When Hicham Zahr, WG’16, came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives, his goal was to transition into consulting and become a strategy leader. With a background in computer science, he needed the knowledge and credentials to make that career change.
“I came to Wharton for its rigor. I was impressed that the professors fly from Philadelphia to the San Francisco campus to teach; they aren’t compromising on the quality of teaching. And with two campuses, I could make that many more connections,” said Hicham, who is from Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 2008 following turbulence in his country in 2006.
When he started the Wharton EMBA program, Hicham was a global strategy program manager at Oracle in San Francisco. After graduation, he achieved his goal of moving into consulting and joined McKinsey in Dubai.
“I wanted to go to the Middle East to get emerging market experience in consulting,” he explained. “I was fortunate to travel a lot within the region and work on one of the largest digital transformation projects for the company.”
After a few years in the Middle East, Hicham returned to the U.S. and joined the research and advisory company Gartner in Dallas, Texas as a vice president. “My organization helps clients get the resources they need to achieve their mission critical priorities. I’m running a 50-person group with $250 million in business for the company,” he said.
A New Career Trajectory
Hicham credits Wharton with his career trajectory. “Wharton changed my life. In addition to gaining business knowledge and skills, I learned how to problem solve. The classes and discussions broadened my perspective and helped me look at problems in new ways. Wharton also gave me the confidence I needed to be successful. I learned from the best professors and very smart classmates who pushed me to step up my game.”
He added, “When you come to Wharton, everyone has a bit of imposter’s syndrome and you aren’t sure if you really belong. But by the end of the program, you and your classmates have absolutely earned your Wharton MBA and that gives you confidence that you can tackle any challenge.”
Hicham points out that his classmates and Wharton alumni continue to be part of his support system. “When I returned to the U.S. from the Middle East, I reached out to my EMBA friends and we picked up where we left off. We had developed deep bonds during the program that won’t ever go away.”
The Wharton brand is also valuable, he said. “The Wharton name is recognized everywhere around the world. You don’t have to explain it to recruiters or clients because they know about the caliber of the education and the quality of graduates. It is a powerful brand and opens doors everywhere.”
Advice to New Students
Hicham advises new students to take full advantage of their time at Wharton. “Get to know your classmates and absorb as much of the experience as possible. Go out to dinner and learn from these smart and humble people. Meet classmates from both coasts during Global Modular Courses (GMCs) and Global Business Week. And enjoy every minute because it will go by fast. If I could do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
— By Meghan Laska
Posted: December 3, 2020