A civil engineer by training, Nichole Jordan wanted to gain more business knowledge in order to further her management career at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). However, with several promotions under her belt, she didn’t want to take two years off to pursue a full-time MBA — not to mention she had a mortgage to pay.
Based in San Francisco, she was particularly interested in the MBA for Executives Program at Wharton | San Francisco, but she faced two significant challenges. The first was that no other PG&E employee had ever attended Wharton’s West Coast program so she was in new territory asking for every other Friday off to attend classes. The second hurdle was that there was no sponsorship program in place yet at her company.
Not one to shy away from challenges, Jordan not only approached her boss about needing a modified schedule for two years, but she also took it upon herself to help create a fellowship program for employees interested in pursuing their executive MBA degrees at top schools in the region.
“Overall, the company was very supportive of my attending Wharton’s EMBA program and very receptive to the idea of a fellowship program, which was officially created during my second year at Wharton,” she says.
Rand Rosenberg, who is a senior vice president of strategy and development for PG&E Corporation and oversees the fellowship program, says, “To start a program like that required a herculean effort at a big corporation like ours and it took a high performer like Nichole to enable this to happen. An appealing aspect of this fellowship program is that we already know who these participating employees are and, more importantly, they know us and what they are getting into. That is a huge benefit. I’d like to see us do more fellowships as time goes by.”
The company’s expectation, he notes, is that sponsoring employees will help develop senior leaders. “The skills and insights that they gain through attending the Wharton program have direct applicability to running and leading our business.”
Jordan, who graduated from Wharton in 2008, says that the fellowship program reflects how committed the company is to leadership development and continuous education. “’I’ve been promoted three times since I began the MBA for Executives program at Wharton and now am director of contact center operations where I oversee all four of our contact centers in California.
”Tanya Moniz-Witten, who is currently in her second year at Wharton | San Francisco and sponsored by PG&E through the fellowship program, credits Jordan with paving the way for other employees. “The company was very supportive. They view the fellowship as an investment in human capital and a way to strengthen and build internal leadership,” she says.
As for why she wanted to attend Wharton, she explains that she wanted a program that would work for her schedule, but also maintain the rigor of a full-time MBA program. And she wanted classmates with similar amounts of work experience to enable more knowledge sharing. She says, “Sitting in on a class, I loved the engagement of the students and the deep level of detail they went into as well as the applicability of the curriculum to what was going on in the world.”
Looking back, she says the Wharton Executive MBA program has been an “amazing” experience. “I can bring concepts from my finance classes into discussions with my team or our CFO because my knowledge base is so much stronger now. My questions are more insightful and can help the company with business decisions.”
She adds, “I am invested in this company and hopefully will retire here, so I strive to make the most of my career at PG&E. I hope to use my Wharton experience to help me continue my career advancement and eventually become a senior leader at PG&E.”