With a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in engineering, Joanne Medvitz loved her job in the innovative area of clean tech at PG&E in San Francisco. However, she wanted a better understanding of how business decisions drive technological advances. To fill in the holes of her “patchwork understanding” of business and be able to contribute more both to her role as product manager at the utility company and the startup she co-founded, Pop Outerwear, she decided it was time to look into MBA programs.
Being 28 and having gone to graduate school, she realzed her work experience would be similar to that of a typical full-time MBA student. But after looking at full-time programs on both coasts, she realized they weren’t a fit for her.
“Those students were often still in exploratory mode where I knew I wanted certain things in my future. I thought I might find similar clarity among the students in an executive MBA program. Also, I didn’t want to lose more time out of the workforce. With the clean tech space moving so fast in the Bay Area, I thought it might look totally different if I left and came back,” she explains.
Reaching out to other PG&E employees who had gone through Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco, she saw how excited they were about their experience. “They talked about how good the professors were, the rigor of the curriculum, and how tight-knit their class was. I decided to sit in on a class and immediately felt the camaraderie that you’d expect in a full-time program. It was a fuller experience than I had expected,” she says.
Medvitz applied to the Wharton EMBA program in San Francisco and was accepted as a “Fellows,” which is a category of students who have fewer than eight years of work experience, but are sponsored by their employers and demonstrate outstanding promise for advancement in a managerial career.
Currently a first-year student, she says she has no regrets about her decision. “I sometimes wonder what life might be like in a full-time program and I got a glimpse of that when my class recently spent a weekend at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus. I realized that at this point I don’t need things like career fairs. My classmates and I are all so passionate about helping each other in our careers that we network in a different way. As for being on a big campus, I thought I might miss that, but I realized that we love our own campus community in San Francisco even more.”
While she was a bit nervous about being less experienced than most of her classmates, Medvitz says that everyone has been “amazing. They share their experiences and connections and are so supportive.”
Medvitz described herself as pleasantly “shocked” at the professional diversity in her class. “The breadth of experiences is huge. We have everyone from entrepreneurs at startups and those recently acquired by big businesses to people in more traditional institutions. The range truly represents the West Coast and it’s awesome,” she says.
Medvitz, who was recently promoted to senior product manager, describes her experience so far as “priceless.” She says, “I was prepared to spend my own money for the entire tuition. Having the support and network of such intelligent, ambitious, positive people is invaluable. And I’m finally seeing all of the things that I can do. Not just in building my own abilities, but also what the possibilities are that might be open for me and what I can create for myself. Thanks to Wharton, I’m quickly realizing that they’re limitless.”