Hockey has been my passion since the age of 12. I played for my school and I still lead pickup hockey games on the weekends. In my overseas travels, I have also found that hockey can be the common language of the world. One example of this was during the time I spent at University in Seoul, Korea. As soon as I got there, I of course went looking for someplace to play hockey. I discovered a foreign student team that plays against other departments. I decided to try it out, even though I was very nervous about playing in a strange land.
In the first practice, I led my team for a straight win, scoring two of the goals. After the practice, the senior players in the team approached me, explaining that lately the team hadn’t done well, and they needed a coach and leader. It was incredibly flattering. I like experiencing new things and coaching hockey in Korea definitely fell under the category “new”. There was one big problem though: most of the players spoke Japanese or Chinese, so our mutual language was only Korean. Since I had just gotten to Korea, my Korean was not yet fluent.
I began my role as a coach, but at first, the language barrier put a great distance between me and the players. I couldn’t explain what I wanted. But I didn’t give up. I could see the potential of the team, and I knew the experience would help me a lot. To overcome language and attitude barriers, I prepared very challenging and fun practices. I wanted everyone to feel a part of a serious team. I also arranged for a new team outfit and we started to look like one unit. Using physical examples, I taught them offense/defense moves. After a couple of practices, the players began to show commitment and excitement, and my confidence was building.
I especially remember the semi-final game. It was the second half, we were behind, and the team was starting to not believe in itself anymore. I took my last time out and with my poor Korean, gave them the motivational performance of my life. I showed them how wet my shirt was and all my bruises. I was a leader at the head of his team who was about to lead his group to the final struggle, I loved it. In a click of a second, I saw in their eyes that we were going to make it.
We came back from the time-out and they fought like lions. I remember a certain player that missed all his kicks in the game. He had an open shot. He hesitated but I believed in him, I shouted in Korean, “Kick the ball!” He tied the score. It was our game from then onwards, and the final score was a two-point win.
Using creativity and the language of hockey, I had the experience of overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers. I will probably encounter difficulties during my MBA studies at Wharton but I’m ready for the challenge and I’m sure I’ll find a way to overcome them.
"The deputy CEO, ___, wants to meet you!" were the words that started my workday. ___ just returned from a meeting with the president of Europe's 3rd largest food producer. He reported that the company is interested in closing a multi-million dollar deal with us on one condition – that we improve our product's appearance.
As R&D manager of my company, I was tasked with leading this project. The problem has been known in the company for years, but was never resolved. I led and supervised 21 employees, coordinated the work of 40 people, and 2 weeks later implemented a solution.
During the initial discussion with Dan and 5 senior managers, I suggested the methodology for solving the problem. I presented the feasibility of the proposed solution and an initial estimate of the costs, and operational implications. The Marketing VP said "this is exactly what we need! When can you deliver?”
However, I felt our suggested solution was operationally premature. Despite estimates that we need to come up with a solution within 2 weeks, I asked for 2 more weeks to conduct trials. "We have nothing to lose – we're starting full-scale production tomorrow!" ___ and the CTO said. I explained that the financial consequences of failure would be tremendous and that we must also ensure we provide a consistent solution. Ultimately, they approved the trials.
Right after the meeting, I gathered my R&D staff of 6 researchers. I presented the issues, emphasized the significance of the business opportunity, and defined a timetable. I also asked the Marketing VP to evaluate the magnitude of the problem in other markets. His report revealed more opportunities that solving the problem will create. This required my direct collaboration with 5 marketing people operating in more than 50 countries, 3 application managers, and our China production facility.
I led the coordination of the full-scale trial with senior management, the marketing and operations departments, and application managers. During production, I supervised the work of 17 employees. The production turned out to be 100% successful in terms of resolving the problem. It created no operational problems and maintained the original product's quality. I felt very proud.
A shipment was sent to the customer for re-evaluation and received his approval. This was the first time in my 3 years at my company that a process was successfully changed on the first try. However, not everybody embraced the solution. The company's chief operating officer wasn't excited because of the implications on operations. After several weeks of discussions, I persuaded him this was the only way.
Ultimately, my work provided the conditions for facilitating a $2 million deal, the company's largest new contract that year. By resolving a problem that existed for 4 years, I also affected customers all over the world.
I chose to share this experience because I feel it highlights several leadership aspects. Solving the problem required me to lead a wide variety of people in my country and abroad. It also entailed close interaction with the company's senior management. Most importantly, this project required me to present a new vision and convince others to adopt it.
Upon graduation I wish to lead the fiber-optics product management team in one of the world's largest optical communication companies (such as Alcatel-Lucent and AT&T), supervising a group of 5-10. Striving to promote myself within the organization, I wish to become the Vice President of Marketing in the fiber optics segment, supervising several dozens of employees.
My mid-term goal is to become the founder and CEO of an innovative fiber optics firm. I desire to position the company as a profitable, international, and leading company in its industry and aspire to establish a sustainable organization, creating workplaces for thousands of employees and turning an underdeveloped area into a flourishing industrial zone. Passave, an optical communication company, which was lately acquired for $300M, is a model for such a successful company.
After fulfilling this goal, I intend to follow the growing trend of successful executives who moved to the public service sector. My plan is to become a senior manager in the Prime Minister's Office.
I chose my first full-time position in the Optronics Division in the military because I knew it will introduce me to the diverse optical communication community in my country, equipping me with basic hands-on experience in the field. The first two years I worked as a Physicist and a System Engineer and then I was promoted to the position of Electro-Optical Projects Manager in the division's headquarters. There I set the goals, supervised and directed 9 Project Mangers in optical projects performed by 7 different companies in the defense industry.
At that point, I realized that for developing the managing tools required for a senior manager I'll need to gain more experience in bigger organizations. Therefore, I persuaded the head of the R&D directorate to be reassigned to a classified Intelligence unit. My first mission as an Optical Engineer was to lead a group of 4 in building a module that was the heart of a $100M system. One year later I was appointed to a Team Leader where I commanded a team of 8. Two years later I was promoted to Project Leader.
I understood I lacked the financial and international experience of technological project management to lead a global optical communication company. I, therefore, became a Project Leader in a classified unit of the PMO. I supervised a team of 20 and managed all financial aspects of a $2M project (presented to the Minister of Defense), where I also had the marvelous opportunity to negotiate with highly ranked officials of three foreign governments.
While considering studying for a Ph.D., I worked as a part-time Internal Consultant of 5 Project Leaders. I then became an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) in ____, entrepreneurship, and investment firm, in the hope to learn more about becoming an entrepreneur. Working in Precede, I matured in my understanding. I realized I still lack some Finance, Marketing, and General Management foundations, which an MBA will enable me to develop.
In light of my long-term goal to become a founder and CEO of a technologically oriented company, I'll need to gain the strongest possible general management skills. The finance and marketing foundations will compensate for my inexperience in these fields. The structured formal general management education I'll acquire in Wharton will broaden my view and give me the tools to leverage my experience and create a successful company. I believe an MBA is the most structural way to learn how to build organizational values, culture and design organizational structure and hierarchy.
Moreover, most of my leadership experience was developed in governmental organizations, where a leader is defined in terms of his values, interpersonal skills, and professionalism. However, looking into the future, I will need to lead in the private sector where leadership is also characterized by the talent to lead corporate players in global, competitive markets and an understanding of the cultural, economical, and financial forces that drive the marketplace. Hence, I believe studying by the researchers of the Center of Leadership and Change Development like Prof. S. Kaplan who composed Framing the Future will help me build and lead a high-performance optical communication firm.
My experience is mainly based on large and established organizations. Hence, learning from Prof. Dushnitsky on the various dimensions of new venture creation and growth in Entrepreneurship will show me his perspective on the trail I wish to follow as a founder. Desiring to build a sustainable company, I am looking forward to taking Strategy and Competitive Advantage, where I hope to learn how to create and maintain such an advantage. Learning how to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and how to exploit them where "Creating Values" was contemplated, will lay a solid basis for achieving these goals by myself.
In a world that is growing ever flatter, I find international exposure and experience important for the global company I wish to found. The Multinational Management major courses, such as Global Strategic Management, and participation in the Global Immersion Program will prove valuable in helping me understand other cultures which will be important when penetrating new markets. This international exposure will improve my ability to establish contacts with other nations, hence supporting my longer-term career goal of rejoining the PMO.
Wharton's mindset and student body imply numerous benefits. The exciting opportunity to participate in school management would contribute to the fruitful interaction between students and faculty. I plan to take part in the leadership development activities and the various student clubs to create strong friendships. These connections, combined with the great global alumni community, can be especially relevant as an ecosystem for the company I plan to start and for recruiting its management backbone.
Describe a setback or a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)
In my 2nd year in university, my 2 study partners and I were all working for software companies. We frequently discussed ways to make quantum career leaps. One that fascinated us was starting our own company.
One day we came up with an idea that would increase sales for consumer goods retailers and simultaneously decrease monthly consumer expenses. Each day, we polished our idea together for a couple of hours.
After 2 weeks, I decided to get outside feedback. I looked for people who had at least 10 years of experience in consumer goods. Finally, I convinced a friend, to connect me with a board member of the 2nd largest consumer goods retailer in my country.
I presented our business model to the board member, and he instructed his right hand to set us meetings with managers who could evaluate our plans. Over the next month, we went to one meeting after another. The responses varied from enthusiasm to skepticism. Each time, we improved our presentation according to the feedback.
Finally, I managed to set a meeting with the previous CEO of the largest consumer goods retailer. He concluded our meeting with: "Guys, in my opinion, it's not going to work".
I couldn't say if it was the pressure from school and work or the CEO’s negative feedback, but since that meeting, I wasn't able to motivate the team to go on. We consciously gave up.
2 years later, one of my teammates called out of the blue: "check out this link…it works!". I think he expected me to feel disappointed. Actually, I felt pride – my first business attempt was viable after all.
But, I had failed to push it through.
Looking back, it was an amazing experience. I learned much about myself, but two lessons stand out. The first was that, at the time, I didn't question what drives each team member. For me, it was primarily an adventure, and losing some money because I was working fewer hours for a while was a risk I was willing to take. Later, I realized that one teammate, who was already in a long-term relationship, was really worried about financial security. Then I understood that that was the core reason for many of our business strategy disagreements. Since then, I have learned to analyze others' motives. I found out that it not only improves my communication with peers, but it also helps me convince my supervisors.
The second lesson was an eye-opener. I learned that I simply enjoy business. I was excited before each meeting and had fun analyzing business models and role-playing with my friends. I experienced energy levels that I had only ever felt playing soccer. I realized I am not willing to compromise on a career I will just tolerate, I want one that excites me.
This realization completely simplified all my future choices. About 2 years ago, my CEO gave me a choice between a business and a technological position. That was the easiest decision I made in my life.
In mountain climbing, there are many uncertain variables (from weather and equipment functioning to rock conditions). In my 10 years of climbing, I’ve learned to outline my route precisely and hope for the best.
During my most recent climb, over a week up “X” mountain in India, and just days from the summit, the expedition reached a hundred-meter cliff laced with ice. As a group of 9 experienced (and determined) climbers, we advanced fifty meters towards our goal, but the conditions grew far worse than we’d expected. I went forward alone to check the danger of ice conditions ahead. When I returned all eyes were on me to decide– to go on or step-down (an extremely hard decision at 5,500 meters, with little air in my lungs and months of training behind our eager group). Yet, I saw it was clearly too dangerous to continue.
Making this final call to turn back I felt the failure of the expedition laid in my hands. Rationally, I knew the ice conditions that prevented a successful summit were out of my/our control, but I also knew that if we’d had a higher level of experience we could have made it. The climb was a failure, but we also had failed (I could see the disappointment in my team’s eyes). Yet, turning back felt especially like my own failure since I took the decision to abandon the goal… our dream.
Walking down to base camp was solitary for us all. After 9 days climbing in extreme conditions, months of organizing our team, researching the mountain, training physically and mentally, and then that intense inner drive and anticipation, it was gutting to have it taken away. Worse, it was the first time this core team I've been climbing with for years failed to summit a peak.
Back at base camp, a question was raised whether it’d be worth climbing a different (second-choice lesser) peak. For me, this introduced an inner struggle– feeling it wasn't worth compromising, yet knowing giving up completely could feel far worse. This failure made me realize how single-focused my mind was and how resistant I was to let go and "re-set" so quickly onto new goals. Yet, I saw stubbornness was like pouting and would get us nowhere.
Eventually, we climbed another peak, which was ultimately fulfilling and taught me to define failure not as falling down but staying down. After this experience, I recalled my first major climb in Argentina in 2006 with this same team. The expedition leader lectured us on accidents happening from being blindly ambitious about reaching a peak. He warned us to stay in-tuned with the limits of ourselves and the mountain and how far we can push both. I remember thinking then I’d be willing to give up a finger to make it to the top.
So, four years later, I was proud I had the foresight to gauge the situation, myself, and my team’s abilities and acknowledge that giving up was the right decision. I learned it is important to get over blinding pride, and now I’m proud to feel it actually might have taken more courage to accept our limits and give up initial goals. Importantly, I learned to know and accept my own limits and understand that failure is what we define it as. Because we went on to an alternate peak, this experience taught me failure isn’t an “end” of a path, but rather just a change introducing a new junction. I learned to see failure as something I move through, around or over, rather than letting it be a stopping point.
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fail.” (Confucius)
I dream of putting my enthusiasm for financial markets to practical use by becoming a fund manager specializing in impact investing in the secondary market. To achieve this long-term career goal, I plan to land a post-MBA sell-side equity research position in an emerging market-focused team for a US firm. Alternatively, I can cover technology sector analysis, as many Chinese technology firms are listed in the US, and China is a significant sales market of most US technology firms. Still another option would be to leverage connections made during a career trek to Hong Kong and get a post-MBA buy-side investment analyst position for a firm such as Fidelity HK or Hill House in Hong Kong.
Through my study of accounting and CFA and my work experience as a corporate finance analyst and credit analyst, I’ve built solid fundamental analytical skills to analyze traditional financial data. But investment analysis is evolving from traditional finance data to the machine-learning realm. Hedge funds like QAR and Citadel are combining quantitative analysis with fundamental analysis, and a new term, “quant-mental,” has been coined recently. Therefore, to achieve my goals, I need to master these critical skills.
I learned during the information session held last December in Shanghai that Wharton emphasizes data-based decision-making and is introducing a Business Analytics major this year – which is exactly what I need. This major offers stochastic process and optimization method courses, the foundation to further study financial time series data and derivative pricing. I would also study R programming, a good complement to my Python programming skill. Then, I can master the two most widely used data analytics programming languages. Most importantly, I would gain so much from a series of courses addressing the entire data analysis process, from data cleaning and exploratory analysis to modeling and visualization. To enhance my technique, I would also take modern data mining and text analytics in the statistics department.
To achieve my goals, I must also hone my teamwork and leadership skills, and Wharton is the best place to do that. I’m amazed by the experiential learning opportunities in the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. I have a good mainstream investing track record but need more specialized knowledge to gauge the social impact of my investment. Wharton Impact Investing Partners would be a good start, providing me with both impacts investing training and leadership opportunities. Also, I’d like to participate in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training to gain hands-on experience by competing with a Wharton team against other schools. Finally, I plan to join the Social Impact Fellowship to complete a real social impact project, preferably related to my favorite topic: how to apply shareholder activism to rein in irresponsible corporate actions and achieve social benefits.
In addition, the McNulty Leadership Program is a top-notch training platform to develop my personal leadership style. Throughout the one-year Coaching and Feedback Program, I will better understand my leadership strengths and growth opportunities, and one-on-one executive coaching will help me realize my leadership potential in my own way. Finally, Wharton’s famous learning teams and Leadership Venture will provide ample opportunity to practice the leadership skills I learn.
For the past five years, I have worked as an equity analyst, analyzing, valuing, and investing in companies across Africa. This has given me the opportunity to travel to various African countries and further develop my analytical skills.
Post-MBA I plan to return to South Africa to combine my passion for the continent and the skills that I have developed to take on the role of COO of businesses I co-founded with my husband, and where I now serve in an advisory capacity. The first business is a hedge fund that uses algorithms to drive the investment process. The second business is working to disrupt the high trading fees charged by incumbent financial institutions in emerging markets by leveraging the scale of one of the largest global trading platforms.
As COO I will be responsible for overseeing business development and driving penetration of group’s businesses further into their existing markets as well as into new emerging and frontier markets where there is ample room for disruption. However, to be an effective COO, I first have more to learn and new skills to develop.
In my recent conversation with ______, MBA 2010, he firmly stated: “With Wharton being the oldest business school in the world, the built-up knowledge is unparalleled if you are planning a career in finance.” Although I have been part of the asset management world for the past 5 years, investing in companies and driving a group of financial companies requires very different skills and understanding. As COO I will need to ensure that optimal capital allocation decisions are made and that the businesses can adapt to the fast-changing fintech world. Courses such as Accelerated Corp Finance, and the International Exchange program, will better prepare me to face these challenges. I hope to spend a semester at the Arison School of Business in the start-up nation of Israel, taking the Innovation and Entrepreneurship course. With relevance to the tech-enabled companies I will oversee, I hope to gain perspective on how other tech-enabled companies approach the marketplace, identify opportunities, and form their strategies. I also hope to understand how rapidly growing companies manage the balance between growth and ensuring that all processes are in place for a robust organization.
For me, one of the most attractive offerings at Wharton is the personalized Executive Coaching and Feedback Program. I hope to use this program and involvement in clubs (such as the Wharton Women in Business club) to better understand my strengths and identify areas to improve my leadership skills. These skills will be pivotal for my role as COO when I will need to hire the best talent, drive corporate culture, motivate employees, deal with conflict, and form strong partnerships with people in different markets.
I look forward to leaving Wharton a more all-rounded individual, equipped with the theory and skills to make an impact in the investment industry of the emerging markets.
Our staff includes former representatives of the Wharton Admissions Committee