Lifelong Learning Testimonials

I earned an MBA from Wharton in entrepreneurial management about seven years ago. Even if the Scaling Ventures course had just refreshed what I learned in my MBA, that would have been fine, but what I loved is that this was completely new. The professors weren’t just teaching the materials they teach their MBAs; the topics that were discussed, the curriculum, were truly focused on someone who was building a business and trying to scale it.

My company, Cotopaxi, is a digitally-native outdoor gear retailer with the mission of inspiring adventure and moving people to do good. We use a percentage of revenues to support poverty alleviation, and we employ refugees.

Scaling Ventures allowed me to step away from the day-to-day of running my company and really reflect on what we're doing right and what we can do better. When I came back, I actually pulled in my entire executive team and shared some of the highlights from the class. We started looking more critically at areas where we’re getting the best return on capital, and we’ve made some changes based on that learning. It’s been really impactful.

One important lesson was that a lot of startups make the mistake of scaling without first going through an efficiency phase. I'm a huge believer in the concept that before you go scale, make sure that you build efficiency into the business. Another great takeaway was about hard growth versus easy growth. For example, instead of opening up a bunch of new stores — which is a relatively easy way to grow revenues but not very capital-efficient — figure out ways to make your existing stores more profitable. That goes straight to the bottom line as profit.

As a Wharton alum, there were some fun elements about being back. I already had an affinity for the school, and was very familiar with some of the Scaling Ventures professors: David Wessels, Karl Ulrich, Ethan Mollick. There were a few other Wharton alums in the class so we had an instant connection, which was great. I enjoyed being reconnected with this place that has had such a big impact on my professional career.

Gad Allon was just phenomenal. He did a great job of connecting with students. I've talked with him after the course, and he has reached out to the whole class by email a number of times. All the professors were world-class, and the participants were a great mix of people running larger and smaller companies and family businesses.

I would recommend Scaling Ventures  highly to any entrepreneur who’s looking to scale their business. It was incredibly relevant and worth every minute of time I gave it. I've gone back to my notes from that class countless times, and my whole team has benefited from the lessons I learned in the course.”

Davis Smith CEO, Cotopaxi

I do independent consulting and I’m currently working with an international communications and marketing agency. I decided to enroll in the Customer Analytics for Growth program because I have worked for 14 years in the consulting industry and wanted to better understand what my clients wanted and needed.

The Wharton program helped me integrate most of my past work experience into one coherent set of skills and gave me a foundation to expand my capabilities. My appreciation for what customers might be looking for has been shifted quite a bit, and I really gained great insights into what it means to work with customers.

One major insight that I got from Customer Analytics for Growth was that even though human beings can be infinitely complex, their behavioral patterns are actually not that complex when it comes down to the moment of deciding whether to buy something or not. There are a lot of great tools that can help you understand customers’ underlying propensities and past behaviors.

Another takeaway was that because there’s so much freedom and reach in what you can do in the online digital space, ethics matter. It’s important not just for people in my role but for users, site operators, and ad agencies. I also gained a better understanding of the larger customer analytics community — marketers, consumers, corporate managers, scientists, and developers — and the part each one plays in this field.

The faculty was excellent and the program was well-designed. I felt that they delivered the program at their best. I also had a great time getting to know the other participants during the classes and at lunch and dinner. We ended up building a collective view, a coherent understanding, of a given subject. That kind of thing never happens in a regular work environment, so I really liked that aspect of being in the program. I strongly recommend the course. I would give it a 10 on a scale of 10.

As a Wharton alum taking this class, I almost forgot what it would be like to be back at Wharton. It was a reminder of the quality and style of the faculty, and I realized I missed that environment very much: an environment where you get to access the intellect and rigor of those researchers. I also enjoyed being around the staff members and of course the students who come to take the courses.

So it was great to be surrounded by the kind of place where you can appreciate what academia has achieved over many years; where you can access resources to really understand what’s happening around you, in your own way and on your own terms. I really want that kind of message to be sent out there: for people to understand what it’s like to be back in school once in a while.”

Takashi Yoshizaki Founder, Takashi Yoshizaki Consulting, New York City

Since I work in the public/non-profit sectors, there are few resources for professional development. As such, I was attracted to the opportunity to take advantage of Wharton’s Lifelong Learning benefit for Wharton alumni, in particular this CFO program, since it is so tailored to my work.

I thought the program was good, very well organized and well carried out. I had actually studied with David Wessels, who heads up the program, during my Wharton MBA. He’s a very good professor and I also enjoyed talking to him on the side. The course incorporated real-world information that went beyond just building a model. It provided knowledge that was really helpful for people actually responsible for the function or the organization, such as human resource considerations, and how to create a well-run finance division. I thought it did a good job of that.

One of the best things was being able to meet CFOs from around the world in different industries. You find out that even though they might be doing banking in Nigeria as opposed to a nonprofit in California, you actually have similar concerns. Breaking out into teams and working through the cases together enabled opportunities to learn from each other. And I really appreciated the use of real case examples around what drives company growth, and how you make trade-offs.

When you're just running around day-to-day trying to keep an organization going, it's hard to step back and think about how to be strategic. So sometimes just literally taking the time to do it, like through this course, serves as a reminder that you should try to think strategically more often.

As a Wharton MBA, it was great to be back on campus. I think that encouraging Wharton alums to do these programs is a really nice gesture by the school. It ties you back and engages you with the university, and it’s good for people to have that opportunity to reconnect.”

Emily Schwarz Assistant Dean and Chief Financial Officer, UC Berkeley School of Public Health

As an MBA alum, coming back to Wharton for the Venture Capital online program was about trusting that this institution can deliver a top-notch continuous learning experience as well. Over the last 15 years, I have been an M&A banker on Wall Street and subsequently in Business Development and Corporate Strategy in pharma & consumer health in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. This year I took the leap and set up my own health care venture and I play dual roles as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. As the world growingly became gripped by COVID-19, I took the opportunity to invest in myself and turned to Wharton to digest VC fundamentals and be in a position to examine my own business model with a more informed lens.

The timing of the program could not have been better to address gaps to executing well on investment opportunities and setting up health tech ventures. I was exposed to frameworks, tools, techniques, tactics and resources that equip one to evaluate business models, entrepreneurs and teams on ground. Importantly, I was able to build a network of peers who were sounding boards and on similar paths. These were valuable building blocks which the program delivered on.

As a first-timer to online learning, my expectations going in were akin to a skeptical customer. Instead, the VC program showcased as a well-executed learning platform. The structure was organized, interactive, fast paced and easy to navigate. Despite burning the late-night oil (the program ran from 7:00 p.m. to midnight in my time zone in the Middle East), I stayed engaged due to the high energy of the superb faculty and the mixed forums, which consisted of full scale discussions to smaller group huddles to problem solving breakout rooms to online polls and offline Q&As.

The culmination — truly a world-class experience and one that has left a very high benchmark for future online learning. Bravo Wharton!"

Lale Faheem Founder, L Alfha