Maria Devassy, WG’23, entered Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives as a tech industry expert with over 20 years of experience in product development, risk management, and consulting in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the course of her career, she advanced into senior leadership roles at companies such as Oracle Corporation, MetricStream, and KPMG. Today, Maria serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development and Partnerships at Compliance.ai, a technology company which offers AI-powered compliance solutions to financial institutions. As Maria prepares to graduate with her Wharton MBA, she reflects on how the program has prepared her for the next 20 years of her career.
The Time is Now
Each student in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives enters the program with a unique set of goals they hope to accomplish with the degree. “For me, the decision to get my MBA was about broadening my perspective,” says Maria. “I wanted to scale my current company, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and diversify my professional network.”
And why now? Like many parents, Maria found herself with more time on her hands after her kids started heading off to college. She and her husband were accustomed to the busy lifestyle that comes with raising a family while managing high demand jobs, but also knew that an EMBA program would give the word “busy” a new meaning. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this program if it wasn’t for my family’s strong support,” Maria says. “My husband is proud that I’m earning my MBA, and the program has allowed me to bond with my kids in a new way. They ask me about my grades all the time, which motivates me to do well and set a good example for them.”
Wharton’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
While Maria also received admittance to the Haas School of Business, she ultimately chose Wharton due to its global reputation, strong finance curriculum, and focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. “Some friends of mine started their own entrepreneurial ventures after graduating from the Wharton MBA Program for Executives,” she says. “I admired their achievements, and seeing their success firsthand confirmed that Wharton was the right school for me.”
In the second year of the program, students choose from more than 200 electives to tailor the curriculum to their interests. Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition is a popular course designed to provide students with a comprehensive strategy on how to acquire an existing business. “That was one of my favorite classes,” Maria recalls. “Professor Robert Chalfin taught me everything I wanted to know about the life cycle of acquisition, from sourcing opportunities and carrying out due diligence to raising capital and closing transactions.”
Mergers and Acquisitions, another entrepreneurial course, directly impacted the way Maria approached her work at Compliance.ai. “One of my primary goals is to help scale the company through new opportunities,” she explains. “This course delved into various strategies to drive corporate development, including alliances, corporate venture capital, and of course, mergers and acquisitions.” Students walk away from the course with a solid framework for executing M&A, from initiation to implementation. “These strategies are very relevant to my work,” Maria says. “I was able to take what I learned in the course and apply it right away to create a competitive advantage for my firm.”
The Wharton MBA Program for Executives offers unique opportunities for students to gain a global perspective on business. In addition to the required Global Business Week, students also have the option to participate in elective Global Modular Courses (GMCs). These courses, available to undergraduate, full-time MBA, and EMBA students, are led by Wharton faculty in key business locations around the world. GMCs expose students to a unique combination of local immersion, course concepts and cutting-edge business and social issues. Each year, a dozen or more experience-based learning courses are offered in countries including Ghana, Japan, Israel, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, and Estonia.
After attending Global Business Week in Argentina the previous term, Maria jumped at the chance to take a Global Modular Course in Delhi, India, led by Professors Rahul Kapoor and Harbir Singh. Offered over winter break, this course gave students an inside look at the evolutionary process of enterprise growth through innovation. Maria and her classmates spent time interacting first-hand with executives and policymakers who are driving economic growth in India, home to some of the most innovative tech companies in the industry. Through a combination of lectures, site visits, and group projects, Maria gained an understanding of how these companies operate despite significant resource constraints and underdeveloped business ecosystems.
Solid Support System
Maria admits that returning to school after 20+ years can be intimidating. “I was still getting my bearings well into the first term,” she says. “The WEMBA staff were so supportive, and it helped knowing I had my class manager, study group, and classmates in my corner. Balancing work, school, and family can seem like a constant juggle, but this experience has shown me how important it is to lean on your support system when things get stressful. I made the Director’s List [top 10% of the class] by the end of my first year, and I have my family and support network to thank!”
Maria encourages incoming Wharton EMBA students to stay the course as they begin the program this May. “With school comes homework, studying, social events, and more,” she says. “While this program is a challenge, it’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’ll make lifelong friends, join the world’s largest business school alumni network, and learn more than you thought possible. As you start the program, remember to take care of yourself – and don’t forget to have fun!”
— Kendra King
Posted: April 14, 2023