October 2018 | Leadership
A health insurance executive in Hawaii. An IT consultant in Paris. A World Bank program manager in D.C. An industrial security expert in Minnesota. A Navy commander in Virginia. Professionals like these have been drawn to enroll in the Wharton Online Leadership and Management Certificate program. Why? Because they realized that with just an internet connection, they could tap into Wharton knowledge and expertise wherever they were located, whenever it was convenient for them.
Offered completely online with flexible start dates, the program helps mid- to senior-level managers in any industry become better leaders. Participants explore four different course areas: Leadership in the 21st Century, Managing and Motivating Talent, Managing the Global Firm, and Strategic Management: Competitive and Corporate Strategy. The distinguished Wharton faculty include Adam Grant, Sigal Barsade, Katherine Klein, Mauro Guillén, Harbir Singh, Nicolaj Siggelkow, and other luminaries.
“Leadership is the engine by which you advance in your career,” observes Nancy Rothbard. Michael Useem, who co-teaches the Managing and Motivating Talent module with Peter Cappelli, says of the program, “For anybody with responsibilities of almost any kind — whether it’s managing two people in a small office, or 20,000 people in a larger company or organization — this program has the content you need to get your job done.”
Participant Joseph Fissore, an IT consultant for financial services firms and banks, took the program to increase his knowledge and boost his resume. He describes it as a “stepping stone” in his career. Fissore recently landed a position with Ailancy in Paris and credits the program with helping him achieve that goal. He notes that during the interview process he was asked to devise strategies for case studies in global business, and drew on learnings from the Managing the Global Firm module. “The program has had an impact on my life,” he comments.
Other participants say the program was an opportunity to update their knowledge after many years of proven experience in their industry. Kenneth Mwenda, a Washington D.C.-based World Bank program manager and a professor of law, explains, “I completed my MBA in the U.K. in 1995. Between then and now, so much has happened in terms of emerging best practices.” He calls the program “valuable for anyone who wants to get a handle on the latest practices and concepts.”
Navy commander Donald Williams, who has 25 years of service, wanted to learn more about other organizations’ management approaches because “when you’re in the government, and the military in particular, you become accustomed to the way we do business here.” Currently considering a transition to the private sector, he found that the Wharton Online program helped him explore how his skills were applicable to commercial industries.
New on-the-job challenges were the motivation for some participants. Sai Boyapati, a quality engineering manager at Samsung in Santa Clara, California, says he decided to enroll when he was tasked with managing 60 people across multiple geographic locations. And Ben Yuan, a senior manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, recently accepted a new position overseeing a team of analysts and operational staff. Yuan gained insights into how other thought leaders or change agents in their firms handled management issues.
An important benefit of the Leadership and Management Certificate program for many participants was gaining greater perspective on their own companies. They recognized the tremendous value of this knowledge for their professional capabilities and career advancement. Elizabeth Carlyle, a vice president and general counsel at Houston-based Vision Source, says she hopes to contribute to her company not only as a general counsel but as “an architect of our company’s future. By applying [what] I learned through Wharton, I hope to be a more well-rounded member of the executive team.”
In a similar vein, finance manager Layi Babalola of Publicis Groupe in New York comments that he acquired an understanding of “how local strategy is aligned with the global vision and mission of the group.” And a senior security manager at Minnesota-based BAE Systems, Rick Ziesmer, says he now thinks more strategically. “It’s really made a big difference,” he notes. “I am better positioned to help our security function, [see] how it fits into the company as a whole, and [determine] how we can be a better enabler for the business.”
Another lasting benefit for the participants was the ability to expand their professional networks online. “You get to meet people from around the world as opposed to when you’re a resident student,” says Mwenda. Yuan agrees, “As we wrapped up the program and went back to our day-to-day jobs, we still have that professional network.”
Participants found the online format extremely convenient. “I could work at my own pace, switch around different topics if I wanted, and be flexible about it,” comments Fissore. Williams was able to keep up with the course “without skipping a beat” even during frequent business trips to other countries.
Ziesmer speaks enthusiastically about the program: “I would 100 percent recommend it. I thought it was amazing. It’s just everything you’d expect from Wharton.” Boyapati’s advice for potential participants is, “To anyone who is thinking about enrolling, I say stop thinking and do it.”
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