A Startup, Wharton West, Travel Abroad, Google, and Other Updates:
First, I’d just like to congratulate my admissions consulting clients from this season who have accepted offers to their target schools. Thus far, 2 of you are headed to Wharton, 2 to INSEAD, one to Duke, and 4 waiting to hear back from one of Wharton (2 more), MIT (1) or Darden (2). I only take a handful of people at a time due to my schedule, and I’m proud of the hard work that all of you put in as we went back and forth over and over to get your resume, essays and apps just right. Also, congrats to everyone who’ll be attending WHARTON next fall. Wharton will be the the experience of a lifetime. Save your money, get some rest, and get ready for an out of this world transformation.
I’ve been telling myself (and other people) that I was going to write this post for several months now. First, I said I would do it after fall semester finals … then it got pushed to after my India trip over the winter break, then to after recruiting, and so on. So here we are, 10 days before spring break (LOL). I hope that I actually get this published by the weekend. I may, I may not. You’ll understand fully when you’re in business school. To say that you’ll be busy is like saying that the Sochi Winter Olympics was a bit inconvenient.
I’m sitting in one of my favorite classes (a shame that class is the only time that I have to blog) and eating a bag of cheetos, my chosen fat guy treat for the week. Why this delicacy, you ask? Well, its because I’m celebrating a phone call that I received about an hour ago. It was an MBA recruiter from Google offering me a spot to intern at their HQ in Mountain View for this summer.
*Tiger Woods Fist Pump*
The FRP (focused recruiting period) or “DIP week” (dedicated interview period) at Wharton took place around the end of January. It was definitely the most intense time here to date, which is hard to believe given the hysteria of times such as pre-term or the first week where tons of problem sets are due at the same time. As an MBA student, you’ll learn to hate problem sets … or cases, depending on your program. Well actually, I hate problem sets AND cases as we do both at Wharton. And its not because I don’t like to learn, because I love to learn. It’s because they eat up a ton of time—especially when several are due in the same week.
I am of the mindset that my time is my most valuable currency. I guard it jealously; and business school beats me to a pulp DAILY in its overt attempt to claim and drain every second for itself (Name that line … ”It’s so overt, it’s covert”). The problem is that being in business school is like trying to chew your food while being force fed twice the volume already in your mouth. Then everything that you do to try and lighten your load becomes replaced by more than what was eliminated. If you clear 5 commitments off your calendar, 7 will come to take their place. If you go through and respond to 75 emails, 100 will spring up where those were. It’s maddening. And I’m not exaggerating. Just ask any MBA student at any top school. This shit is lunacy. And it is true what “they” say. Getting in is only the beginning.
“But I thought you were’t recruiting???”
Well, so here’s the thing about that. For starters, the perspective that I had outside of business school is very different in some ways than what I have now. Before coming to Wharton, I thought that it would be prudent to completely ignore everything that wasn’t entrepreneurial. In truth, I’ve done that to some degree—about 90%, in fact. At the same time, there are a lot of resources here that can assist some of my goals that are not necessarily in that vein themselves. For one, I believe that it is important to experience Silicon Valley’s ecosystem (or a similar one such as New York, Boston or Austin) if you are in the space that I am in.
Even if I end up back in Philly (which I may, as there are some great startups springing up here such as Curalate or RJMetrics), I want to have had that immersive experience. I also wanted to extend my fall tenure at Wharton West with being there over the summer to begin meeting people and networking. Well, all of that costs money. You also need money for your startup so that you can bootstrap for as long as possible without needing to ask for outside funding. That’s where internships can be attractive. I know of another MBA entrepreneur who worked at Goldman Sachs over the summer and pocket 10′s of thousands of dollars that now power his startup.
My decision, however, was more than about just saving money. I wanted to work at a top tech company to get a sense for how they ran things behind the scenes. Operations, managing people, culture, processes, etc. I also wanted to sharpen some skills that I could use in a company of my own. For these reasons, it made sense for me to pursue a summer internship at either a leading (but nimble) tech company (e.g. no Microsofts, IBMs or Oracles but Definitely the Google’s Box’s, DropBox’s LinkedIN’s, Whatsapp’s and Ssquares of the world) or a startup, which I would have pursued had neither Google nor Box worked out. I also felt that by meeting people at these companies I could expand my network by getting to meet, know and work with some of the brightest people in tech.
Now, Wharton does have the Venture Award, where you can get a stipend to stay in Philly and work on your startup over the summer, but the application deadline for that was in mid January during the first week of classes, and we hadn’t even formed our founding team yet, let alone come up with a name or even had a concept at that time. So, an internship became the best option for me to do what needed to be done over the summer to gather some resources that would benefit my company and grow my knowledge and skill base.
Recruiting at Wharton
One thing about a program like Wharton is that the school serves up an ungodly amount of plum opportunities. Last fall, I was receiving multiple offers to come to dinners for McKinsey’s tech practice. I didn’t go. Consulting is notorious for wooing people with non-consulting goals into their summer internship programs with lavish meals and big summer paychecks. If I were at a different time in my life, that would have been a good problem to have. But for who I am and what I want at this juncture, it would have just been a distraction that kept me off task. Wharton is McKinsey’s #1 source of talent, I’ve learned. And I was honored to have been invited to come learn what they are all about.
I opted out of traditional recruiting/FRP/DIP Week for similar reasons. I wanted to stay focused on entrepreneurship and tech, and I wanted to be in the Silicon Valley this summer and no where else. So I put on blinders as my classmates beat the pavement in January and emerged a week or two later with impressive offers from Goldman, Amazon, Microsoft, McKinsey, Black Rock, Bain, BCG, Procter & Gamble and so on. I didn’t even bother to get a suit cleaned. Besides I had decided that I would never again work for a company whose culture demands a suit, and I was resolved to stick to that no matter how attractive some offers might have been.
I knew deep down that I wouldn’t like being there if I had gotten any of those opportunities. Still, BIG congrats to my classmates. You think getting IN to a top school is tough? Imagine what it will be like when you must then compete with those same super bright, high-performance, well spoken special people who made the cut with you to get into an elite program for EVERYTHING from housing to classes to trips—and especially for jobs.
So based on my goals and aspirations, I took a very different recruiting strategy. Rather than running holes in my soles courting a bunch of companies and casting a wide net, I chose to focus on just two companies that I thought I could learn a lot from—Google and Box. I think I half-heartedly threw resumes at LinkedIn and Ebay, but 98% of my effort for recruiting went into landing interviews at these companies. It was a big risk. I could have easily gotten dinged from both. But my hard work and focus paid off. I was able to nab the Google offer and I am waiting to hear back from Box. I couldn’t be more excited about these opportunities and I am thankful for Wharton’s amazing Career Services department—especially the Tech coordinator Sam Jones. I also am appreciative to one of my Wharton classmates–a Google alum who actually tapped into her personal network to get me the interview at Box. Yeah, I’ll be treating her to some Ruth’s Cris soon.
Time … or the lack thereof
I hardly have time to do anything anymore. I don’t even have the time to be a great student. I’ll repeat that. I am so freakin’ busy at business school that I do not even have the time to be a great student. Why? Because I’m way too busy (and having too much damn fun) making an impact in things that matter. Building a company, getting a great internship, starting new clubs and organizations, working on conference committees, planning data treks, planning panel discussions, enjoying the rugby club, building relationships with amazing classmates, traveling, and so on. Here are a few bullet points of what I’ve been up to.
Wharton India Global Immersion Program (GIP)
Over the winter break, I took a trip with 30+ other Whartonites to India for the 2013 India Global Immersion Program, a trip that allows you to get in a bit of travel and sight seeing while also learning quite a bit about the culture, political landscape and economics of an emerging market. The current GIP destinations are India, The Middle East (includes Instanbul, Tel Aviv, and a few other places), China and South America.
As a history buff, this trip was an overload of UNESCO sites, historical landmarks, and a cultural experience like no other. I wrote an entire blog post about it in Wharton’s online student diaries. There were many highlights, but one huge one was on New Years.
You see, Wharton’s culture is one of taking initiative. Unlike a lot of schools, students run practically everything here except for class instruction. While everything is competitive to get (for instance, tickets to popular events typically sell out in MINUTES, not days or hours), there is always a workaround. And getting “dinged” WITHIN Wharton (not getting selected for a program, a trip, a class or what have you. Everyone experiences it at some point) will quickly teach you how to find those workarounds to get what you want. This is done by design, and employers often talk about how they can differentiate a Wharton grad from those from other top programs by our hustle alone. I’ve heard the same about Tuck grads, but I digress.
With that spirit, about 60 or so people who did not make the cut for the GIP got together and organized 2 (or 3) separate student-led shadow treks. They basically went everywhere we went without having to visit companies, they didn’t have to attend 5 classes prior to going and they don’t have a paper due right now like I do. Then there were a handful of people from Wharton who are just from there (well, actually a ton) who were visiting their families. At any rate, imagine 100 people from Wharton all converging on one venue in Mumbai, India for a slamming New Years party. It has apparently become an annual tradition in recent years; and it was fantastic. There were also similar Wharton NYE parties happening all over the world.
After leaving Mumbai, we visited Bangalore, Delhi, and Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Then a classmate and I broke away from the group and rode to Jaipur to ride elephants and visit an amazing Hindi fort. We also got to really see the power of how global Wharton’s network really is. Many of the companies that we visited had been founded by Wharton alums or had Wharton alums in senior management roles. The Delhi chapter of Wharton grads threw a soiree for us the nights on our first night in their city. Some of my more diligent classmates also planned excursions on long layovers, where classmates from Dubai or London (depending on whether they flew out of JFK or Philly or flew Emirates or Qatar) toured them around and allowed them to have some great experiences in their home cities.
Sadly, I’m still out of commission for the rugby field. In fact, I have an MRI scheduled this Thursday for a nagging groin issue that I’ve had ever since our tournament last fall. It is not debilitating from day to day but has just not healed the way I think it should have, so I’m having some imaging done to make sure its not a sports hernia.
It is a mild injury though, so I should be thankful for that. Apparently its the most common sports injury for rugby and football players as well as many runners. I just hate not being able to play; but I’ve continued to contribute to the Hogs (short for Wharthogs) in other ways. Recently, I was elected to head up marketing for the team and spent the first two weeks of this semester managing projects for our new website and promo video.
I’m also proud of a few recent wins that the team has had. After an up and down fall season, the Hogs came out the gates screaming for the Vegas 7′s tournament earlier this month and put the smackdown on both Haas and Stanford (17-0). The Stanford victory was particularly sweet since we had taken a tough loss at their hands during their tourney last fall. Either way, both teams bring a great group of guys to the field. In fact, I’ve been both surprised and refreshed by the sense of camaraderie that exists between the rugby teams from all of the top schools. If you’re a guy who’s headed to Wharton this fall, make sure to sign up for the Hoglet List so that we can keep you abreast of our activities both during Round 2 Welcome Weekend and in the fall when you get to campus.
Building a Startup at Wharton
One thing that is taking up most of my time these days is the startup that I am working on with 3 other guys from Penn. I came to Wharton having already met one of my co-founders, a Silicon Valley guy who had gone to Stanford undergrad and had worked in venture capital. He used to be one of my blog readers last year and we were deciding at around this time last year that we would come to Wharton and build a company together.
We met our other 2 co-founders, a Penn undergraduate computer science major and a 2nd year Wharton MBA student from Australia, in our Web Lean Launch Pad Class. It’s a replica of Steve Blank’s course that he originally taught at Berkeley that is now being modeled at Penn and other schools. This class really gives me a chance to build the kinds of down-and-dirty idea-to-fruition skills that I wanted to get out of this experience. It is incredibly time consuming and incredibly rewarding at the same time. Thus far, we are just barely on the verge of launching our MVP; however, please feel free to like us on Facebook. Our company is targeted at college students (both grad and undergrad) and we hope to bring some value to your MBA experience, wherever you end up in this journey.
One of my irritations about business school is that there is way too much talking about how to build a business and not enough actual building. Many MBA students have never had the chance to build anything in their lives. In fact, many have never even been held accountable to end results. They’ve had cerebral, consultative jobs where all they’ve had to do is give their opinion, sound smart and then walk out of the door while someone else had to be worried about actually implementing it. BOOO. That is why so many people become frustrated with senior managers. Many of them have only been analysts and consultants. They get their MBAs and then create policies and process that are totally out of touch with what front line workers go through.
Having only had that perspective is limiting for an MBA. And its downright damaging to any MBA who aspires to entrepreneurship. Founders need to know how to build shit. They need to know how to get their hands dirty, be accountable for results, screw up, collect data, make changes, iterate, and repeat. This Lean Launchpad class forces you to do just that, and I love it. It has been my favorite class thus far.
What makes the class even more valuable is that each of the 4 teams (each with 4 or 5 members) in the class (we have 15 engineers, 3 MBAs, and 2 people from other schools at Penn) gets a mentor who has already “been there and done that”. Our mentor is a co-founder and C-level executive of Curalate. A hot and successful Philly-based start-up that was founded by a Wharton alum and a Harvard college alum. The mixture of getting to “get out of the building” and take action each week along with a proven and successful mentor to coach us along makes this one class worth a good portion of the tuition that I am paying to be here. Bravo to UPenn for instituting this class.
Attending a semester in San Francisco (SSF) at Wharton West
So the icing on the cake in my life right now is that I’ve been selected (along with 64 of my classmates) to attend Wharton’s Semester in San Francisco at Wharton West for the fall. This is full circle for me as I interviewed at Wharton West with then Director of Admissions Ankur Kumar with a group of 6 and half of us are Wharton classmates 15 months later.
Wharton’s bicoastal footprint (and the resultant strong networks on both coasts) was one of the primary reasons why I chose to come here over MIT and Booth last year around this time. Only about 2 business schools can really say that they have strong, dominant brands on both coasts. That was important to me since I knew even before coming here that i wanted the option to be able to network and grab the best opportunities on either coast. In fact, I made (and blogged about) that decision almost a year ago today…WOW. To even think of all that has transpired in my favor over the past 12 months as a result of that decision.
Anyways, this program has become more and more popular at Wharton and it received double the applications this year than it did during the 2 years of the pilot. I’d love to see the school start sending 2 cohorts per year instead of just one. There would still be over 700 folks back in Philly as not to disrupt the main campus Wharton experience if they did that. This surge in Wharton West interest just speaks to the huge shift that the school has made in recent years to diversity beyond finance into areas such as tech, healthcare, data & analytics (my 2nd pet area along with tech/e-commerce) and international business. There is even a rapidly growing social enterprise cohort that seems to gain steam with every class. Google actually has been recruiting more interns from Wharton and HBS than anywhere else for the past few years. I believe that the schools have flip-flopped by a margin of 1 intern for having the largest group during the summers of 2012 and 2013.
SSF though, was a big part of Wharton’s appeal to me personally. Apparently, about 20% of my classmates felt the same way, since they also applied for the Semester in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to spending 6 or 7 months of 2014 100% immersed in Silicon Valley culture. While 1st semester was rough in terms of getting through my core classes, Wharton has truly shown me the power and value of its brand, network and education with the great opportunities that I have been offered since sending in that deposit nearly a year ago today.
About 2 1/2 year’s ago (late September of 2011), I submitted a 4-page letter of resignation to a company where I had been underutilized for years and a culture that I absolutely hated. Fast forward through my next job that I really enjoyed and now to Wharton, where I am building a start-up with a great team of co-founders and now have a summer offer to contribute to the world’s most valuable brand, and I have Wharton to thank for much of it.
I have never regretted my decision to attend for even one second, and I look forward to joining another 1060 (840 MBAs, 110 EMBAs on either coast) or so of you into the Wharton family as our MBA and E-MBA classes of 2016. Now, back to my finance problem set, start-up “to-do” list, marketing experiments homework and applied statistical models in marketing project. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.