April 2022 | 

In Their Own Words: Advanced Management Program Alumni

In Their Own Words: Advanced Management Program Alumni

Advanced Management Program (AMP) participant Tiffany Willis, vice president and head of investor relations, Starbucks, was asked for her advice to senior leaders contemplating the AMP. Her response? “You have to hear from alums of the program. What will truly help you commit is understanding what the experience was like for others.”

For our readers considering registering, we spoke with four recent participants who attended the modular version of the program, which includes two weeks on campus and three online. They shared their overall experience, the elements that stood out, and the return on their investment. And one, Vinu Thomas, shared that he was already contacted by a potential participant through LinkedIn who wanted to hear about his experience first-hand. That person is joining the next AMP cohort.

Deepened Perspective, Greater Impact

Jill Tiongco, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Montage Health, says her view of her career and the impact she could make have expanded dramatically. “Before the program, I volunteered for medical missions that bring care to patients in underserved countries. This hands-on work was a way I could use my skills to give back. Now, I am on the board of a regional medical society and working with the organization to create a greater impact. I am coming into conversations saying, ‘How can we get to the next level, reaching more people and providing better care?’ The learnings from AMP have created a jump in my perspective from taking care of individual patients to strategically improving processes and harnessing the talent we have to scale up what we are doing.”

An Extra Edge: Advanced Knowledge and Skills

Vinu Thomas, senior advisor to numerous start-ups, says, “When I spoke with Client Relations, I was originally thinking about getting an MBA. But because I have been in leadership positions for 25 years, they suggested the Advanced Management Program. It is a stepping-stone for senior executives looking to take their knowledge and skills to the next level — regardless of what that looks like. It can be different for everyone.”

“Although I have founded a number of companies,” says Thomas, “I have never led a company. That means I’ve been focused on strategy and vision instead of being in the thick of operations and finance, so I knew I needed the extra edge that knowledge in those areas would give me. I also never had the opportunity to have my leadership evaluated. The AMP gave me a viewpoint on the areas I need to improve, and I opted to continue working with my executive coach on these areas since the program ended.”

Unparalleled Learning Community

“One of the best things about the Advanced Management Program is that we're placed into different teams at different times, so we're able to learn from each other,” says Adam Perlow, chief operating officer of Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group. “There are a lot of people in the program who have different skills and different backgrounds and different specialties than I do, so it's great to be able to get coaching from them as well as our Wharton executive coaches.”

Vinu Thomas cites the peer-to-peer networking as “one of the big reasons why I decided to join the Advanced Management Program. I actually looked up some of the peers that I was going to be interacting with and practically everyone was a C-level exec. The conversations we've had both in and out of class have been really enlightening. And then the ability to do team projects, be it rowing, the social enterprise project, or the leadership navigation challenge, really brings out who you truly are as a person when you're put into a high-pressure situation. The experience showed, the maturity showed, their industry knowledge and their subject matter expertise showed, and we all learned from each other.”

Dr. Tiongco adds, “I left the program energized, inspired, and ready to enact change. But to make things happen, that mindset and the energy have to be sustainable. The way that has worked with the AMP is through the authentic relationships we have developed with one another. I still connect with our cohort on a regular basis. We support each other. I have been through other programs and made networking connections. But there is an authenticity and longevity with the relationships from the AMP that is different — and one of the best surprises to come from the experience.”

Executive Coaching

Krishna Chellappa, director at Fresenius Medical Care (India), says the executive coaching was one of the reasons he chose AMP. “It was very insightful and deep. It has left a lasting impression on me. Because of the discussions and the conversation that I had with both my coach and my teammates, I gained a lot of insights in terms of where I need to change or improve and what I’m good at, where my strengths are.”

“The coaching has been invaluable in growing my self-awareness,” says Dr. Tiongco. “In the health care industry, we learn how to empathize and be compassionate with our patients. But self-awareness isn’t something that we are taught to have. In this era of burnout, I feel it is crucial and critical before you can even get to self-care to better understand yourself and what you need. I am still working with my executive coach, and discovering more.”

“At the same time,” she continues, “the coaching and greater self-awareness unlocks your potential. You go through the AMP, you discover in a short period of time that you can do much more than you previously thought. You learn what your skill sets are and what you are capable of, and you get the tools to actually make things happen. My hope is that the growth that I am going through will translate into growing the number of people I can help.”


Many participants chose the modular AMP because of its flexibility. Adam Perlow says, “The fact that it was hybrid meant that I could fit it into my schedule. I found it surprisingly easy to build bonds with the learning community. And the reason for that is partly because of the way the Wharton Advanced Management Program team leads us through our sessions. We always have time to break out into small breakout groups to do exercises, and sometimes just to chat and check in with each other.”

Krishna Chellappa and Jill Tiongco note another perk of the online modules: “They give you the flexibility to implement what you learn immediately at your work,” says Chellappa. “But you also get the flexibility to come to campus for about two weeks and experience it with all your colleagues who are part of the AMP.”

“The program was so well designed that we could learn and then immediately bring it back to our work, and actually start applying it,” say Dr. Tiongco. “When I applied for the Advanced Management Program, it was pre-COVID, so I was supposed to be in the cohort that was completely immersive. When I found out that it was actually going to be hybrid, it made me hesitate a little bit. But now I have to say I wouldn't have it any other way.”