How Nikhil Madan, WG’17, leveraged his Wharton education and degree to transition from an enterprise software role into portfolio development at his company.

A common reason why students come to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives is to learn how to make a bigger impact professionally. While this might mean moving to a new industry or function, Director of Executive Career Coaching Steve Hernandez advises students not to ignore possibilities within their own organization.

That was great advice for Nikhil Madan, WG’17, who leveraged his Wharton education and degree to transition from an enterprise software sales role into portfolio development at his company, Siemens.

Nikhil came to Wharton to explore his areas of interest — strategy and corporate development — and fill in knowledge gaps. As for choosing Wharton’s EMBA program in San Francisco, he said, “In Silicon Valley, there are only a few MBA programs for working executives, but none of them have the brand and global recognition of Wharton.”

The Resources He Used

During the program, Nikhil utilized many different resources to refine and achieve his career goal. These are the six that had the most impact for him:

1. Electives

After completing the core business courses, he took advantage of the large offering of electives in his second year to do deep dives into corporate development and strategy. A few that stood out for Nikhil included:

  • Corporate Valuation with Prof. David Wessels and Advanced Corporate Valuation with Prof. Bilge Yilmaz: “Corporate valuation is a mix of art and science. The art is understanding the different levers of growth available to an organization in a particular sector, resource allocation and making sensible assumptions as different assumptions can lead to vastly different outcomes. The science part of the process is developing the financial models and running the numbers.”
  • Mergers & Acquisitions with Prof. Harbir Singh and Prof. Saikat Chaudhuri: “This class focused on the strategic and operational aspects of transactions, and the various modes of corporate development employed by managers to drive change and growth. It introduced best practices for due-diligence, decision making — when to ally and when to acquire — and post deal integration.”
  • Pricing Strategy with Prof. Jagmohan Raju: “When we look at acquisition targets, we look at current revenue stream and the impact of its pricing decisions on the top line. Post-acquisition, you often make changes to align with cost and revenue synergy targets identified in the due-diligence phase. This class was very helpful, as it focused on optimum pricing strategies and using data to come up with best pricing for acquired products.”

Other helpful electives included Strategy and Competitive Advantage with Prof. Nicolaj Siggelkow and Technology Strategy with Prof. Rahul Kapoor.

2. Executive Coaching

Through Executive Career Coaching (ECC), Nikhil worked with Steve Hernandez to refine his job search strategy and align it with his long-term career goals. “EMBA students come to the program with a lot of work experience, so Steve helps us understand how we can build on those experiences and not get distracted by shiny objects,” Nikhil said.

It’s not uncommon for EMBA students to have certain professions in mind when they come to the program, and Steve coaches them on how easy or difficult it would be to make that transition and to consider all the options. “He encouraged me to talk to alumni as well as investigate opportunities in my own organization to achieve my goals.” Nikhil said.

3. Career Conversations

Nikhil attended the annual Career Conversations event hosted by ECC that brings EMBA alumni from different industries back to campus for a day to talk one-on-one to students about their career goals.

“They provided candid feedback on what I needed to do to fill in the experience gaps as well as helped me connect the dots of my experience to tell a coherent story about why I would be a good fit for certain positions,” he said.

4. Workshops

Nikhil attended several workshops during his time at Wharton on topics like refining his professional brand and improving his LinkedIn profile and resume. “The ECC takes a holistic approach on how to position yourself to achieve your long-term career goals,” he said.

5. Alumni Network

Through Executive Career Coaching, Nikhil contacted alumni for informational discussions about strategy and corporate development.

“I cast a wide net and talked to alumni in different industries and functions,” he said. “I also reached out to executives within my own organization to understand their experience and career trajectories. Through those conversations, I solidified my interest in corporate development.”

6. Classmates

Several of Nikhil’s classmates worked in his areas of interest. “They gave me the inside track on what a day in the life is like for a corporate development executive and the challenges they face,” he said.

Through these conversations and research, Nikhil saw two options for making a transition: switch industries or switch functions. “I was already in the industry I wanted to be in, so my focus was on switching functions from sales to corporate development,” he said, noting that his company was in the process of being acquired by Siemens during his second year in school. “That helped put things into perspective as to how I could be a transformational agent during and after the acquisition”

Making the Move to Corporate Strategy

In his final term, Nikhil began “socializing” the idea of moving into corporate development with senior management. He had conversations with people both at his current company and the larger Siemens organization. Last fall, he joined the combined entity in its corporate development group as a senior manager of portfolio development.

“I’m responsible for driving the inorganic growth strategy for the Digital Factory business unit at Siemens. The role requires me to have an understanding of the macro-economic trends and how they impact the demand for electronics and enterprise software. I analyze the relevant market segments and their respective growth rates, map our solutions to those segments, identify product gaps and then create a strategy to fill those product gaps in order to solve critical business problems of our customers and partner with them to bring innovate products to the market” he said.

“Filling product gaps requires a thorough sector analysis of the competitive landscape and identifying companies that have a track record of developing innovative products for that segment. I conduct due diligence and use frameworks learned at Wharton to come up with a Make vs. Buy vs. Partner vs. Invest strategy,” explained Nikhil, who also helps with negotiations and the integration of new companies into the portfolio.

“Wharton gave me the confidence and knowledge to take on this role. Upwards of 80 to 90 percent of what I do in this position was learned at Wharton. It’s important to understand how businesses create and deliver value, which is at the core of this program.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: April 3, 2018

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