Wharton MBA Exec Alumnus Talks about Commuting to School from Moscow

Igor Taber never thought too much about what his commute would be like to Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program in San Francisco. After all, his assignment for Intel Corp. in Moscow was scheduled to end soon after school began and he’d be living back in the Bay Area. But two months into the program, that all changed when he took a new job as investment director at Intel Capital and moved back to Moscow.

Having graduated this past May, we asked Igor to share his thoughts on what it was like commuting from Russia every other weekend. Here’s what he had to say:

“One of the main reasons I wanted to pursue an MBA was to move from a business development role into VC and private equity so when I was offered the job of investment director — working with VC and private equity type of investments in Russia — I didn’t want to turn it down.

Taking the job meant transferring to Wharton’s Philadelphia campus in order to shorten the commute and even then I was facing a 16-hour commute — on a good day without any snow or volcano delays. I actually did consider deferring school since my wife and I thought it would be a little crazy to do that commute for two years. On the other hand, I didn’t want to give up something I had already started and I really wanted to earn my MBA from Wharton.

So I took the job and stayed in school. My typical schedule involved catching a flight from Moscow on Thursday morning with a connection somewhere in Europe or Washington, DC. I’d arrive in Philadelphia around 5:00 p.m. that same Thursday because of the time difference. Going back, I’d leave Saturday night after classes and get home by Sunday evening.

I joked with my classmates that having so much down time to study on an airplane might give me an unfair advantage, but I learned that you can’t spend an entire flight studying. Instead, I balanced out studying with sleeping and unwinding by watching movies.

As for my study group, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me to be in Russia because we did so much work online and through conference calls. Most people work in global organizations and have colleagues in various parts of the world and in different time zones so it wasn’t that novel of a situation to anyone.

A bigger challenge, aside from being gone from the office so much, was being away from my wife. The closer I got to graduation, the harder it was to get on that plane because the finish line was so near and the commute was so long. 

Another challenge was jetlag. Getting together with classmates on Friday evenings is just as big a part of the program as projects and classes, but unfortunately Friday night was when jet lag would usually hit.  Sometimes, I forced my way through it, but other times I simply went to bed.

However, looking back, it was all worthwhile.  I wouldn’t have done that commute for your average MBA program, but given all the benefits of Wharton and its international reputation, it was worth it. I’ve gained an ability to ask critical questions and look at things from a different perspective, which are important for a VC. Add to that the Wharton network not only around the world, but here in Moscow as well, and the benefits are huge.

And I gained quite a few frequent flier miles. A running joke with my classmates was that by the time I graduated, I had flown so many miles that I could have gone to the moon and back!”

Thanks to Igor for sharing his experience. We hope he uses some of those frequent flier miles to come back and visit us soon!