Alana Hewitt, WG’19, works at Amazon, which she calls “a company of 1,000 startups.” As part of the Whole Foods/Prime Now integration team, she is responsible for launching two-hour grocery delivery from Whole Food Markets across the country. As she works to integrate two successful independent businesses to accomplish one goal, she is consistently met with unforeseen questions and challenges. Alana came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco to improve her ability “to solve new challenges and quickly identify white space opportunities.”
She said, “Having an MBA in the startup space is useful because it helps structure my approach to innovation and apply valuable industry lessons to forward-leaning approaches to entrepreneurship. My goal is to develop disruptive strategies to launch new businesses. The skills I’ve gained at Wharton empower me to do that.”
In addition to her core first-year classes, Alana also participated in Wharton Scale School events. Scale School is a series of workshops for students and alumni looking to take their business beyond initial product-market fit to the creation of a large enterprise of value. “My passion is growth— insights learned at Scale School events not only mirror challenges I’ve encountered, but also offer me practical solutions for implementation.”
Scale School participants learn from Wharton faculty, alumni entrepreneurs, and industry executives on how to find new customers, grow a workforce, manage supply chains, and navigate complex regulations. The series provides attendees a space to engage with other professionals across various fields who are grappling with similar challenges.
“Scale School breaks down the myth that unique challenges require unique solutions. The series provides entrepreneurs a forum to source valuable insights and existing solutions from their colleagues,” said Alana. “The workshops provide pragmatic steps that can be applied right away to yield immediate results.”
Alana attended the Scale School sessions titled “Growth through Acquisitions” to learn more about how to combine the strengths of Amazon and Whole Foods to achieve shared success. “Prior to working on this [Amazon] integration, I didn’t fully understand the complexity of acquisitions. Scale School equipped me with the tools needed to identify efficiencies and scale the business, while maintaining the integrity of the brand,” she explained.
Beyond the direct impact of classes and Scale School, Alana noted several unexpected aspects of the EMBA program that have elevated her school experience while simultaneously helping her become a better intrapreneur at Amazon.
“When I was admitted, I was worried that a part-time program would limit my ability to develop meaningful relationships with my classmates. I was wrong!
During class weekends, our goal is to maximize our Wharton experience by only focusing on our coursework and strengthening bonds with one another. Most of us can’t wait until the next class weekend because it’s time devoted solely to our personal development and connecting with like-minded professionals who are enthusiastic about learning and growing. It is refreshing to be surrounded by so many accomplished professionals who are not only willing to share their impressive experiences, but also provide unimaginable levels of support. I’ve been overwhelmed by their sincerity and dedication to not only my professional success, but even more to my personal success. My Wharton classmates have become my biggest cheerleaders and a new invaluable pillar in my life!”
“I assumed that because Wharton is known as a ‘finance school,’ most of my classmates would work in finance, but this is not the case. While most of my peers are focused on developing a strong finance skill set, they do not necessarily intend to work in the finance field. There are a surprisingly wide range of professions represented. For example, in my class there are entrepreneurs, doctors, a Secret Service agent, an engineer who helped launch the first iPhone, and a surprising number of Navy Seals. The diversity of professions allows me to draw on a range of problem-solving strategies across a variety of domains.”
“The professors emphasize that social impact can be just as important as profits. There is a misconception that MBA classes only focus on strategies to drive revenue. While profitability is important, we also discuss the role of business in social issues. Corporate social responsibility is an important focus in the business world. Our professors stress that as business leaders, it is paramount we continue to facilitate this as a key priority.”
“I was nervous about the workload because of my demanding role at Amazon. I was worried all the homework, plus the commute to San Francisco for classes bi-weekly would be overwhelming. Seeing my classmates not only juggle work and school, in addition to children and side businesses, I knew I just needed to step up my game to handle the challenge. It helps that you aren’t alone. If you don’t understand something from class, you don’t have to struggle on your own trying to figure it out. As cheesy as it may sound, we have created a family-like support network where my classmates are always more than willing to hop on the phone and help. We often say that explaining a concept to others helps test how well you really understand the concept yourself.”
“While I was excited to be a part of the Wharton EMBA program, I wasn’t confident in my ability to hold a challenging position at work and meet the demands of the curriculum. Given traditional ideas of academic and professional excellence, I didn’t believe I possessed enough time or energy to be successful in both arenas. Despite my fears, my passion for the program led me to reevaluate my ideas on success given my new context. In considering success, I decided to define it for myself in a way that provided opportunities for personal growth while accommodating competing priorities.”
“At school this meant that while education was important, I was not going to seek out a perfect GPA. Instead I decided to focus on cultivating new meaningful relationships and taking courses that stretched my abilities.”
“At work, this meant I had to be more strategic about how I would impact the business given that a significant amount of my time would be dedicated to school. Reframing success on my own terms allowed me to feel good about my accomplishments, without the emotional burden of falling short of unreasonable expectations. This experience has helped grow my confidence as I understand that defining success on my own terms will help me achieve more in the future.”
“My Wharton EMBA adventure has exceeded my expectations and reinvigorated me for the next stage of my journey — I’m excited to see what’s next!”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: August 7, 2018