I earned my undergraduate degree from Wharton in 2003 and I’m often asked why I decided to come back for an MBA. While the skill sets I developed in college were very strong, I felt like there was more I could learn, as well refine further, by going back to school.
I also wanted to reinvigorate my network of connections. I wanted to come back to Wharton because of its reputation as a top business school. I was already aware of Wharton’s stellar pedigree and powerful network, and felt it would be even more valuable at this particular stage of my career.
Adjusting to the Environment
It’s surreal to be in your mid-30s and able to immerse yourself in an academic, highly social environment every other week. This new world blends with your former world. You don’t just leave your family on class weekends and have a separate life. Your family becomes part of the Wharton program too because it’s such a part of your daily life. Your spouse becomes friends with your classmates and their partners. You meet each other’s kids. It’s rare to be at this stage in life and be able to meet so many interesting and diverse people – many will become close friends for life.
Life still goes on while you’re in the Wharton EMBA Program. Over the last year, I got married and our son was born. On top of that, I was balancing a substantial work commitment and a desire to do well academically. Finding balance can be daunting and overwhelming. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to become better organized, better at time management, and a better communicator.
The first semester or two can be like taking an arctic plunge because it’s about survival. But over time, you understand that you can survive and even succeed. As you develop those organization, time management, and communication skills, you start to find balance. When you have a huge work or family commitment, you learn to tell your learning team and then lean on them for extra support. Then you make sure to go above and beyond in the next assignment.
Making It Work with Fatherhood
We have a four-month old son, which adds an extra challenge to being in this program – but everyone has some sort of extra challenge they are managing. There are a lot of parents in this program and they are a great sounding board and support system. Those of us with babies often compare notes on parenting issues. I joke that we’re like a self-help group!
If you do have kids, it’s important to have a support system in place. My wife is a teacher and was able to take a year off work. Her support has been crucial and she completely understands when I have to allocate time away from the family towards EMBA or professional obligations.
Talking to Employers
Even if you know financial sponsorship isn’t an option at your organization, you still need to get permission from your employer to take the time off required for the program. You’ll need every other Friday off as well as certain weeks throughout the two years. You can find the two-year class calendar for both coasts on the program’s website. Unless your company frequently sends students to Wharton’s EMBA program and has a set structure in place, this means having a discussion about expectations.
A big part of that conversation is about how you’ll get your work done and your accessibility on the Fridays that you’re in school. While it’s ideal to be able to unplug and focus solely on school, many employers want to know that they will still be able to reach you. As for getting your work done, you may need to go above and beyond your normal work commitment on days you are in the office to compensate for the time you’ll be away. Whatever plan you come up with, make sure the expectations are clear for you and your employer.
It’s also helpful to include in the discussion how your participation in this program will benefit your employer. Wharton’s EMBA helps develop skill sets and acumen that should provide immediate value to the overall organization. They are allowing you time away from the office so make sure they know the benefit of this program for the company.
On Global Learning
A highlight of the program so far was a one-week Global Modular Course (GMC) in the United Arab Emirates. The optional course took a group of students from the full-time MBA program, the East and West Coast EMBA programs, and the undergraduate program to Dubai and Abu Dhabi where we met with business and government leaders to do a deep dive into finance and real estate issues in that region.
There were several GMCs running in January and I chose the UAE one because I wanted to learn about finance and real estate issues in a region that is very different from the U.S. I also wanted to expand my network and meet more students from the different programs at Wharton. And it was a great opportunity to see academic theories in operation in the real world.
Posted: April 4, 2016