Wharton executive MBA alumna Andrea (“Andi”) Funk, WG’01, was recently named CEO of metals company Cambridge-Lee Industries in Reading, Penn. We caught up with Andi to learn more about her time at Wharton and what she describes as her “transformational” career journey.
After working as a CPA for several years, I wanted to play a strategic role in building businesses to create value. I wanted to learn and grow my experiences. However, I wasn’t interested in going back to school just to get the letters “MBA” next to my name. With its high caliber of students and professors, Wharton was the right school for me. I knew it would be a larger sacrifice than some other MBA programs because of its rigor, but I also knew that Wharton would really help transform me.
However, I faced a few challenges along the way. In addition to being on the younger side (I was 29) when I applied, I also found out I was expecting my first child. So I started Wharton’s EMBA program in Philadelphia on maternity leave for my son. On top of that, I also ended up changing jobs during the program because my company merged and moved its headquarters.
As for juggling all those balls, that isn’t that unique at Wharton. The students who come here aren’t just competent in their areas, they also are energized by having a lot on their plates. You don’t choose to do a Wharton MBA and work full-time unless you thrive on that. The more you have to manage, the more you get done so your two years at Wharton are a period of immense productivity.
That environment also forges strong bonds among students. I still have deep friendships with classmates even though I graduated over a decade ago. We use life-long email addresses from the School to stay connected, and rarely a month goes by when I don’t meet up with some of my classmates.
After graduation, I stayed in my position as a financial planning and analysis manager until I was promoted to the newly created role of director of business development. One of the things I had developed during my time at Wharton – and have continued to develop — was the expertise to be a change agent, and to have the confidence and curiosity to be able to build something new. The company then created a senior director of manufacturing finance role for me, which was about teambuilding, strategy and alignment. It was my first experience on a highly functional, cross-functional team and we built a lot of value creating a new process.
That company was acquired and relocated so I joined the steel company Carpenter, which created essentially the same job for me that I had at my prior firm. This provided a background in heavy industrial manufacturing and metals, and gave me more experience building processes and metrics to understand performance, productivity and forecasting.
I was then ready for something new so I joined Cambridge-Lee Industries as CFO. This was the first private company I worked for, but it had plenty of complexities with commodity risk and outside auditors. And my responsibilities were broad enough that I was able to get my hands around everything and get exposure to new areas. I also knew that the eventual career path was CEO, as the then-CEO was approaching retirement.
Even though I brought along some extra challenges into Wharton’s EMBA program with my newborn son (I now have three kids) and new job, I’d do it all over again. The Wharton experience was transformational for me and my career. It gave me a capacity to multi-task and prioritize, allowed me to make life-long connections, and provided credibility. This is the first time that I’ve been in the C-suite as a CEO and there is a credibility that comes with a Wharton degree.
It also gave me a valuable set of skills and tactical knowledge that I use every day. Wharton taught me a new way of thinking so that I can make better decisions. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to come to Wharton’s executive MBA program. I couldn’t imagine who I’d be, let alone where I’d be, had I not come to Wharton.
To read more about Andi’s new role as CEO, click here.