Synopsis: The Regional Seminar, a component of SSF, brings the knowledge of industry leaders and entrepreneurs to Wharton students – this article shares some of those insights.
What is this Regional Seminar? It’s compulsory? And do we have to write reflections? The whining began as with any Wharton course we are involuntarily signed up to.
In the efforts to bridge our academic curriculum with its practical application in the real world, the regional seminar is a unique course offered to the SSF Cohort. Speakers are brought in on a weekly basis to give us insights into various industries and companies that they work with.
Despite my initial skepticism, I have been left amazed by the speakers so far. The SSF Cohort is not an audience that is easily impressed. With many of the class having spent periods of their careers in Tech, Venture Capital and Private Equity among other industries, the questions posed to these speakers are rarely customary or routine. Yet, the majority of the speakers have given us not only deep industry insight but also frank and honest accounts of their experiences.
So here are 3 nuggets of unconventional wisdom that I have gained from our speakers so far:
Behavioral science is not just textbook science
Wayne Lin (WG’11), a Senior Director of Product Management at Opower showed us that behavioral science can be used in the consumer energy market to drive tremendous savings for energy suppliers. Concepts that we learn in the classrooms in Huntsman Hall such as social norming and loss aversion are frequently applied by Opower to motivate behavior. Behavioral science doesn’t just belong in research papers and textbooks. We frequently think of the carrot and the stick as the two options of driving behavior, but there are more novel approaches we can apply.
You don’t have to be a founder to be an entrepreneur
We typically have a romantic notion of entrepreneurship. College student comes up a world-changing idea over pints at a pub. College student recruits a co-founder and hacks together a prototype that acquires users at a mind-blowing pace. Fast forward through VC funding and early founder drama and we come to the holy IPO grail. The fairy tale is complete.
Eugene Kim (WG’07), President and COO of Pressed Juicery, did none of that. He was burned out from his PE job and needed a break. Through his boss’s wife he discovered a golden goose in Pressed Juicery that was turning over about $5m across two tiny stores in LA. He agreed to help take this business into the big leagues. First, he put together a structured expansion plan out of his consulting playbook. Next, he injected the financial acumen and discipline from his private equity background. Lastly, as he knew close to squat about juice (at that time), he set out to hire the best people to pull all the levers that would make this company a success.
We may not all agree with the way Eugene gets things done. But the thing I learned is you can still have many of the scrappy, exciting experiences of building a business and achieve financial success without necessarily being a founder.
There is a simple checklist for choosing a job
Dan Levin, COO of Box, gave us his two cents on what he looks for in a job. Basically, it should allow you to:
1) Play for the winning team
2) Do something that makes a difference
3) Get compensated fairly
4) Have the opportunity to grow and develop
5) Have fun!
It’s that simple. Or maybe not quite if you’re graduating into an economic trough.
So, to any 1st years that are considering the SSF program, I can assure you that you have plenty to look forward to in the Regional Seminar if you find yourself on the west coast in Fall 2015.