Keith Shea thought about getting an MBA for several years, but the timing just wasn’t right. First, he didn’t want to leave his career at Intel to take two years off for an MBA program. Then he was offered an exciting assignment in Europe, which took him abroad for three years.
However, while he was in Europe, he started to think about his academic options and decided that an executive MBA program would be a great fit. “I looked at a number of programs in the U.S. and Europe – travel wasn’t a concern because I would have commuted to the right program – and Wharton was head and shoulders above the others based on academic rigor and the opportunity to be part of a tight-knit class,” says Shea, who graduated from Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program in San Francisco in 2009 with full sponsorship from Intel.
As for the level of academic rigor, he says, “I wanted the challenge and I got the challenge. At the time, you question why they push you so hard, but after you graduate you are really glad they did. To compare it to other programs I considered, if you explain to others the level of detail you go into — like the math on some of the game theory equations – they look at you in amazement because they’ve never gone to that level of comprehension.”
Shea, an alliance manager, notes that an unexpected highlight of the program was when he and his fellow classmates from Intel got a chance to sit down with senior executives such as cofounder Gordon Moore, retired CEO and chairman Craig Barrett, and board member David Pottruck for discussions about leadership management.
One of those fellow classmates from Intel was Aneet Chopra, who also sought out the Wharton|San Francisco EMBA program for its rigorous curriculum. “Let’s not mince words. It was extremely challenging both in terms of the classes and the need to balance everything,” he says, noting that his daughter was born during the program. “It took a month or two, but after getting over that initial hump you manage the demands on your time better and can really apply what you are learning in your job.”
For example, during the program he needed to help drive a hotly debated new product feature through its product lifecycle and ultimately deliver the feature. “To help me do that, I relied on marketing concepts I was learning in class. It was an ‘Aha’ moment for me about the value of the program and why I went to Wharton,” he recalls.
Chopra, who has since been promoted to technical assistant to the general manager of the Client Components Group at Intel, says that he also learned a great deal from his classmates. “The soft skills we learned serve as powerful ammunition to prepare you for your day to day job and even your personal life. Every day, I think of a situation in the classroom or a comment someone made in class that is applicable to a current situation.”
He adds, “Being part of the Wharton community will serve me a long way. We are grounded in good business knowledge learned from the best professors, but I will carry with me all through my life the bond with our fellow students and the approachability of the alumni network. Any time I need to tap into that, I can, and that is an invaluable asset.”
Shea agrees that the faculty and students in the program are a great resource. “I made friends for life and the ability to connect with such intelligent individuals and be able to ping them on certain issues I’m curious about is such an incredible option that I now have,” he says.