After several years as a venture partner at Oak Investment Partners helping start-ups expand internationally, Angel Saad Gómez found himself in need of a new set of skills to keep up with his growing portfolio. He had been interested in pursuing an MBA throughout his professional career, but never found the time to go back to school. Last year, he decided the time was right.
“I was no longer just leading my own initiatives, but rather managing and coordinating teams across companies. I wanted to get a broader understanding of the pieces of the companies and the priorities they must weigh. I knew that would be helpful for me as a VC going forward,” Angel said.
The Mexico City native wanted an MBA, he also wanted to continue working full-time so he narrowed his search to executive MBA programs. “Once I made that decision, I saw that the best EMBA program is Wharton so I only applied here,” he said.
From Mexico City to San Francisco
Living in Mexico City, Angel had the choice between Wharton’s campus in Philadelphia or in San Francisco. He decided to be close to San Francisco’s vast innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. “As a VC, you soak up so much from the community in the Bay Area. On top of that, Wharton flies in top professors to the San Francisco campus.”
Angel also appreciated the sizable international contingent of the West Coast program. “In many ways, the program reflects Silicon Valley in that many students are immigrants who grew up and studied abroad and — because of their talent — found their way to the Bay Area. This creates a rich learning environment at Wharton because of the diversity of professional and cultural experiences of students,” he said.
Many of his classmates have master’s degrees and PhDs in the sciences and engineering and have risen through the ranks to become leaders at their companies. For Angel, a venture partner leading strategic initiatives in key emerging markets, their knowledge and expertise has been invaluable.
“There is a lot of cross-pollination of ideas among students. I can talk to classmates to find out what worked or didn’t work in other countries. It helps me figure out timelines if things might take longer in some locations and determine the best ways to move projects forward.”
“Your classmates provide a window into a world that you were probably never aware of before, and one that would have been hard to learn about without this program,” he said.
Making it All Work
Angel’s biggest challenge so far has been finding ways to balance work in Mexico City and school in San Francisco. He credits the executive coach — a free service provided to Wharton EMBA students on both coasts — with helping him find ways to work through time management challenges and stay on track to meet his goals.
“My coach has helped many students over the years and makes sure that I don’t reinvent the wheel. I never had an executive coach before — or even thought I needed one — but he is helping me find smarter ways to balance everything.”
And while commuting from Mexico City may seem like it would add to the time management challenge, Angel said it’s become routine at this point. “You get into a rhythm, so having a five-hour direct flight is nothing.” Having the program calendar two years in advance helps him plan his time. “You know all of your class weekends ahead of time, but you also get notice about things like Global Modular Courses a quarter or two in advance,” he explains.
Spending every other weekend at Wharton’s San Francisco campus, the immersive academic environment has also helped Angel to build meaningful connections with his classmates and professors outside of the classroom.
“It’s almost like a camp experience. Everyone has commuted or flown in – even the faculty – and we’re all staying there for 36 hours together. This lends itself to eating meals with professors, conversations between classes, and even going for runs together,” he said.
It also means an expert opinion and a learning opportunity is never far away. “When startups I help are facing challenges, I can present some of those issues to my professors and we have insightful conversations about the best ways to design solutions,” Angel said. “Then I share that commentary with the companies and it is a win-win for everybody.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: July 17, 2017