“It is a lot to juggle, but it’s all doable.”
As a young teenager, Dr. Darryl Wells told his parents that he wanted to become a doctor or get his MBA at Wharton. Now, Darryl is a practicing cardiologist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA and a second-year EMBA student at Wharton San Francisco.
We asked Darryl, who also is a father of four daughters, to tell us about a typical Wharton weekend and how he balances work, school and family. Here’s what he said:

On Commuting from Seattle

On class weekends, I work a full day on Thursday and then catch a 6:30 am flight from Seattle to San Francisco on Friday mornings. It’s a two-hour direct flight and I usually see at least one other Wharton classmate on the plane. There are five of us from Seattle who commute, but there are many direct flights to San Francisco and some people fly down on Thursday night. Once we arrive in San Francisco, those of us on the flight share an Uber to campus.

Dr. Darryl Wells with fellow EMBA students from Seattle.
Dr. Darryl Wells with fellow EMBA students from Seattle.

On Classes

The first class starts on Friday at 9:30 am. Since I’m a first-year student, I’m taking core courses like Finance, Operations and Marketing. On most weekend sessions, we take two core classes, but occasionally we have three. The typical format is to have the first class from 9:30 am-12:30 pm with a 15-minute break around 11:00. Then we head to lunch.

On Networking at Lunch

This is not your typical cafeteria experience. Lunch at Wharton San Francisco is unique in that we don’t eat alone and we rarely sit with the same classmates twice. We usually sit down at the first open spot – it’s a very open dining room with huge tables — and either meet new people or get to know classmates better. We’re all here to expand our network and this is part of that process.

There is a speaker during the lunch break too, often in the finance, entrepreneurial, or social impact space. The speakers are diverse and range from founders of startups to asset managers at multinational banks to venture capitalists. We don’t have time to attend all of the speaker sessions so we pick and choose what is of interest to us. We also might need to spend lunch working on projects that are due that weekend.

On Afternoons

In the afternoon, we attend another class session from 2:00-5:00 on a different core subject. Then, from 5:15-7:15 we have a Communications module where we focus on public speaking and persuasive speech. On a recent weekend, we worked on pitching a business idea. On another weekend, we worked on structuring speeches to prepare for counter arguments. By 7:15, it’s been a long, full day and we’re ready to decompress.

Dr. Darryl Wells with his Wharton learning team.
Dr. Darryl Wells with his Wharton learning team.

On Friday Nights

Friday night is the time when we hang out with our classmates and get to know each other better. We have lots of choices from group dinners on or off campus to student-organized events like karaoke, bowling, or tours of local attractions like Alcatraz. We even have a “Wharton Pub” at our hotel.

At Wharton, we’re exposed to a diversity of people with very different interests, skill sets and geographies. We meet people who we probably wouldn’t meet in our day-to-day jobs. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your classmates, you’re missing out on a big part of the program.

On Saturdays

The next day begins with breakfast from 8:00 am – 9:00 am as well an optional speaker. Then we have our morning session of classes, a shorter lunch break with another speaker from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, and then an afternoon class from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. It’s a very busy day, but this schedule shows how Wharton makes the most of your time on campus.

After all, you’re coming here for the full MBA – not a watered down version. After the last class, I usually head to the restaurant next door to hang out with classmates before it’s time to leave for the airport. Most of the Seattle students all take the same 6:30pm flight home so that time is spent relaxing and socializing.

On the Residential Aspect

I wasn’t sure how I would handle commuting from Seattle to San Francisco, but now I know that I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend a local school and make this work. I’m very busy in my daily job as a cardiologist so if I had stayed local, it would have been impossible to separate myself from work and dedicate my weekends to school.

I can’t imagine going home at 8:00 pm on a Friday night after a full day of classes only to wake up again on Saturday – leave my family – and do it all over again. By flying to San Francisco to attend classes, I can devote myself to the program without distractions.

On Work-Life Balance

Class weekends are long. By the time you head home, you’ve had 36 hours of school, content and networking. But it’s so different from my work as a doctor that I find it invigorating and energizing. To find some balance, when I return from a school weekend, I take Sunday off to spend with my wife and four daughters who are 10, 8, 2 and an infant.

My youngest daughter was born in October a few months after I began the program. I know I’ll work hard for two days at Wharton, but then come home and focus on being a dad and decompressing before I go back to work on Monday. If I were attending school locally, it would be harder to have this demarcation of my work, school and family time. It is a lot to juggle, but it’s all doable.

Posted: May 19, 2015

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