A (Full) Day in the Life of EMTM

When their Saturday morning New Venture Initiation class wraps for a 20-minute break, Jack Allison and Joe Kieffer convene in Huntsman Hall 260 to discuss findings on their latest project.

The assignment was to develop a business proposal for an innovative new venture and evaluate its feasibility as though they were entrepreneurs getting a new business off the ground. Allison, a VP and director of complementary store services at Commerce Bank, and Kieffer, director of information technology services and solutions enablement at GlaxoSmithKline, have investigated the possibility of creating real-time clearance and availability for paper deposits at banks, so that customers could immediately access the funds they deposit. The idea seemed more than logical, yet a reverse income statement they ran this weekend tells a different story: Implementing the system in an existing bank would mean losing $30 million.

"I don't think either of us can afford that so I think we have to kill it," Allison says.

Though the pair spent about 30 hours total on the project — and several the previous Friday night preparing a reverse income statement for today's class — all is not lost. "We've learned how to use the tools to evaluate the pros and cons of an idea," he says. "That's what we're here for." Both students agree that the exchange of ideas and industry expertise, late-night meetings and group collaboration are integral to a typical EMTM weekend.

Stepping Back and Getting Perspective

Kieffer, who received an MBA from NYU in 1999, finds the weekend format efficient and effective. "The program is geared toward seasoned professionals and that makes the whole experience more valuable," he says. "For many of us with families, spending every other weekend away is a personal sacrifice, but at the same time, I've found it to be a great opportunity to take a step back and get perspective on my career."

While EMTM students lead hectic lives, they say the transition from the workweek to program weekends is usually a smooth one. Students describe the weekend as a kind of working vacation — a respite from quotidian demands and a chance to reflect on new ideas and challenges.

"I personally appreciate the fact that there's a separation from the rest of day-to-day life when I get in the car or the train to come down to campus," says John Koehler, a product manager at DealerTrack in Lake Success, NY. "I basically set aside everything to focus on school."

It also helps that the nitty-gritty details are managed by program staff. "You check in and everything is taken care of: You have breakfast, your copies are ready, your books are waiting in a box," says Wayne Wilson, a consulting director at Oracle in Pittsburgh, PA. "One of our professors didn't have our papers graded by last class so he mailed them to us in between sessions because he wanted to make sure we had them. They couldn't make it easier for you."

Personal Connections

Staying on campus for the weekend reinforces personal connections among students — with discussion spilling over from Friday night dinners to Saturday morning breakfasts and between-class lunches. Program participants appreciate the opportunity to network and learn from one another during these informal gatherings.

"I have spent most of my career in one company so the networking opportunities here are extremely important to me — it's amazing how open people are to sharing resources or offering creative ideas," says Allison. "It's an amazing group of dedicated, talented students all driven to the pursuit of this degree and knowledge." For his part, Allison has already connected some of his job-seeking classmates with colleagues and he anticipates that more than one entrepreneurial partnership will result from other relationships he has developed here.

Mike Gunn, a third-year student who works at Lockheed Martin, began the program on a part-time basis and recently switched to full time. He believes that the weekend stay is invaluable for gaining exposure to other industries and meeting peers in his own. "Before I came to EMTM. I got a masters degree through a distance learning course and I missed the whole experience of actually getting to talk with people. Aerospace can be a closed industry, so it is great to meet students in other industries who are dealing with similar issues."

"The immersion experience is a better alternative than an evening school program, where you come and go without getting to know your classmates," says Koehler. "Here, they do a good job of keeping us together, we have plenty of opportunities to interact, and it's amazing how much you can pack into a 36-48 hour period."

Immersion Experience: Packing it all in

Case in point: Over this program weekend, John Koehler arrived by train from New York on Thursday night, checked into his room at the Sheraton, caught up with other arriving students and studied. On Friday, he had breakfast with classmates before his morning class, Technology Entrepreneurship; he met with others over lunch at Penn's Houston Hall, then headed to his afternoon class, Marketing Tactics and Strategy. Friday evening, he attended an Emerging Technologies Seminar on "Electric Power Grid Emerging Technologies," followed by a catered EMTM dinner, and then got together with a group of students from his Marketing class to discuss a sales forecasting project.

On Saturday morning in his class on Fourth Generation Wireless Networks, Koehler heard guest speaker Mark Pecen, EMTM'05, VP of Advanced Technology for Research in Motion (RIM), discuss the latest frontiers in wireless technology. After lunch, he attended a Nanotechnology class and met with another group of students before heading home for the weekend late Saturday afternoon.

Koehler even plans to return to campus on the following weekend. "We're technically off but I'll be here all day for a seminar in mergers and acquisitions for tech companies. To me, it's these kinds of opportunities that make the program really stand out." Koehler has particularly enjoyed the opportunity to hear from guest executive speakers, which has helped him gain insight about what goes on at the top ranks of organizations.

Balancing Work and Fun: "An incredible buzz"

Between classes, team meetings, extracurricular activities and informal social time, a typical session on campus manages to combine work and fun. Last year, Gunn was involved with EMTM's student organization and helped organize outings to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies. "With the number of extracurricular activities available to us, it always feels like a good balance — you're working on projects but you're also going out to dinner and catching up with classmates."

The range of activity choices on any given weekend is impressive and even overwhelming at times, says Allison. In addition to Friday night group meetings, Emerging Technologies Seminars and more casual get-togethers, he tries to participate in activities in the wider Wharton community such as the Venture Capitalist Forum and visiting speakers.

While he can't always get to every event he'd like to attend, Allison always looks forward to an EMTM weekend. "Being on campus is like an incredible buzz. No matter how hard your week at work is, you're excited to be here."

See also — Sample Weekend

Related Link:

> Sample Weekend

“Being on campus is like an incredible buzz. No matter how hard your week at work is, you're excited to be here.”

Jack Allison, EMTM'08
VP — Director, Complementary Store Services
Commerce Bank
Moorestown, NJ

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