When first-year Wharton EMBA student Frank Edwards, a group manager of IT Infrastructure at PepsiCo in Dallas, heard about the workshop on the Development of Web-based Services (OPIM 654) offered at Wharton | San Francisco he knew it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. Not only would the workshop apply management science to a creative topic like innovation, but it also would provide a chance to interact with first- and second-year Wharton EMBA students from both the East and West Coast programs as well as full-time Wharton MBA students.
The intense four-day workshop, led by Prof. Karl Ulrich, was structured as a tournament in which all students submitted ideas for online products or services that were whittled down by votes each day until six finalists remained. Edwards’ idea for Appmyself.com, a site which creates custom mobile applications, not only made it to the final round, but Edwards and several Wharton Executive MBA students from both coasts are now developing a business plan around the idea.
“The workshop showed how there are a lot of really good ideas out there and after just some small tuning and development, you can make great improvements within a couple of days in terms of understanding the customers’ needs and what your product can and should do,” he says. “The amount of opportunities that exist that are within reach is somewhat surprising.”
Edwards, who attends Wharton’s EMBA program in Philadelphia, says he also was pleasantly surprised by how much he got out of interacting with such a diversity of Wharton Executive MBA and full-time MBA students. “It was a chance to hear their perspectives and see the differences and similarities between our classes. And it was nice to validate all that you hear about how the executive program is indeed the same as the full-time program. You see that we really mirror the work that they do.”
As for the Wharton | San Francisco facility, Edwards was “amazed” by how similar the East and West Coast classrooms are. “Being from Texas, I could have applied to the Wharton program on either coast because they are equidistant to me. At the workshop, I saw that it really is the same experience in San Francisco as in Philadelphia in terms of the same professors and classrooms even down to the details like the same lights and ceiling tiles! The learning experience was very consistent, and I’m now planning to do a semester at Wharton | San Francisco to broaden my network,” he says.
Second-year Wharton EMBA student, Christina Todasco, who attends the program at Wharton|San Francisco and is a finance director at Johnson & Johnson in San Jose, agrees that the opportunity to interact with so many other types of students was a highlight of the workshop. “My team in the workshop was well balanced with folks from every single class and that made it really enjoyable because we learned a lot about their experiences. We’ve all been staying in touch,” she says.
Todasco, who signed up for the workshop to try something “really different,” adds that she learned a lot about the importance of coming up with a lot of ideas. “If it’s just you and two other people trying to come up with the next big thing, you are limited to the purview of just three people. So you need to start with as many ideas as possible and then vote to whittle them down, getting as much feedback along the way as possible. You may think you have an awesome idea, but when no one votes for your idea, it may not actually have been that awesome.”
Emilio Maldonado, a first-year EMBA student at Wharton | San Francisco and manager of software development at Cisco Systems in San Jose, says that he learned a lot about the importance of feedback as well. “Instead of jumping in and defining the product features, you need to step back and refine the thought process and get more input in order to get to something more refined with a better chance of success,” he says.
Second-year East Coast Executive MBA student Tanya Andrien, who is a director at Duff & Phelps in Austin, says that the workshop exceeded her expectations. “Many of our classes are theoretical, but this was all about practical information you would use in starting and running a business. Prof. Karl Ulrich has a lot of experience running businesses and was really frank about successes and failures,” she says. “There were a lot of things I learned in the workshop that I wish I had known when I was working in a start-up. It was fascinating!”