Today’s guest, Mary-Patton Davis, earned her BA in Government and French from Georgetown in 2010. She worked in marketing in the U.S. and in Rwanda, started a yoga business in Rwanda among other things, and earned her MBA from Wharton in 2016. While there she co-founded and led LeadUp, a mindful leadership program emphasizing health and wellness for ambitious young business leaders Since August she has worked in San Francisco for NerdWallet, a personal finance start-up. Welcome, Mary-Patton!
Can you tell us more about your background and your path to Wharton? [1:40]
It’s a non-traditional background. I majored in international relations and French at Georgetown – at the time, I was very interested in political communications. I stayed in DC right after graduation for about a year and a half. Then my sister was launching a women’s college in east Africa, and she asked me to help with communications, so I moved to Rwanda and worked with the Akila Institute. I loved living in the country and the work I was doing. Through that experience, I met leaders of family conglomerates, including one who asked me to create a digital marketing department in his advertising firm.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA? [5:20]
As you can imagine, I never really had an MBA in my sights. After working in the nonprofit realm with my sister, I was working in the advertising agency and realized I really liked it. It drew on different skillsets. But I also realized I needed more training. The head of the family conglomerate I worked for had his MBA, and he was a big mentor for me – he really coached me and helped me identify the MBA as the next step.
Why did you choose Wharton? [7:18]
I targeted quantitative, finance-oriented schools because I knew I needed to build those skills.
It was definitely a steep learning curve my first year! But it was the right choice.
What do you miss from Wharton? [9:45]
There’s a lot of nostalgia for business school when I get together with my classmates in San Francisco.
I really miss the crazy international trips and the social life! From a more academic perspective, I miss the organized opportunities for intellectual stimulation – talks, clubs, etc.
What could be improved at Wharton? [12:45]
One thing that’s a function of the wealth of opportunities is FOMO – fear of missing out. You feel pressure to do everything. You have to remember to dole out your time according to what’s most important to you and spend your time appropriately.
Did you find the MBA valuable? Is it valuable in the tech world? [14:50]
For me, it was absolutely the right decision – I was transitioning from a non-traditional background and from working abroad.
But the MBA isn’t for everyone. If you just feel like you’re stagnating or don’t know what you want to do next, it may not be the best option. It’s a big investment and a big decision – don’t decide to do it by default.
What is LeadUp and how did you found it? [18:10]
It was a fun project I started with a friend at Wharton. The idea was to provide immersive experiences for young leaders to help them develop their skills and reflect. It was for grad students across Penn – not just MBA students.
We came to this after realizing how intense the MBA experience is – we started from wanting to create a space for mindfulness, and it became a great holistic experience.
We applied for incubator funding in second year, but we decided not to pursue developing it formally.
How did you balance your activities and school? [23:10]
When you get to business school, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I tell people to focus on the three to four things that matter most – for some people that’s getting really high grades, or participating in leadership, or social activities. For me, it was LeadUp – which also gave me experience building a small business while finding space to explore mindfulness and positive psychology.
What is NerdWallet? [25:50]
It’s a personal finance tech company. We educate consumers on the best options available to them – including how to refinance student loans, etc.
I really like the mission of financial education. We try to be an external third party to help give people education/information on financial products.
What is your role? [28:28]
I work with the strategy and business operations team (BizOps). My role includes both strategic and operational duties – and combines quantitative analysis and execution.
Were there any challenges in transitioning from the MBA to a startup, or from the east coast to the west coast? [31:15]
I did Wharton’s semester in SF program, which was a nice intro to west coast living.
In general, the transition from b-school to the workforce can be jarring – facing the pressure to deliver after being in school. It was my first job in the US since 2011.
What you learn in the classroom is helpful, but there’s nothing like learning on the job! It’s exciting to be actively learning on the job and see progress week after week.
I’ve been talking with a lot of people recently about recruiting. [35:20]
I encourage students to think about their recruiting process in a criteria-driven way, and prioritize which one is most important: function, industry, etc. What do they want out of their job?
Do you have advice for MBA applicants or recent admits? [38:15]
For people applying: highlight your unique experiences. Explain your story and why you made the decisions you did. What is unique about you and how will you add value to the b-school?
For those about to start b-school: focus on prioritization and goals. Take time before starting the MBA to think about what you want to get out of school, and build out a plan for the first six months of school.
The post From Rwanda to Wharton to West Coast Start-Up: MP Davis’ Story [Episode 202] appeared first on Accepted Admissions Blog.
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