Chrysanthy (Chrysa) Tsakopoulos Demos, WG’18, came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives to learn how to add more value to her family’s business, AKT Investments, and advance her own career. “I wanted the knowledge and skills to help our company go further, and I wanted the credential of a Wharton MBA,” she said.
AKT operates real estate, farming, ranching, water, minerals, building, and land development projects in northern and central California. Chrysa’s role as vice president involved financial review preparation and project management in residential development.
Chrysa said, “In construction, I’m often the only woman in the room. When you’re sitting at the table, what props you up is your ability and skills. Instead of just being the ‘boss’ daughter,’ I knew a Wharton MBA would give me the knowledge and skills to solve problems.”
With an undergraduate degree focused on foreign service and history, she also wanted to bring “a different level of technicality” to her work. Chrysa pointed to accounting as an example: “I had minimal accounting background, but you can’t successfully conduct business unless you speak the language of accounting.”
For Chrysa, going back to school paid off in more ways than expected. “When I came to Wharton, my goal was to progress in my current role. I didn’t know what my father had in mind in terms of succession planning,” she said. However, after graduating last May, her father stepped down and appointed Chrysa president and CEO, knowing she was prepared for the role because of her Wharton education.
Chrysa pointed to several aspects of Wharton’s EMBA program that helped her achieve this position:
“I learned about all of the parts of business, like accounting and finance. Our business fundamentally changed after the financial crisis because financing structures changed. I learned about different financing mechanisms and capital markets, which is very helpful now and down the road. I also took an elective on Family Business with Prof. Bill Alexander, which was very applicable. In a family business, you can have disagreements with coworkers, but you still have to see them at Thanksgiving. We learned strategies for dealing with HR and communications issues in a family business.”
“Our budgets are very long and we often need to do projections. Before I came to Wharton, it took me a week to prepare a rudimentary budget. Now, I have the skills to create something much more sophisticated in a day, which allows us to move projects forward faster. I also learned in Corporate Restructuring how to see value in different ways and bridge the gap between people who see value in numbers and those who are more creative.”
“I learned valuable ‘soft skills’ like public speaking (including with a teleprompter), how to communicate, influence, negotiate, and more. You can’t succeed in the public sphere if you can’t talk to a group of people, hold their attention, and communicate even when they don’t share the same viewpoint. These skills give you an extra leg up in business.”
“Wharton gave me a new level of confidence that I could solve any problem. I had the arrows in my quiver to say, ‘I got this.’”
“I took Prof. Stewart Friedman’s class called Total Leadership, which teaches students about work-life balance by aiming for harmony among the different parts of your life. It was very valuable to learn how to reframe demands and assess priorities.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: October 8, 2018