Thursday, May 31, 2007

Early Thoughts on WEMBA Branded Career Treks

From what I can remember from our marketing classes last term, branding is very important. It's certainly important for the WEMBA program.

Now my head is full of international corporate finance and business law that I can barely remember the 5 C's and the 4 P's. And with the recent discussions about the idea of Wharton West career treks still fresh in my mind, I have recently embarked on having a number of discussions in my own personal network here in Silicon Valley to validate some hypotheses.

Here are some of my early takeaways:
  • Premium brand potential is there. There is great potential for establishing a differentiated WEMBA brand identity (aka brand extension) separate from the FT brand. WEMBA would be a premium brand offering with domain expertise as the differentiator. In other words, what most of us are doing now and have done in the past matters.
  • Brand awareness is low. The very idea of getting a WEMBA resume book seemed to have good traction, but that is a truly novel idea. We'd need to do some work here.
  • Small treks are better. The idea of small informal gatherings like breakfasts or lunches seems to be a good one, especially if there is an influential executive that agrees to meet. I think we'd call them something different. It's not a trek; it's about executive networking.
  • The network matters. Getting to the firms and people within them differs greatly from the FT trek approach. The focus would be executives that would meet future/current executives. We need to figure out how to leverage our own networks to arrange a WEMBA branded set of treks.
Here's some snippets of conversation over lunch with a partner in a VC/PE firm here in San Francisco (I have paraphased our conversation and kept the identities anonymous):

Q: Is there a separate market for experienced Wharton West grads of the MBA Program for Executives at your firm? These are people with 8-20 years of experience in their respective roles and industries.
A: I hadn't thought of it that way, but yes, there definitely is a market for those students that have great operational experience in some domain that want to move into a firm like ours. Understand that the pure play PE firms typically want deal experience found in the investment banks, and that pure VC firms want operational experience. We look for some of both.

We were looking through resume books from the top 5 B-schools last year specifically looking for resumes with specific operational experience combined with an elite B-school, but the people we were looking for were really hard to find. If there are great people that are already at the top / executive level of their disciplines, then we want to talk to them.

Q: What level would the people come in at?
A: That's a really hard one to answer, because it will vary from firm to firm. What you want to do is to identify those firms that are willing to hire from the outside at the VP, principal, or even partner level at a firm like ours. It really depends.

Q: Would you be willing to conduct a career trek session with WEMBA students only?
A: Yes, definitely. It would have to be small though, and certainly informal. I think a breakfast or lunch with about 8 people max would be a great format. You don't want them to get too big.

Hope this is useful.......

-Chairman P