Wharton Stories

How My Support Network Helped Me Maximize My Virtual Internship

“I could have felt isolated but my classmates kept me grounded and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience.”

Sugirtha Stathis: Why don’t we start with you introducing yourself? Tell me about your background, your interest in coming to Wharton, where you interned and where you’ll be working full time after graduation.

Stephanie Garcia: I went to the United States Military Academy and I spent five years in the Army as an Army Engineer stationed at Fort Carson. I held several roles there and then in 2016 I made the decision to leave the military. I ended up working in the private sector for a company called McMaster-Carr Supply Company in Chicago. I did some project management work and eventually was a call center supervisor.

My husband was actually at business school at the time, I saw what he was gaining from business school and I wanted to get that experience. I saw this as a great transition both to get the experience that I wanted, and then to transition back into the workforce.

I knew I wanted to do general management and I was looking to stay in the area. Unfortunately, my original internship was canceled due to the pandemic. I was super fortunate because I ended up interning with DaVita. I had interviewed with them and turned down their offer. On a whim, I reached back out to the recruiter, explained my situation, and they were happy to give me another offer.

Last spring, obviously the world changed pretty dramatically and your internship became remote. What were some of the challenges that posed? And how did you adapt to make sure you would be successful?

The two biggest challenges I faced were building relationships with a new team and getting a feel of the company’s culture all in a virtual environment. In order to be successful, I was much more diligent about scheduling time with people. As a new member of the team, I didn’t have the opportunity to just run into people in the office, so I made a point to schedule regular coffee chats. I set a goal to schedule at least 16 coffee chats a week. This was an ambitious goal, but because I couldn’t be there in person, these chats were important for me to get to know my team and the company.

I also found that it was much harder to connect with people initially over Zoom, so I didn’t learn as much about the role and the company culture during my first few coffee chats. I found that it often took a few touchpoints and asking more specific questions in order to get the information I needed in order to make my own assessment of the company. Instead of asking generally about the company culture, I would ask about the company’s culture when it came to working parents and the need to juggle work and family. By knowing specifically what I was looking to get out of these conversations I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the company as a whole.

When you came back to Wharton in the fall and you decided to re-recruit it was a virtual experience. What was that like for you, and how did it compare to your first-year experience?

Being that I’m a mom, my schedule is unpredictable at times, and so commuting to info sessions and coffee chats during my first year was a lot to juggle. Whereas in the virtual world, I wasn’t shuffling back and forth from campus as much. Scheduling time to talk with people was much easier, both on my end and theirs.

The obvious disadvantage is not getting to see and meet people face-to-face. There was something nice about the structured recruiting process — going to the sessions and getting to meet the recruiters. You do lose that personal aspect but it didn’t impede me from getting a full-time offer. The responsibility fell on me and in a different way. I felt like it was a much more enterprise recruiting process for me in the second year.

I got the support that I needed and I was able to find some really great opportunities and, ultimately, was able to get a couple of offers and was able to make the choice that was the best fit for me.

One of the things that is especially hard is assessing company culture and personal fit from a distance. Did you use a similar approach with full-time recruiting to determine that?

I think first and foremost, is sitting down and figuring out what I want in a culture. Until this process, I never really sat down and asked myself, “what am I actually looking for?” Taking that moment for introspection, I think, is really important to do at the start.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can ask the appropriate questions and dig into more specifics. I think just talking to as many people and getting as many perspectives, as you can is super important.

How did you stay connected with your peers, whether it was for support through the process or with insight on other companies?

I could have felt isolated but my classmates kept me grounded and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience. I was super fortunate in my first year to be part of a cohort of four of us who were going to spend the summer in Philadelphia. We created a small support network right away when our internships were canceled due to the pandemic. We were helping each other find opportunities. I’m also tied into the Veterans group and when I mentioned my situation people reached out with opportunities.

If you were to choose three words to describe your recruiting experience this year, what would they be?

Enterprising. Open-ended. Longer than anticipated.

What aspects of Wharton overall do you feel are most valuable to you along the way?

Community 100 percent — and then the resources. The student and the alumni networks and the MBA Career Management office were probably the three biggest factors that helped me both get an internship and a job.

Posted: July 8, 2021

Wharton Stories

Getting to Know Prism Fellow & Reality TV Star Dillon Patel

“How do we make sure that every graduate who leaves Wharton takes on that inclusivity as a core value with them as they move into the boardrooms of companies all across the country?”

When Dillon Patel, WG’23 was growing up, he didn’t see many people like him on television. Now, at age 27, he finds himself on the other side of the screen on Bravo’s docu-series Family Karma. The show, which premiered its second season on June 2, chronicles the lives of Dillon and his multi-generational Indian-American family and friends as they balance modern life with their traditional upbringings.

Dillon joins a small but growing group of openly LGBTQ+ South Asians in the entertainment arena. From Queer Eye’s Tan France to talk show host Lilly Singh and actor Jameela Jamill, Dillon hopes this increased representation ignites positive change in South Asian communities across the country. In fact, he’s already seeing the difference it can make from the messages he’s received from some viewers.

“It has opened doors in ways that I didn’t know were possible. I had several people tell me that seeing my story gave them the confidence to come out to their family or it sparked conversations that were otherwise not happening. Now in so many South Asian families, they are talking about what it’s like to grow up queer or gay and South Asian,” said Dillon.

Prior to appearing on Family Karma, Dillon was living a fairly low-profile life working as Senior Manager of Global Operations at Zendesk, a customer support software company, in San Francisco. But he was no stranger to being an outspoken leader and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Shortly after joining Zendesk he began to lead the company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, Pride ERG, and went on to institute several groundbreaking initiatives.

“I’m most proud of launching a Pride mentorship program where we paired folks across offices internationally who are within our community. We also advocated for changes to our benefits that included more trans-inclusive healthcare coverage, mental health services and also support for those who want to start families in less traditional ways such as surrogacy, egg-freezing, or adoption,” he said.

Pride ERG also led Zendesk’s application for the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Places for LGBT Equality” and earned the company a perfect score of 100. Even as Dillon departs Zendesk to attend Wharton, he knows the work will continue. “For me, it was especially impactful because every year or so the HRC will continue to add additional criteria for inclusivity that I’m hopeful Zendesk will continue to meet.”

This advocacy work earned Dillon the distinction as Wharton’s second Prism Fellow. Established in 2019 by Jeffrey Schoenfeld, WG’84, the Prism Fellowship awards a full-tuition scholarship to one MBA student who demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community. “First, it’s incredible that something like the Prism fellowship even exists. The fact that Jeffrey, Wharton, and so many folks are willing to invest in the community in a substantial way is huge to me. I also recognize the fact that Wharton is full of stellar applicants and I’m so incredibly grateful that I was chosen to be awarded this prestigious fellowship.”

Behind the scenes: Filming interviews for Bravo’s Family Karma. (Photo via @dillonpatelme)

As far as his interest in business, Dillon was exposed to entrepreneurship from a young age. He watched his family start small businesses wherever they lived. Dillon’s grandfather started a fish and chips business in London and later his parents opened an electronics store after they settled in Miami. Even as a high school student, Dillon made some extra cash collecting his classmates’ used textbooks and selling them online. “That entrepreneurial spirit is something that runs really deep. My family restarted themselves in four different countries, coming from India, spending time in Africa, starting businesses in Jamaica and England, and finally Miami, that it just felt part of our blood that business is what we do.”

It was only natural for him to major in economics at Duke University, where he nurtured his talents and discovered new industries where he could thrive. Thanks to the Out For Undergrad conference, Dillon was connected to employers like PwC looking to hire LGBTQ+ students like him. “It really opened my eyes to what consulting was like. I could get experience at many different companies, see the inside and out, and found that project-based teamwork was what I really excelled at.” In the summer of 2015, Dillon landed an internship at PwC that led to a full-time Associate role after graduation from Duke.

As he prepares to embark on the next two years at Wharton, Dillon hopes to learn new skills and build on his breadth of experiences. He notes the P3 Program by the McNulty Leadership Program, Prof. Stephanie Creary’s class “Leading Diversity in Organizations”, and the flexible curriculum as highlights on his agenda. “I think working at Zendesk made me realize that I want to stay in the technology space and I care about mission-driven companies, but I probably want to explore some different functions like corporate development or product development.”

When he arrives on campus for MBA Pre-Term this August, Dillon plans to become an active member of the Out4Biz and Southeast Asia Club and work to find ways Wharton can become even more inclusive beyond the confines of the classroom. “How do we make sure that every graduate who leaves Wharton takes on that inclusivity as a core value with them as they move into the boardrooms of companies all across the country? How do we make sure that inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community is a core part of the Wharton experience?” he said.

— Mike Kaiser

Posted: June 15, 2021

Wharton Stories

Students Chat With the Dean About Diversity at Wharton

“If we could just have a candid conversation with our Dean about what she believes in, what would we want to hear from her?”

Months ago, MBA student leaders of Return on Equality (ROE) and undergraduate student leaders of Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Group (WEDIG) were immersed in planning their respective “diversity weeks” for the spring semester, when an idea began to percolate.

“If we could just have a candid conversation with our Dean about what she believes in, on these issues that we care about really deeply, what would we want to hear from her?” asked Kara Murray-Badal, WG’21, co-president of ROE.

Both the MBA and undergrad students reached out to Dean Erika James separately, asking if she would be interested in participating in their diversity week programming. WEDIG board member Ryan Pruitt, W’21, who was the lead on the programming this year, remembers emailing the Dean for the first time in January. To his surprise, “She got back to me within an hour.” 

The coincidence kicked off a unique collaboration.

On April 1, three MBA co-presidents of ROE and three undergraduate board members of WEDIG sat down with Dean James for a virtual “Fireside Chat” during ROE’s annual One Wharton Week. During the live discussion, the seven traded questions about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Wharton and how to implement change together.

The chat was a two-way street, said WEDIG’s Karen Herrera, W’21. “I think it also helped Dean James understand the culture, needs, and interests within the student body, both at an MBA and undergraduate level.”


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A post shared by WEDIG (@wedig_upenn)

Because WEDIG’s Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Week took place right after ROE’s One Wharton Week, the undergrad students were able to replay the Fireside Chat and hold a “Multicultural Student Town Hall” where affinity group leaders — from Wharton Asia Exchange, Black Wharton, Wharton Latino, Wharton Women, Wharton Alliance, and FGLI — could reflect and brainstorm actionable steps.

Strengthening Synergies

ROE’s One Wharton Week has been a staple for MBA students since 2015, but WEDIG is a newer student organization, launched in 2020 by members of Wharton Wellness and the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board. This was their first time hosting a diversity week.

“The MBAs and Undergrads are doing a lot of similar work, just in completely different channels of communication,” said Daniel Mendelsohn, W’21, WEDIG co-founder and board member. “While organizing the Fireside Chat, we had a discussion with the MBA leaders and said, ‘Why aren’t we doing more together?’ There are so many synergies.”

Click to read about ROE’s 2021 One Wharton Week events.

“I think as you start to work, you realize the need for DEI more,” Ryan said. “Undergrads tend to stay in their own circles. But when you’re in the workplace and surrounded by your colleagues, you might notice that all your colleagues might not be that diverse. I think with the experience the MBAs have, they might be more aware of that.”

For the MBA students, the Fireside Chat was also an opportunity to connect students with the Dean more personally. ROE Co-President Sonali Salgado, WG’21, GEd’21, said, “We wanted to humanize her a bit, have everyone hear her story, and talk about what it was like to start as the first Black, female dean at Wharton in the year 2020.”

Reaching the Other Side

Kara said One Wharton Week remains an important time of the year for all the various student affinity groups to connect with one another. “I think especially in this moment, with the clear need for solidarity in the Asian community and in the Black community, this is really the time for that cross-cultural connection. That’s what we’re striving for.”

Likewise, Ryan hopes that meetings like WEDIG’s town halls — where Wharton and Penn affinity groups can coalesce — will happen regularly in the future. He described a “summit” that would allow those student representatives to pose questions to School leadership.

Click to read about WEDIG’s 2021 Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Week events.

One salient question that emerged during the Fireside Chat was how to engage students who may not always “self-select” to participate in DEI programming.

“It’s the people who come from underrepresented backgrounds that are joining these conversations,” Daniel said. “The hope is that as these Town Halls grow, we start to get more of the other side involved.”

Karen, who moderated WEDIG’s Town Hall, compared the diversity events to C-SPAN because they create a space for students to tune in and get a pulse on DEI at Wharton. She added, “In the long term, these events are all setting the foundation for what we want to see.”

Gloria Yuen

Posted: May 7, 2021

Wharton Stories

4 Startup Challenge Finalists Share What Inspired Their Ventures

This year’s finalists tackled firefighter cancer, frontline medical devices, maternal nutrition, global healthcare access, and more.

Every year, Venture Lab’s Startup Challenge draws the very best Penn student entrepreneurs to compete for cash awards. The competition culminates in the Startup Showcase, where eight finalist teams pitch to a live audience and alumni judges.

This year’s virtual Startup Challenge featured 30 companies with students across six Schools at Penn. Here are the stories of four finalists who shared what inspired them to launch their own businesses.

RinSalt team (left) and Lumify team (right).


TEAM: Isaac Kalapos, EAS’21; Kevin Leeb, EAS’21; Cristian Constantin, EAS’21, GEng’21

Kevin, a first-generation college student, was inspired by his experience as a volunteer firefighter to find ways to protect firefighters inside burning buildings and increase efficiency in call responses. Then, he recalled a key issue that had been frequently brought up in his firehouse: over 50 percent of firefighters contract cancer in their lifetime. One major reason, Kevin found, is because carcinogenic molecules attach to firefighter gear and get absorbed through the skin. Manual cleaning procedures exist, but they are rarely used.

RinSalt is an automated on-scene decontamination system for firefighters that provides an effective and consistent decontamination process to combat firefighter cancer. Its ease of use means it could be adopted in firehouses throughout the country.

Lumify Care

TEAM: Anthony Scarpone-Lambert, Nu’21, Gr’24; Jennifferre Mancillas

During his time as a nursing student, Anthony became frustrated with how clinical environments were not conducive to comfortable patient experiences. He and his team interviewed over 250 nurses and found that 87 percent struggle to see while providing care to resting patients, leading them to utilize intrusive overhead room lighting that disrupts patient sleep on average nine times per night.

Lumify Care is a nurse-led company that supports frontline healthcare workers with the tools and resources needed to optimize patients’ experiences. Its flagship product is the uNight Light, a wearable LED light allowing health care workers to illuminate their workspace while decreasing patient sleep disturbances on an average of 70 percent. uNight Light is the first-ever wearable LED light designed for nurses, by nurses. It is attachable to scrubs and hands-free, allowing frontline healthcare workers to focus on providing quality patient care while minimizing sleep disturbances.

The founders of Nouri (top) and Welltrip (bottom).


TEAM: Irene Liu, WG’22; Jennifer Doro

Irene had always been interested in preventive health through nutrition, but began to focus on maternal nutrition when her aunt had a baby last summer. Irene’s mom was sending her aunt daily Traditional Chinese Medicine postpartum meals — standard care in Eastern Asia. Irene began to realize the discrepancy in maternal care in the U.S. Many women in the U.S. power through IVF (in vitro fertilization), various pregnancy symptoms, and postpartum sleeplessness and anxiety. Meanwhile, ancient cultures have long relied on therapeutic food rituals to meet nutritional needs and manage such symptoms.

Nouri bridges this gap with a stage-specific meal program to help expecting mothers provide the best for the baby and for themselves with optimized nutrition, utilizing proven Ancient Eastern therapeutic ingredients. Meals include plant-based dishes to improve fertility, soupy ginger porridges to alleviate nausea in T1, and braised meats and broths to replenish iron and collagen in postpartum.


TEAM: Ike Okonkwo, G’22, WG’22; Patrick Prommel, G’22, WG’22

Both Ike and Patrick share positive experiences with healthcare abroad, in contrast to their experiences in the U.S. Patrick’s family returns to Bolivia for dental procedures when they can because it costs less, even with insurance. Ike, who had worked in the medical travel industry in Colombia prior to coming to Wharton, was familiar with the systemic pain points.

They came together to found Welltrip, a global healthcare services marketplace that lets customers search through verified and peer-reviewed doctors abroad and book medical appointments at one-half the U.S. price or less. The current medical travel process often involves asking questions and obtaining referrals through anonymous Reddit message boards or through word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family. Welltrip’s objective is to bring trust and transparency to the process, including helping patients connect with doctors and facilitate their time abroad.

 — Athena Panton and Gloria Yuen


Wharton Stories

How 1,200 MBA Students Helped Small Businesses Survive the Pandemic

Maya Burns, WG’20, and May Li, WG’21, share their experiences connecting students to organizations in need and helping local businesses since COVID-19 closed their doors.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the US last spring, businesses were forced to temporarily close their physical locations. Larger corporations were better positioned to weather the storm, whereas small businesses and nonprofits often lacked the resources, technology, and scale to sustain and remodel their operations. That’s why students from across 20 business schools, including Wharton, joined together to form the MBA Response. Originally named MBAs Fight COVID, the MBA Response mobilizes students to volunteer their services to small businesses, connecting MBAs directly to organizations in need.

“Since the launch of the MBA Response, we have seen over one hundred Wharton students join the project platform and the Small Business Strike Team,” said Madeleine Bannon, WG’21, one of the MBA Response student leads.

From partnering with the Health Federation of Philadelphia on contact tracing best practices to developing a digital marketing plan for a minority-owned retail company, Wharton students have volunteered on a variety of projects. Maya Burns, WG’20, helped build the foundation for the movement at Wharton during the beginning of the pandemic.

Joining the Fight

Maya had interned with a co-founder of the MBA Response, Sarika Mendu, and learned about the effort in its early days. She was one of the first members of the Wharton branch, and a key contributor during those critical stages.

“In March, the class of 2020 across the country realized that we were going to lose out on our final quarter of schooling,” Maya said. “Many of my classmates had a desire to go and do work in the community and felt disconnected from local organizations who were being impacted by COVID the most. I view myself as a connector and I felt this was an incredible opportunity to make that connection between students and organizations and nonprofits that really needed help.”

Securing Funding

Maya initially provided PPP loan advice to small businesses, however she pivoted into a leadership role to orchestrate a wider impact across the Wharton student experience. As a Student Life Fellow and Career Fellow, she had close relationships with Wharton Administration and learned that the school was trying to find ways to support students during this time.

“I saw that this was an opportunity for the school to support and empower students to put our education to work where it mattered most.”

Along with the rest of the MBA Response Wharton team, Maya connected with Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly and Vice Dean Howie Kaufold, explaining the movement and pitching ideas for ways the administration could support students’ unpaid efforts. Within a few weeks, the office was able to secure funding for student volunteers through External Affairs. “Through our conversations with Maryellen and the career office, we were able to create what was then called the Wharton MBA COVID-19 Student Response Fund,” Maya said. “Our work enabled students, many of whose internships and full-time offers had been delayed or rescinded, to focus their efforts on businesses most in need with the financial support of the school.”

“It surprised me how incredibly quickly all of this moved, from my friends at HBS who founded the MBA Response to each of the different schools really standing up their own organizations to the initiative and the desire of students to jump in two feet first,” Maya said. “During business school it’s such a self-reflective process and folks are often thinking about themselves and how to establish themselves for their careers, so it was really beautiful to see people completely shed that persona and be able to pivot and be more collective in mindset to get work done in service of others.”

Small Business Strike Team

May Li, WG’21, helped small businesses navigate the PPP loan application and forgiveness process on the Small Business Strike team.

Over four months, May balanced her internship and volunteer work on the Small Business Strike Team, providing one-on-one sessions and guidance to 19 business owners on the Paycheck Protection Program. Dixon’s Barber Shop, located in Detroit, was one of the many businesses May worked with throughout the summer.

“Dixon’s Barber Shop is run by a solo owner. He was really confused on what kind of funding he could apply to or what kind of help he could get. I remember I got on a call with him and he didn’t even remember that he had signed up for the service and he was really concerned that I would charge him. I explained that this is completely free and I’m literally here to help you,” May said.

“His business has been around the community for a very long time, and the existing clients kept going back to this business. But during COVID he had to close down the shop and he had no way of making money,” May said. “His clients were nice enough where they’d done a few things to help him, like purchase a gift card to his business to help him with rent payment.”

One-On-One Guidance

Through one-on-one phone calls and emails, May helped him find the right application, compile the documents, and calculate the maximum amount of money he could claim. In the end, Dixon’s Barber Shop was granted the loan.

“I think he was very happy because he didn’t really know what to do with the whole situation and getting free help and someone that he can talk to, I think, was really nice.”

Shopping Small to Make a Big Impact

An entire summer of working closely with small businesses, providing loan application help and general business guidance during a pandemic, has changed May’s perspective and altered her shopping habits.
“It definitely made me appreciate a lot more about the small businesses in our community. When I’m shopping for something I’m always looking for convenience, like Amazon.com, and now, after helping all of these businesses, I can understand their pain and understand the struggle that they have faced,” May said. “So I see myself going into the local stores a lot more and spending money at these smaller businesses, instead of going to these online giants. Instead of ordering through DoorDash, I will do a restaurant pick up, so I know that they’re definitely getting all my money and not getting a share taken out by these platforms.”

— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: April 30, 2021

Wharton Stories

How I Navigated Virtual Recruiting and Secured My Summer Internship

“I was able to talk to so many people by the time I got to the actual sitting down and interviewing I felt incredibly prepared.”

Sugirtha Stathis: What did you do before coming to Wharton? What did you want to explore during your time in the MBA Program?

Nancy Zhang: Prior to coming to Wharton, I spent five years at an executive search firm. I was handling the recruitment of CEOs and board directors for Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. But I felt myself gravitating towards consumer oriented companies more and more and having come from professional services, I knew that there were two paths that I was considering. One was to stick with the professional services route, but go into more traditional consulting. But there was always this itch to try general management or brand management, particularly at a CPG company given my interest in the consumer industry.

When I kicked off the recruiting process during the fall semester, after deciding that consulting wasn’t the right path for me, I went down the mature CPG recruiting route. I’m going to be spending the summer at Colgate-Palmolive as a brand management intern.

You had a bit of a surprise as you were making plans to go to business school when everything switched to virtual. If you think back to your first quarter, what were some of the resources you used to explore career paths in the virtual environment?

I’m someone who likes to do a lot of my research myself first so the first step for me was speaking to career advisors. I had made multiple appointments with the Consultant Career Advisor and the CPG Career Advisor. I thought about what that path might look like and some of the target companies.

Above all of those things, I was really just speaking to my peers. I think being able to have transparent, open conversations with the people who had already interned at my target companies and who had gone through that process told me what it was like from the inside. I found that to be invaluable.

When it comes to recruiting there’s a lot of community support that happens along the way and being virtual made that more challenging. What are some ways you were able to connect and build this community around you as you started to find your path within CPG?

First and foremost, I was very pleasantly surprised by how open second year students were to speaking with first year students as a cold outreach. I didn’t have pre-existing relationships with some of the second years in a lot of cases. Some of the companies I was interested in there may have only been one second year who worked there previously. I was very grateful to have that one-on-one dialogue to ask questions like “how did you spend your summer at Colgate?” or “how you spend your summer at Johnson & Johnson?”

In addition to these one-on-one conversations, I found the Marketing Club to be an invaluable resource as well. There was just a huge community of people there who made it really clear that this is a very open and safe forum and that you have every license to reach out to people and have small close discussions with foks. Then through the recruitment process, I was part of a marketing Hot Group (editor’s note: marketing students work in small peer groups of four to five students and a second year mentor for interview practice, called “Hot Groups”). I found that to be a very good space to ask small questions and that really guided me through my own process.

And was all of this completely through Zoom, BlueJeans, etc.?

Completely virtual. When I knew that school was going to be virtual, I think, like all of my other peers, there was just this huge sense of disappointment and fear around what the social aspect of the community building was going to be, but also the recruiting part. But I did not find that to be a deterrent early on in the first semester.

It almost felt like everyone went above and beyond to make up for the things that we weren’t going to have in person. For instance, with my Hot Group because we didn’t get to do some more social community building pieces the frequency with which we met was really important. There was definitely a sense of camaraderie there beyond “let’s prepare with the interview questions.”

In a normal year companies would have been on campus hosting recruiting and networking events. What was that experience like this year? How did you learn about a company and connect with recruiters without having the advantage of meeting in person?

It was a little bit challenging at times because the cultural fit of a company is tremendously important to me. When you don’t get some of that informal experience it can be a little bit harder. I found that the virtual recruiting process was much more self directed and to be successful I had to go out of my way to proactively reach out to individuals.

I curated a list of alumni and then reached out to them, so I had as many data points as possible and more perspectives. In a normal year if you went to a networking event, you can speak to maybe five to 10 people and get snippets of what the culture is going to be like, what the day to day is like.

When I kicked off the recruiting process, I had a very honest conversation with myself about what I had to do to make up that gap. The internal dialogue I had was “you need to work five times harder.” My strategy was to speak to multiple people so that they can advocate for me when they’re having discussions and to find ways to stand out in a virtual environment.

How successful were companies in communicating to you what their culture was like?

It’s a little bit of a mixed bag. Some of the companies, I thought, did a fantastic job with the showing of people that they brought to certain events and so forth. I am going to Colgate for the summer and one of the reasons I am going there is because of the culture. I felt really strongly about that. They not only hosted a number of different types of events, but the content of their events did a really good job at showing some of the more authentic dynamics of what their teams are like, which is important, as you think about working with these individuals on a day-to-day basis.

Other organizations did more of a boilerplate PowerPoint presentation, where they sort of just listed off their core values. I couldn’t get a sense of how those values were being lived and what that looked like from a day-to-day perspective. It was very powerful for me to see the culture in action. In one of the Colgate events I attended, they hosted a fireside chat with two senior employees and there were a lot of more junior employees on the call too. Everyone was interacting. It was very conversational and very genuine in a way that I really appreciated. And a lot of other companies didn’t didn’t have those types of events, so I almost had to write them off because I didn’t have enough data on the culture.

How did you leverage the alumni community in your process?

I used QuakerNet to create a list of the alums that I could reach out to and have another conversation with. During FRP (Focused Recruiting Period) most of the major companies I was recruiting for had a devoted team and some of them did not. And the ones that didn’t, I went out of my way to find alumni who would be willing to speak to me and for the most part, almost everyone, responded to me right away, had a conversation with me, and gave me useful insights.

What do you think worked well and what were some of the challenges with the Focused Recruiting Period?

Certainly the flexibility was something I appreciated during FRP. There was a lot more control, I had over how I was going to do this process. I didn’t have to worry about commuting to the interview, I was in the comfort of my own home and I was able to prepare up until the minute before the interview.

You really miss an interpersonal component when you’re interviewing virtually. I’m a big believer, having come from executive search myself and done interviews with people before there’s that five-minute informal conversation that you have with someone before an interview where maybe you share a piece of your personal life or where you really get to shine with your personality and that did not happen with a lot of my interviews. It was almost like we had to jump right into interview mode without some of that emotional connection that’s something I really felt like I was missing out on.

Is there anything you would want to keep from the virtual experience?

I would always choose in-person over virtual interviews. I think that connectivity that you can have with a person like you can look them in the eyes, you can shake their hands and have those small connections that you form with people I think are really, really valuable.

Give me three words to describe your recruiting experience this year.

Proactive, exhausting, and flexible.

What Wharton resources did you find most valuable along the way? What helped facilitate this unique virtual recruiting experience?

The two main resources that I really attribute to my success through the recruiting process during was, honestly, Career Management. Being able to meet with you all the time was so invaluable to me.

This was a big pivot for me and a new career path I was exploring so there were just some things about that process that I had no familiarity with. Getting smart with that and being able to meet with career advisors, I think, was really helpful. Once I got my ducks in a row, adding in some of the nuances from peers and hearing their stories and their experiences was really helpful. Then the resources from the Marketing Club perspective and having second year peers be so generous with their time answering questions and doing mock interviews with me. I was able to talk to so many people by the time I got to the actual sitting down and interviewing I felt incredibly prepared.

Is there any advice you might give to the incoming class because we don’t know what the fall will look like yet?

If had to just really sum it up, I would just say that the resources are here. You have everything at your feet to be successful through this process. But if it were going to be virtual again, there is a certain level of extra work that you have to put into it just to compensate for the fact that you don’t get to have that in person component.

I think that’s why crafting your story has felt extra important to me during this process because I felt like just through visual bias and seeing so many people online, you are going to have a harder time standing out, so I felt like that’s why my story had to be incredibly unique to myself.

Posted: April 21, 2021

Wharton Stories

How the Turner MIINT Program Trains Students to Think Like Impact Investors

The Turner MIINT gives hundreds of business school students across the globe a hands-on education in impact investing.

At Wharton Social Impact, building the evidence base and talent pipeline for impact investing is our priority. We’ve seen that students at Wharton and beyond are eager for hands-on training in impact investing. That’s why it’s no surprise to see the Turner MIINT program growing to over 35 business schools and 600+ students worldwide this year.

What is the Turner MIINT? A collaboration between Bridges Impact Foundation and Wharton Social Impact, the Turner MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) is a year-long experiential program designed to give students at business and graduate schools a hands-on education in impact investing. Students learn about integrating social and environmental impact into the investment process as they assess early-stage impact venture capital deals.

How It Works

Graduate students at participating schools form teams. They complete training modules and get practice in topics including sourcing and due diligence. After sourcing and conducting diligence on companies, teams select one seed-stage company that is actively raising investment capital and exemplifies the promise of impact investing — deep impact and the possibility of strong financial returns.

Each school sends one team to pitch the best company they sourced at the global finals (typically hosted at Wharton each April, but currently conducted virtually) to a committee of leaders in the impact investing field. And the competition is high-stakes — the winning team gets the opportunity for a $50k investment into the company they pitch, capturing a real impact investment for this company they’ve come to know and recommend. Winners from recent years include McCombs School of Business at UT Austin (with their presentation of company that provides diagnostic and treatment services to tackle invasive species in aquatic ecosystems), the Yale School of Management (with their presentation of a peer-to-peer electric vehicle charging app), INSEAD (with their presentation of a health education company), and MIT Sloan (with their presentation of a financial inclusion company).

Why Impact Investing?

Organizers at Wharton Social Impact and Bridges Impact Foundation have seen significant growth in numbers of participants — reaching nearly 3,000 students around the world since the program started 10 years ago. Participating schools include Harvard Business School, the London School of Economics, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy), Kellogg School of Management, INSEAD (France/Singapore/United Arab Emirates), and more.

“Student demand for experiential learning opportunities in impact investing is strong – and growing each year. We’re delighted that we can deliver that experience not only to students at Wharton, but to hundreds more around the globe through the Turner MIINT,” said Sandi Hunt, Wharton Social Impact’s managing director.

Students complete modules like “formulating an investment thesis,” “valuing early stage social enterprises,” and “structuring investments” to learn the ins and outs of impact investing. They also have access to an online curriculum of videos and articles, and each school is paired with an industry advisor to provide guidance and feedback along the way. With all of these resources, it’s easy to see why students continue to take advantage of this experiential learning opportunity.

“Many students believe that impact investing will one day be ‘just good investing,’ and they’re eager to learn how to get ahead of the curve to position themselves for the investment jobs of the future. The MIINT is one of the only opportunities for some to get exposure to this type of training,” said Nick Ashburn, vice president and director of responsible investing strategy at PNC and Turner MIINT judge.

Growing Turner MIINT@Wharton

To meet the demand from Wharton students, Wharton Social Impact expanded Turner MIINT participation at Wharton. Though only one team from Wharton can advance to the semifinals, Turner MIINT@Wharton allows many Wharton teams to compete for that spot — and, in doing so, they all get experience pitching their deal to a mock investment committee.

“Through MIINT, I have gained the tools and confidence to think like an impact investor. I met so many amazing entrepreneurs and loved digging into their companies’ revenue drivers and impact outcomes. Most of all, I learned from my teammates as we worked together to select a company, perform due diligence, and build a compelling investment case,” said MIINT@Wharton participant Dawn Powell, WG’20.

Ana Ramos, WG’20, another MIINT@Wharton student, added: “It is a real experience — we source startups, run due diligence, and develop our recommendation to the Investing Committee about a company that is already operational and growing. It is a lot of responsibility to represent Wharton before entrepreneurs who feel honored to be participating in this competition.”

Mid-March, Turner MIINT@Wharton teams compete with each other to see who gets to represent Wharton at the Turner MIINT Global Finals. We look forward to following the global competition on April 9, 2021. Follow @whartonsocial on Twitter for live competition updates.

— Nisa Nejadi

Posted: March 22, 2021

Wharton Stories

Revolutionizing Hair Customization for Black Women

The 2021 New Venture Competition spotlighted a range of innovative student startups like Hairtelligence, co-founded by Isoken Igbinedion, WG’21.

On February 19 and 20, over 600 attendees joined this year’s virtual 47th Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Conference: “Blueprint: Bridging Pathways to Scale Black Ingenuity.” Organized by the African American MBA Association Club (AAMBAA), the event is Wharton’s longest student-run conference.

“The conference theme, ‘Bridging Pathways to Scale Black Ingenuity,’ is a call to action for Black businesses,” said Wharton Dean Erika James in her opening remarks. “I’m a believer in the power of business and education to transform not just the world of business but also to stimulate meaningful change in our shared social and cultural worlds.”

This year’s conference featured two exciting initiatives: the Innovation and Black Entrepreneurship Series and the New Venture Competition (NVC). The New Venture Competition, a pitch competition for early-stage Black-founded businesses, launched in Fall 2020. Out of over 160 ventures, three Wharton-founded startups — Welltrip, Steamster, and Hairtelligence — were among the top 20 semifinalists. Hairtelligence continued to the finalist round, where co-founder and CEO Isoken Igbinedion, WG’21, pitched her beauty tech startup to a panel of live judges at the conference.

The Pitch

Addressing the Problem

“For African American women, Black hair can be synonymous with Black identity. As we grow up, we learn about the hundreds of ways we can style and care for our hair. The versatility does come with a dark side fueled by the pressure to conform with mainstream beauty standards,” Isoken said.

From limited access to quality hair professionals and high prices to long wait times and appointments, customizing hair products is a customer journey filled with friction. Hairtelligence seeks to transform the process and remedy these pain points.

Providing the Solution

Hairtelligence is the first direct-to-consumer business model in the hair customization space and ships ready to wear.

“We believe that women deserve a faster, affordable, and more intuitive solution,” Isoken said.

Hairtelligence uses computer vision powered technology to remedy all three of these customer pain points. Consumers use smartphone cameras to capture their facial dimensions and then virtually choose and customize hair and extension products, all from the comfort and convenience of their homes.

Looking to the Future

Hairtelligence won “Crowd Favorite” for its innovative business model. So far, the startup has concluded its minimal viable product (MVP) and is working on refining the algorithm that captures facial features and dimensions.

Isoken said, “We plan to have a fully operational process ready by May and we’re hoping to do a stealth launch just to really understand what are the product offerings that customers actually want. We’ll take that information and we’ll be able to refine our product offering for a larger launch.”

Semifinalist Fast Facts


Mission: Enable patients of all backgrounds access to high quality and affordable medicine in any corner of the world.
Co-founders: Ike Okonkwo, WG’22 (& Lauder) and Patrick Prommel, WG’22 (& Lauder)
Industry: HealthTech
Company Stage: Prototype

Welltrip arose from the co-founders’ personal calling to democratize healthcare, leveraging their experiences abroad to provide an alternative to high-costs, long-wait times, and restrictive insurance networks found in the U.S. The startup is a healthcare marketplace that connects medical travelers with accredited and peer-reviewed doctors abroad at one half the U.S. price or less.


Mission: Help students LEAP into a brighter future through Learning, Exploration, Activation, and Play.
Co-founders: Jeff Ponders II, W’04, & David Webber
Industry: EdTech
Company Stage: Pre-product

Led by a proven team of entrepreneurs, educators, and parents, Steamster is an edtech platform that develops personalized, interactive learning tools to enhance leading streaming content. The startup is bridging experience-developing unicorn companies like StockX with consumer trends in tech and media to help solve some of education’s greatest challenges.

— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: March 5, 2021

Wharton Stories

Why I Chose to Major in Quantitative Finance

“The pace of technological advances is very likely to result in a new era in investment management. The future of finance will be more quantitative than ever.”

Launched in 2020, Wharton’s quantitative finance major brings together students from a variety of academic backgrounds, such as computer science, engineering, and technology, and prepares them for successful leadership roles in finance. The major allows students to dive into financial economics and data analysis while also gaining the leadership and communication skills that are at the heart of the Wharton MBA experience.

“Finance, much of it quantitative, fuels the world’s economy,” said Dr. Bruce I. Jacobs, G’79, GRW’86, co-founder of Jacobs Levy Equity Management, whose gifts to Wharton bolstered the new quantitative finance major by creating a professorship and a Scholars initiative for top students in the program. “Innovations created by quantitative finance contribute meaningfully to global economic growth and will continue to do so at an increasing pace. It’s imperative that future business leaders have a basic understanding of quantitative finance. Wharton’s new major provides the opportunity to explore this vitally important field.”

We spoke with six inaugural Jacobs Scholars to learn more about why they decided to major in quantitative finance, how it has impacted their academic experience, and what they hope to accomplish in the future.

Abisola Otesile, WG’21

Previous Education: Imperial College London, MSc in Advanced Mechanical Engineering
Previous Experience: Started at Procter & Gamble as a Process Engineer before joining McKinsey & Company where I served corporate clients across Africa and NA
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance and Operations, Information, and Decisions

What has your Jacobs Scholars Program experience been like so far?
It’s been a stretch experience for me. I’m surrounded by incredibly brilliant colleagues and faculty, who share their perspectives on finance and key trends. It’s really opened my mind to the world of finance and now I believe I can understand technical topics that I never understood before Wharton.

Why did you decide to pursue the quantitative finance major?
I believe a good grasp and understanding of investments, especially around the application of financial tools and techniques for infrastructure investors, is key to unlocking the African economy for unprecedented growth.

I want to be at the forefront of infrastructure investments in Africa. I believe I have the requisite tools to get me started.

Tony Maggio WG’21

Previous Education: University of California, Berkeley, BS Civil Engineering; Stanford University, MS Civil Engineering
Previous Experience: Coastal Engineer at Moffatt & Nichol
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance

Why did you decide to pursue the quantitative finance major and what advice do you have for someone considering this path?
My engineering career gave me a strong quantitative and statistical background, which I wanted to apply to finance in pursuing a career in investment banking. Do not be shy or intimidated by the major! Despite the complicated subject matter, the faculty and resources will truly turn anyone into an expert.

What most excites you about the Jacobs Scholars Program?
The most exciting part of the program is the access to staff and faculty. This has included meeting Dr. Jacobs himself, special lectures from professors, and other academic opportunities for Jacobs Scholars to extend our knowledge beyond the core curriculum.

Emily Peach, WG’21

Previous Education: Oxford University, MChem Chemistry
Previous Experience: BCG London
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance and Business Analytics

What has your Jacobs Scholars Program experience been like so far?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far. Meeting others in the class with similar interests and working with them on projects in classes has been great. In addition, the opportunity to hear about Dr. Jacobs’s experiences has been extremely enjoyable and insightful.

What advice do you have for someone considering the Wharton MBA Program and the quantitative finance major?
The quantitative finance major has several incredibly interesting classes which have given me a great background in multiple finance topics including derivatives and fixed income securities. It has also allowed me to follow other interests, including a class on international financial markets.

Raj Thaker, WG’21

Previous Education: Dartmouth College, BA in Economics and Mathematics
Previous Experience: Head of Equity Risk at State Street Global Advisors (2017 – 2019), Investment Risk Analyst (2014 – 2017)
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance, Accounting, and Management

What most excites you about the Jacobs Scholars Program?
As a former practitioner in the field, this has been an excellent program to learn more about the theoretical side of quantitative finance. Many people think of quantitative finance as using formulas to calculate an answer, but it’s very important to understand the theories these formulas are built upon. By presenting the history and work leading to these concepts, the curriculum has substantially strengthened my knowledge of the field.

How is the quantitative finance curriculum preparing you for post-graduation success?
After graduation, I’ll be working in consulting. This rigorous curriculum has served to sharpen both my quantitative and analytical skills, which I believe will prove valuable no matter where my career takes me.

Aditi Kamat, WG’21

Previous Education: Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, BTech in Electrical Engineering (Honors) with Computer Science (Minor)
Previous Experience: Associate at Bain Capital Advisors – Private Equity (2017-19), Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co. (2015-17)
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance and Business Analytics

What most excites you about the Jacobs Scholars Program?
The pace of technological advances is very likely to result in a new era in investment management. The future of finance will be more quantitative than ever. Today, backed by knowledge and support from notable professionals, I feel empowered to contribute meaningfully towards cutting edge research in investment management across the world.

What has your Jacobs Scholars Program experience been like so far?
The Jacobs Scholars Program has provided me immense encouragement to pursue my passion in finance with a renewed vigor through advanced courses in quantitative finance and networking opportunities with notable investors and academicians. Such opportunities will surely expand my knowledge and help me develop a unique, dynamic approach to investing that combines human intuition and quantitative methods.

Eric Sun, WG’21

Previous Education: University of Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Science in Economics
Previous Experience: Technology, Media, & Telecommunications (“TMT”) Investing at KKR and Management Consulting at BCG
Wharton Major/Program: Quantitative Finance, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Organizational Effectiveness

What has your Jacobs Scholars Program experience been like so far?
The Jacobs Scholars Program introduced new coursework offerings and enhanced career opportunities. It combines the best elements of an MBA program and technical finance knowledge. Having a community of peers with a shared interest in quantitative finance has been conducive to my and my classmates’ learning.

How is the quantitative finance curriculum preparing you for post-graduation success?
While my career goals are evolving as I learn, I have enjoyed work that requires a strong understanding of finance. I expect applications of financial concepts to permeate my career. Knowledge of data science applications in finance and of asset pricing models will be valuable.

— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: February 18, 2021

Wharton Stories

What to Know About the Moelis Advance Access Program Before You Apply

“We read hundreds of applications from brilliant, innovative, and visionary young minds. And I couldn’t help but feel inspired and motivated to help cultivate such an amazing, diverse, and influential group of individuals.”

Traditionally, business schools look for three to six years of full-time work experience to apply to top MBA programs. This one-size-fits-all track can be a barrier to some undergraduates eager to make an impact on the world. That’s why Ken Moelis, W’80, WG’81, and Julie Taffet Moelis, W’81 launched the Moelis Advance Access Program, to offer both undergraduate and full-time master’s students in their final year of study guaranteed admission to the Wharton MBA after two to four years of full-time work. Students apply and secure their spot in the future class with the freedom to explore any career path, including traditional business industries as well as entrepreneurship, social impact, or a passion project.

Wharton MBA Director of Admissions Blair Mannix and Director of the Moelis Advance Access Program Jake Kohler address the most asked questions, the advantages of deferred enrollment, the Moelis Fellows community, and takeaways from the 2020 Moelis Fellows cohort profile.

What is the Moelis Advance Access Program and how did it come to be?

Jake: The Moelis Advance Access Program is a deferred MBA admissions opportunity. College students, whether undergraduate students in their final year of study or master’s degree students in their final year study, have the opportunity to apply to the Wharton MBA. And then, in the period after they’ve been admitted, work full-time before actually arriving in business school.

Blair: We looked at our student population and saw that there were a lot of students that had an interest in an MBA as college students, starting to poke into graduate management education as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. But what we heard resoundingly from these students was that they felt nervous to go out into the world and not do what they perceived as the “traditional” MBA pathway from college graduation to MBA application. We wanted to provide an avenue for those students to be themselves and take risks, start the companies they wanted, give back to society, explore business internationally, and be part of social impact endeavors; giving them the opportunity to apply and gain admission as successful college students, and then later matriculate, provides them with the freedom to go out into the world and take those risks and start that company that maybe they wouldn’t have if they were trying to put together four to five years of so-called “perfect work experience” to gain admission into the best MBA program in the world.

Why apply to Wharton via this deferred admissions program, as an undergraduate or master’s degree student, instead of directly to Wharton MBA after several years of full-time work experience?

Jake: The idea of risk plays a big role. I’m going to paraphrase some of the advice that Ken Moelis himself shared during a recent conversation with our Moelis Fellows community. Mr. Moelis talked about the value of using de-risking experiences, such as being admitted into a top business school in the world, to provide a confident foundation to take advantage of risks. By being in deferred admissions, you can take, and you should take, more professional risks, personal risks, and pursue those areas that you might not have had the confidence to pursue otherwise. I’m a big believer that risk-taking is analogous to early investments with regards to the benefits gained. Early risk-taking begets greater knowledge, greater opportunity, and greater achievement later on, much in the same way that an early investment yields both earlier returns and greater returns over your lifetime.

Who does Wharton hope to attract to this Moelis Advance Access program?

Jake: Students who see themselves being leaders of organizations, innovating within industries, or creating their own companies sometime in the future. For some of the candidates applying, they might be ready to take those steps next year and create that innovative new venture. But for others, they see themselves in those roles years in the future. But no matter what the timeline is, if you see your leadership extending beyond the team to being the person that will inspire and influence departments, organizations, industries — you see that an MBA program can play a role in your professional journey.

What qualities do you look for in an applicant?

Blair: The successful applicants who come through this program are students that have done really well academically in college. That does not exclusively mean they have the highest GPAs, but they’ve learned a lot and are already seeking to apply that knowledge and skill in the real world. Beyond that, it really is what you can do and what you can achieve and how you can lead and influence others as a college student. Many of you might be thinking, “Oh, I haven’t done enough.” But being a college student, doing well in school, and making an impact in your environment is exactly what we’re looking for.

How do admitted students engage with Wharton during their deferment period?

Jake: This is one of the key tenets and one of the distinguishable aspects of the Moelis Advance Access Program. We’ve created a web-based, mobile-friendly platform where our Moelis Fellows community can engage with Wharton, take advantage of Wharton resources, and connect with alumni. But just as important as engaging with the business school, creating the online community allows our Moelis Fellows — who are currently spread across six different continents and work in multiple different industries — to interact and support one another.

We want the Fellows to learn from each other’s experiences and utilize one another as part of the Wharton network before they arrive in Philadelphia. For example, the analysts that are currently located in Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, New York, San Francisco, and other cities around the entire world can share critical insights about their work projects and share tools and resources that empower all of their successes as they explore their early professional years. Since this online community is limited to just the Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program, it is a safe space to ask questions and learn.

Blair: Once you are admitted and matriculate to the Moelis Advance Access Program, you are Wharton family members. Before you are current students — you’re part of our Wharton family.

What are the top takeaways from the Moelis Advance Access Program admitted student 2020 profile?

Jake: I was blown away by the ambition, the diversity of thought, and the types of institutions and locations from which students applied. We admitted that cohort in the summer of 2020, in the midst of this pandemic, when it seemed as though our immediate life was uncertain. We read hundreds of applications from brilliant, innovative, and visionary young minds. And I couldn’t help but feel inspired and motivated to help cultivate such an amazing, diverse, and influential group of individuals.

Blair: The two words that come to me, first is grateful: grateful that these students who are so immensely talented wanted to be members of the Wharton family. And second, is excitement. Just seeing the things that they’ve been able to accomplish this young and early in their lives. We want them to go out and change the world. Take risks. It’s an apt time in society to be able to do that. So I’m excited to see them come back with the hopes that we’ll see some interesting things have happened off their desks over the last two to four years.


— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: February 4, 2021

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