After working the analytical side of marketing for years, Joy Sun, WG’19, saw the value in building out her broader marketing skills through a Wharton MBA.

Unlike many MBA students looking to pivot their careers, Joy Sun, WG’19, came to Wharton to upskill in her current field. “Marketing is a rare function where you can be super analytical or super creative,” she said. “Because I was coming from the analytical side, I wanted more experience in the creative side as well.”

From managing a $3.5M advertising budget to driving customer acquisition, her work at Wayfair had been mostly ROI-driven with an analytical focus. Over time, her projects started running into a separate division that focused more on the creative, storytelling side — brand marketing.

Because marketing is a broad function, a leadership position requires both general manager and technical skills. For example, marketing leaders at Wayfair manage everything from data science teams to TV advertising.

Joy decided to pursue an MBA to learn more about brand marketing and supplement her analytical experience. “I eventually want to be a well-rounded marketing leader, so I need to understand the storytelling side and how it works with the data side, and how they can be combined together.”

Practical Focus and Applicable Class Concepts

“I chose Wharton because of how robust I thought the marketing curriculum was,” she said.

“Our professors are really in touch with real-world questions, which is why I feel like they’re very valuable,” she said. In many classes, professors bring industry professionals to talk about their experiences, provide insight into marketing trends, and participate in class discussions. Joy continues to audit one of her favorite classes, Strategic Brand Management with Prof. Patti Williams, because of guest speakers such as the co-founders of Allbirds, the CMO of Taco Bell, and the marketing leadership behind IBM Watson.

Semester in San Francisco

Joy enrolled in Semester in San Francisco (SSF), an immersive learning experience for MBA students visiting Wharton’s San Francisco campus. She feels the program is a great opportunity to get a sense of the Bay Area’s vibrant economic activity.

The semester acted as her springboard into the startup space. She attended TechCrunch Disrupt where an interesting pitch from Forethought caught her attention. She introduced herself and they contacted her shortly after they won the competition. A month later, she ended up consulting for them.

Balancing Part-Time Work and School

The opportunity cost of missing two years of valuable work experience prevents some students from pursuing an MBA. Joy managed to work part-time at various startups throughout her MBA career.

“Because I’ve been working and getting exposure to a lot of different companies, I have probably seen more of how different companies are scaling than most people have. I am a full-time MBA, part-time worker. SSF makes that super easy because there are so many opportunities there,” Joy said. In total, she has worked for four startups during her MBA, from Series A to Series C, not counting her summer internship as a Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.

For Series A startup, Forethought, Joy has led everything marketing related — from launching a website to directing PR efforts and content marketing to co-marketing partnerships. In contrast to her work at Wayfair, she was able to work on a range of projects and leverage classroom learnings.

“Having classes in all of these varied functions actually made me a lot better at working in the startup field,” she said. “It’s a lot broader as a scope and classes that I took at Wharton, such as Partnerships, Brand Marketing, and Digital Marketing were directly applicable to startup marketing strategy and execution.”

Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: June 12, 2019

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