Dr. Alpana Verma-Alag recaps her Wharton MBA for Executives experience and journey, with special emphasis on Wharton finance programs. Dr. Verma-Alag is a physician turned entrepreneur. She is a 2013 graduate of the program and co-founder and CEO of Up-grade.me (http://up-grade.me), an early stage start-up focused on using big data, and machine learning for solving some of the most perplexing problems in the education field.
Vignettes of sounds, voices, faces, and conversations, from that first day at Wharton San Francisco are still fresh… the excitement and celebration as class 37 met for the first time, still vividly imprinted on all of our minds. There are other images and memories too, of events, and parties, and projects that seemed like they would never end, for this has been an intense and very involved two-year journey for all of us.
From the beaches of Brazil to Beijing, and from Mumbai to Brisbane, the Wharton journey took us to many places — attending global modular courses and being a part of global consulting teams. Traveling to different cultures and working alongside local teams was an immensely rewarding experience. This international and real-world experience was amply augmented by the in-class discussions with amazingly impressive classmates and professors, who are leaders in their fields. My very first foray into the world of finance was through the teachings of the world-renowned Wharton Finance Department … how could I not fall in love with the subject!
The most useful and interesting classes for me were those that helped me transition from being a physician and chief medical officer of a health-care organization to being a part of the management team of a start-up in the genomics area, and from there to making a big leap and founding my own venture. Topmost in that category was the VC and Entrepreneurship class with Prof. Doug Collom and Prof. Raffi Amit, during which my team negotiated term sheets, debated on valuations, and gained some invaluable legal knowledge about start-ups and entrepreneurship.
Another class that created a distinct impression on me for its practical applicability was the marketing class with Prof. David Bell. Founding and growing a company requires a deep understanding of user acquisition and customer life-time value, and Prof. Bell not only went over the theory and his own research on the topic but also the practical implementation through discussions of some hugely successful Wharton start-ups with which he has been associated.
As the time to say goodbye to the beautiful campus and wonderful staff comes close, most of us are embarking on new ventures, jobs, or simply a better and more relaxed lifestyle! I’m looking forward to growing my young venture Up-grade.me into a great company. My company’s goal of helping individuals up-grade their lives by connecting them to the online and offline educational resources that are “best fit” for them will become a reality, not only through the use of some cutting-edge big-data technologies, machine learning, and personalized recommendation engines, but also a deep understanding of our customers and their needs. With Prof. Bell as a part of my start-up team, access to other hugely successful Wharton entrepreneurs, and my friends, advisors, and mentors from the Wharton family, the evolution of my “new start-up” into a “great company” seems certain.
Now with just one more sessions to go before we graduate, class 37 is steeped in nostalgia, our desire to not LT* a course having been replaced with a desire to not LT the celebrations in these last few weeks. Those drives up to the city on class weekends with my car-pool buddies, class room jokes, the Wharton pub, trips to the main campus in Philly, team-assignments, lunch–time talks by eminent speakers, and those yummy breakfast croissants that I am doubling up on in these last few weekends, are irreplaceable and will be missed a lot after graduation (ok, maybe the croissants are not irreplaceable…). The memories and friendships (and free weekends!!) will stay with us forever.
*LT= Placing in the lower tenth percentile of any course- not a good place to be