Learning How to “Dream Big” – Classmates Enter Nonprofit World with Digital Network Group

Despite having attended the University of Massachusetts at the same time, Jim Smith III and Vikrant (Vik) Kothari never met.  What finally connected these entrepreneurs was the Wharton EMBA program. Smith and Kothari — who both hold graduate degrees in engineering — credit their classes at Wharton, as well as their biweekly train commute to Wharton’s Philadelphia campus, with bringing them together.

Smith and Kothari graduated from Wharton in 2007 and now run Digital Network Group (www.digitalnetworkgroup.net). Smith, who is senior partner, recalls that shortly before starting the Wharton EMBA program, he left his position at CGI as partner and executive consultant and began consulting on his own to crystallize his business plans. The result was his launch in 2005 of the Digital Network Group. “I wanted to bring a solution to the market to increase the supply of talent for corporations and develop students by bringing them through a pipeline that leveraged my technical skill-set, familiarity with issues in urban areas as well as apply my new market understanding and skills that I was acquiring at Wharton.”

He says that his motivation for the Wharton EMBA program was to transform himself. “Having a significant role in a large corporation didn’t fulfill my professional ambitions. I saw the program as an investment that would allow me to accomplish something greater, which was to have my own venture. This group embodies business as a force for good. Our priority is to create economic value for ourselves and our customers, and one of the ways we do that is by solving social problems,” says Smith.

Kothari, who left Computer Sciences Corp. and is vice president at Digital Network Group, agrees that the Wharton program was a transformative experience. “I apply everything I learned at Wharton, especially how to dream big,” he says, noting that the class on Entrepreneurial Leadership taught by Professor Terry LaPier was especially inspiring. “Terry drove into everyone that if you are a Wharton graduate, you are expected to lead and make a difference anywhere you go – this was a very powerful message. We also learned traditional MBA skills such as finance, marketing, negotiations, and networking that come into play for a start-up.”  Kothari recommends Wharton’s EMBA program for anyone looking for a nonlinear change – not just for those seeking to move up in their current careers. “If you want to make something significant happen, then this is absolutely the place where you want to be.”

Digital Network Group is a diversified portfolio company that helps organizations, communities and individuals harness the power of information technology to create both economic and social value through its affiliates – Digital Network Consulting and Digital Network Community Development Corporation. The consulting group helps organizations apply IT in innovative ways to create new product offerings and improve operational efficiency and customer relations. The community development group runs two programs: Kinetic Potential Scholars, a service program that demonstrates how IT and mentorship can improve outcomes for disadvantaged youth; and the Technical Capability Model, a research program to offer guidance to nonprofits in the use, application and investment in IT.  Smith adds that the group’s nonprofit affiliate delivers its services with the financial support of corporations, foundations and individuals.  Community Development