From College Sports to the FBI: EMBA Alumna Takes Career in New Direction

Since graduating from Wharton | San Francisco’s EMBA program in 2012, Wendy Guthrie has transformed her career. After working for nearly 20 years in the field of college athletics — most recently as commissioner of the Northwest Conference in Seattle – she’s now a special advisor at the Federal Bureau of Investigations in Washington, D.C. We recently caught up with her about the impact Wharton has made on her career. Here’s what she said:

I came to Wharton’s executive MBA program to learn how to enhance the way we conducted business in college athletics. I also wanted to reinvent myself, and possibly my career trajectory. I knew that not just any MBA would be helpful. It had to be from a top program so it would set me apart. After attending the graduation of a good friend at Wharton | San Francisco in 2009, I set my sights on Wharton’s EMBA program. One of the greatest selling points was that it is a true MBA program structured for executives rather than a ‘watered down’ approach to the degree.

During the program, I discovered a new interest: entrepreneurship. I became fascinated with it and ended up concentrating in that area. I loved the idea of structured brainstorming and envisioned multiple innovative ideas. I even developed a business plan, which I still have in my back pocket.

I also participated in the Global Consulting Practicum (GCP), which was a very unique opportunity to partner with MBAs from another country.  We worked on a project that made recommendations on how to enhance a financial institution’s strategic alignment to its corporate social responsibility initiative. I hadn’t travelled internationally before I came to Wharton, but through the GCP and our International Trip, I went to both Brazil and Israel. Those experiences really helped broaden my perspective.

The study team approach provided great support and learning. I commuted from Seattle with six other students, and we developed a bond and an additional support system. I was surprised by the collaborative and supportive environment within the class. We still continue to support each other and I don’t see that changing.

At the end of our first year, a classmate sent me the job description for the position of special advisor at the FBI. I’ve always been fascinated by that world, and I liked the aspect of continuing to work for a mission-driven organization. The opportunity was too ideal to pass up so I moved to Washington, D.C.

There is a lot of opportunity at the FBI to make change and help the organization become more effective and efficient. As a special advisor, I’m essentially an internal consultant and work on projects like developing HR strategies, organizational design and restructuring, cultural change and process re-engineering. Our goal is to reduce administrative burden, enhance our technical proficiencies, and increase the business acumen of the Bureau to better serve the operational side of the house. Our primary mission will always be to ‘protect and defend’ and in a small way I hope I can contribute to and support those in the field who are identifying and disrupting threats on a daily basis.

Since I was in a new city, I decided to try something new and signed up for a vocal jazz workshop. On the final week of the workshop, we performed at a historic blues club, Blues Alley, in Georgetown. It was nerve wracking, but I managed to stay upright for three songs. It ended up being so much fun that I just signed up for another workshop and am now looking for the next adventure.

Wharton definitely started me out on a transformational process. I wouldn’t have been qualified – or even heard about – my current role if I hadn’t gone through that program. You’re required to stretch yourself in so many ways because the bar is set very high by the professors as well as your peers.

Since graduating, I’ve enjoyed staying connected to Wharton. I’ve attended several admitted student receptions, am talking to folks at the new Public Policy Initiative about how they might be able to engage with the FBI, and participate in continuing education through Webinars. Thankfully, there are a lot of fantastic opportunities for alumni to stay involved in the Wharton community.

Wendy Guthrie, WG'12, and classmates at the Wharton | San Francisco prom.
Wendy Guthrie, WG’12, and classmates at the Wharton | San Francisco prom
Wendy Guthrie, WG'12, and classmates.
Wendy Guthrie, WG’12, and classmates