First-year San Francisco EMBA student Erin Roddy, Vice President and Controller at Dalton Investments LLC, shares some details of her experience in applying to the MBA Program for Executives.
My application journey broke down into two parts: determining the value of an MBA and the application process.
Part 1: Determining the Value of an MBA
I started with the question ‘why do I need an MBA?’ Any MBA program is a time commitment as much as, if not more than, it is a financial one, and I wanted to be certain the necessity warranted the investment. Having pursued and earned the CPA and CFA designations, I had the technical expertise to manage a team. An MBA presented the opportunity to leverage my technical knowledge and learn how to lead a team.
In selecting an MBA program format – full-time, executive, or part-time – I wanted an undiluted transformative experience that would allow me to become something bigger. I wanted to not only read lessons or attend lectures on human capital but also to apply them in real time. Naturally I also wanted to expand my network and befriend like-minded, diverse, ambitious, already successful professionals at the top of their fields. Finally, if possible, I wanted to keep my current position, which offered a two-year promotion to CFO. At that point in the process, I concluded that the executive MBA fit the bill.
I needed only to google ‘EMBA’ to recognize that Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives was the gold standard. It was the only program that had selective admissions and academic rigor equal to the full-time program. Additionally, the program had a residency requirement that demonstrated the school’s commitment to creating a community feeling. In summary, it seemed Wharton was the only school fully committed to their executive MBA arm, not watering it down or trying to distance it from the full-time program. In the end, I only considered applying to Wharton.
Once I had locked in my target school, I began to evaluate financing. In preparation for my annual compensation review, I prepared a presentation for my management committee to discuss sponsorship opportunities. This presentation addressed supplementing my in-house training and work experience with the skills necessary for senior management promotion. Moreover, given that my firm does not just sell a performance track record, but also the experience and professional qualifications of their staff, the prospects of obtaining a fully accredited Wharton MBA degree added to my credibility, which was valuable to them.
Part 2: The Application Process
I started my application process with the essays. This part of the process was both the most time intensive and valuable. I had to summarize concrete career objectives and identify how, in terms of actionable items, I was going to make changes to manage life, work, and school. In doing so I had to develop, and sell, a personal brand that differentiated me from all other applicants. The material I prepared in writing my essays armed me with the self-awareness I brought to my interview, as well as to my first day of the program. Knowing what I could contribute to my learning team and what I wanted to learn from them set me up for success.
As for the GMAT, the truth of the matter is that I did not allow nearly enough time to prepare for the GMAT and ended up taking the exam the week of my interview while I was finishing my essays. The time pressure caused unnecessary stress during at which I would have been excited about this new adventure. My recommendation is start earlier than you think you should and allocate separate time to the GMAT and essays in order to allow for optimal focus on each.
The last part of my application journey, the interview, was by far the most enjoyable. I met with Bernadette Birt who kept the interview very conversational. She began by saying that the admissions team’s goal is to develop lifelong relationships with the students and help them determine what is best for them and their careers. We discussed broadly how small learning teams were created and what my strengths and weaknesses were in a team environment. By pure chance, after my interview, I sat at the same lunch table as a colleague I had worked with a couple years back who was enrolled in the class of 2015. Once classes were over for the day, we met up for a drink at the Palamino to discuss the Wharton experience, and I left campus that evening even more certain that Wharton was the right choice for me.