Edward Sullivan came to Wharton San Francisco’s MBA for Executives Program to gain more fluency around business fundamentals, but soon realized that his classmates were just as much a part of the experience as the academics.
We recently caught up with Edward, who is the founder of LeadWell.co, an executive coaching and training agency, and GoodWealth.co, a social impact investment platform, both based in San Francisco, and asked him to tell us more about his time at Wharton. Here is what he said:
On Going Back to School
I began my career in nonprofit management and then moved into political consulting. However, after a few years, I became disenchanted with the world of politics and came to San Francisco to start over. I began working in the renewable energy industry and became a vice president of a solar company. After starting a boutique marketing agency that focused on the clean energy and start-up sectors. I decided to get an MBA to learn more about the fundamentals of business strategy and finance – I wanted to speak the same language as all of the other MBAs in the room.
Although I grew up in the Philadelphia area, I didn’t want to leave San Francisco to go back to school. I knew I wanted to do an executive program, and Wharton is hands down the number one EMBA program in the world. I only applied to the MBA for Executives Program at Wharton San Francisco, and fortunately, they accepted me.
On Self Sponsorship
Deciding to pay for this program myself was not an easy decision. I might have been the last student to send in the initial deposit because it was daunting. But I did some basic math and figured out that the return on my investment over the rest of my career – in terms of financial gain, knowledge, and network – would more than pay for the degree. Indeed, in my first year at Wharton, my consulting company was hired by a classmate. Between the knowledge and network, Wharton has already proven to be a great investment.
On Career Impact
I’ve always looked for ways to incorporate my worldview into my career. Wharton is the top institution for social impact and being here opened my eyes to the possibilities in this area, especially in impact investing. After taking Prof. Chris Geczy’s course on this topic and through my own experience as an investor, I came to understand how hard it is for noninstitutional investors to become involved in impact investing.
To solve this problem, I launched GoodWealth.co, an investing platform to enable everyday investors to build diversified social impact portfolios. I recently pitched GoodWealth at the Wharton Social Impact Conference, and we won the competition. I’ve also worked on this topic in an independent study with Prof. Geczy. I’m currently recruiting cofounders and early investors, and I’m finding that my association with Wharton is adding credibility and legitimacy to the project.
So yes, I wear many hats: I’m the founder of GoodWealth Co., founder of a leadership coaching business (LeadWell), and founder of a communications agency (Edward Sullivan Consults). It keeps things interesting.
On Global Learning
You can’t come to Wharton and not participate in a Global Modular Course (GMC). These are additional opportunities for immersive learning that are unique to Wharton. I went on two GMCs that took me to Brazil and Ethiopia. The Brazil GMC was called, “Managing in Emerging Economies: Energy & Infrastructure,” with Prof. Mauro Guillen.
The Ethiopia GMC was called, “Opportunities and Challenges in Africa: Healthcare and Business in Ethiopia.” That GMC was a new offering organized by Prof. Ezekiel Emanuel, who previously served as special advisor for health policy at the White House. On both GMCs, we were afforded incredible access to senior leaders in federal government, the United Nations, the Olympic Committee and more. In Ethiopia, we visited rural clinics and healthcare organizations.
Both GMCs also provided us the opportunity to explore local culture on our own. In Brazil, we organized a group house a block off the beach in Copacabana for New Years. In Ethiopia, a small group of us stayed after the class to tour the country and backpack in the Simean Mountains. Both of the GMCs were standout highlights of my time at Wharton.
Another high point was spending a term on the East Coast at the Philadelphia campus. That allowed me to double my network and make some great additional friends.
On Class Bonding
This is the kind of place where you think you’re coming for the education, but you leave with family. I realized early on that our true measure as people is what we can give and with whom we can share. So many people come to Wharton with open arms and open hearts with so much to give. I thought business school would be more of a solitary experience, but I’ve never met more generous people in my life. It adds a tremendous amount of value to the overall EMBA experience. And those friendships won’t end after graduation.
We all find ways to contribute and add value to the Wharton experience. For several years after moving to San Francisco, I ran a fitness boot camp for friends as a way to build community. When I came to Wharton, I did the same thing. Nearly every class weekend, we’ve met up as a group of students on Saturday mornings for a 7 am workout.
I’ve also organized several men’s dinners throughout the last two years. When several of my female classmates asked why I wasn’t organizing women’s dinners, I decided to do just that. Recently, I had a great dinner with over 20 of the women in the Wharton San Francisco program.
And graduation doesn’t mean the bonding and friendships have to end. We’re already working on organizing a yachting trip!
On Making Friends
Clearly, the best part of the Wharton experience has been the ability to build friendships with my classmates. As an adult, I can’t remember the last time I made 100 new friends. All of us could have gone to any number of business schools where we would have invested less time and energy to get an MBA.
But we all decided to come to Wharton – the best and the hardest program – because of the talent that Wharton attracts in terms of the faculty and students. The people in this program are simply amazing, and I’m honored to consider them friends and colleagues.
Posted: May 31, 2016