When Kerhyl Gantt, WG’19, applied to Wharton’s EMBA program, she had worked in marketing for a decade, mostly for Nike. She wanted an MBA to gain new perspectives and learn new frameworks and models for marketing. Most importantly, she wanted to challenge herself, particularly in the quantitative and analytical aspects of her field.
“I wanted to combine the art and science of marketing and learn from a diverse group of people because I had been at the same company for eight years,” she explained. “I also wanted to make sure that I had the same credentials as many other executives. An MBA would enable me to gain that credential and build a network across disciplines.”
As she researched EMBA programs, Wharton stood out for its quantitative focus, unique schedule, and strong community. Kerhyl said, “When I reached out to Wharton alumni, they were happy to talk to me. I also liked how the program is designed for working professionals. It’s set up to allow students to balance high-impact workloads in addition to school in a way that doesn’t dilute the quality of the academics or the experience.”
At Wharton, Kerhyl achieved her goals of gaining new perspectives and knowledge as well as a broader network. She credits several aspects of the program:
Quantitative Classes: “I found the challenge I was looking for in classes. I also learned from classmates who came from engineering and analytical backgrounds. In group assignments, they shared their perspectives and helped me become more comfortable with data and analytical points of view. I learned what questions to ask so that I can bring a consumer-insights driven perspective to help inform data-driven decisions.”
Leadership Classes – “I also took ‘softer’ classes that were just as valuable as the quant-focused ones. For example, Total Leadership with Prof. Stewart Friedman helped me identify how to become a more holistic leader. I saw that I could be a lot more thoughtful about my leadership and how I connect with people to build a brand. The class also gave me clarity on what success means for me on my own terms. It gave me the confidence to think through my next career moves. I also took a leadership class taught by Wharton alumnus David Pottruck, WG’72, who is a former CEO of Charles Schwab. It was fascinating to hear his perspective on leading the company through the disruption of the banking industry. Very few people have gone through that type of experience and can frame it in a way to guide us as leaders.”
Negotiations – “Wharton EMBA alumna Mori Taheripour, WG’03, is an amazing teacher with expertise in negotiations and sports business. She helped me understand how to recognize and leverage value. It was powerful learning negotiations from a woman – and from someone who is so well regarded in the male-dominated industry of sports.
Marketing – “Once you fill up your class schedule, students can still audit additional courses. I took advantage of this and audited Prof. Keith Niedermeier’s marketing course on consumer psychology. I learned frameworks around how to best connect and engage with consumers from that point of view and I use many of those frameworks today.”
Global Modular Courses (GMCs) – “I participated in two GMCs in China, which helped me think about becoming a global marketer and learn about marketing practices and the consumer in China. Even if you travel to China for your job, you’d never have this type of access to senior leaders from multiple industries and companies who share their knowledge and insights with Wharton students. We also got to engage with business students in China and learn from their experiences and perspectives first-hand.”
Classmates – “Wharton EMBA students are phenomenal and come from a broad range of backgrounds and cultural experiences. I learned as much from students as I did from faculty. And because we already have jobs and are successful in our careers, we aren’t competing for jobs. This was a safe place to share our challenges and build genuine relationships.”
Women at Wharton – “It was wonderful to be part of this strong network of supportive and talented women. They helped me think through challenges from a female-centric perspective. We had several social outings and dinners. We also had women-focused sessions about negotiations with Mori Taheripour.”
Confidence – “I was always fairly confident, but this program helped me become more comfortable with creating my own definition of success and how to take steps in that direction, especially if it’s not a traditional path. I’m more confident today in how I want to lead and how I want to make an impact.”
Career Impact After Graduation
After graduation, Kerhyl took advantage of the two-month sabbatical “perk” for Nike employees who have been with the company for 10 consecutive years, and traveled to Japan, China, Italy, Greece, and France.
“It was great to have an extended period of time to reflect on my Wharton experience and what I wanted to do next at my company,” she said. “A new benchmark formula for marketing — in which art, science, product, and brand are approached in a more balanced way — has yet to be created by any brand or industry, but everyone is on the precipice. I decided that I wanted a role with the flexibility to test, iterate and learn often – and hopefully to pioneer the new marketing model. Wharton helped me build this perspective and gave me the confidence to share my intent and goals with senior leaders at my company.”
When she returned from her sabbatical, Kerhyl became digital marketing director for the Jordan brand. “This is a new role at the company, and I am responsible for building a team, its digital strategy in North America, and driving Jordan’s multi-billion business and major brand initiatives through all Nike e-commerce platforms.”
She added, “I wouldn’t be in this role if I hadn’t gone through this program. It helped me define my goals and challenge myself to become a future thought leader in my industry. It also opened my mind to new perspectives on marketing. Perspective is everything and it’s critical for success.”
—By Meghan Laska
Posted: February 12, 2020