy course. Students learn a lot by visiting it in person and meeting with business leaders and managers. It’s also a fun and interesting country with a rich culture. I used to live there and I enjoy showing students this corner of the world.

EMBA students inside a building with logos on the wall

What research projects are you currently working on?

I’m looking at how immigration affects the globalization of companies, and have many papers on this topic. A recent paper looks at how immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. influence VCs to make investments in foreign markets. I show that as more VC firms invest in startups in the U.S. led by immigrant founders, we are subsequently more likely to see investments in the home countries of those founders.

Another series of projects looks at how the research and development partnerships that companies develop in foreign markets affect innovation. We find that partnerships are very valuable to help firms  access novel ideas. However, they also have to be careful about what partners they pick and the processes in place to successfully absorb the knowledge gained from those partners.

Read more stories about Global Business Week.

— Meghan Laska

Posted:

Wharton Stories

Undergraduates Tackle Real Media Industry Challenges During This Year’s HuntsmanHacks

Students applied core concepts from their business courses to solve simulated challenges proposed by Vox Media during this immersive day-long competition.

Saturday, February 9, was a long day for over 130 Wharton underclassmen. From 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., teams of four to five students competed in three rounds, answering simulated challenge questions proposed by the 2019 HuntsmanHacks partner company, Vox Media.

HuntsmanHacks, organized by the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board (WAB) with support and funding from the Wharton School’s Undergraduate Division, is a “business hackathon” — a collaborative competition to solve challenges using business knowledge.

The event began with opening remarks, followed by a keynote from the CEO of Vox Media, Jim Bankoff, WG’96. He kicked off the event with a detailed background on the modern media company. Teams then broke off to their respective rooms and got to work.

Applying Classroom Knowledge to Industry Challenges

Similar to a case competition, students were given questions pertaining to Vox in three separate rounds, with a time constraint of about an hour per question. The questions centered around current threats to the digital media industry, and drew on material that students had learned through core business fundamental courses like marketing, statistics, accounting, and finance. Keeping the company’s assets and core values in mind, the students had to successfully implement either a business-to-business or business-to-consumer strategy that would produce a valuable revenue stream.

Growing From Professional Feedback

The teams didn’t have to rely solely on classroom knowledge. HuntsmanHacks was unique from other case competitions in that multiple representatives from Vox, including Bankoff, visited each group to offer feedback and answer questions. Communicating directly with industry professionals not only helped students during the competition, but also provided insight into the media field and Vox in particular.

Putting Teamwork To the Test

Three rounds of questions, followed by mini-presentations, made for an equally exciting and stressful day. The competition tried students’ abilities to manage group dynamics as they collaborated to submit both the required slides and the executive summaries before the deadline for each round. The most productive teams were the ones that worked in sync to propose solutions efficiently as a group.

Four students smile and hold blue awards that say "First Place".
The first place team (left to right) Jennifer Zhang, W’21, Chloe Niu, W’21, Alexandru Zanca, W’21, and Aashna Jain, W’21, pose with their awards.

The competition concluded with presentations from the top five teams, who all proposed unique and realistic strategies with potential value for both Vox and its consumers. Awards were presented for the top three presentations, and three more teams were recognized for excelling in either innovation, feasibility, or alignment.

All in all, the immersive day-long competition was mutually beneficial: students gained invaluable experience working with real company challenges, and Vox Media representatives received an array of potential revenue stream strategies for their company.

Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: March 13, 2019

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