Born in rural China, Yan Wu, WG’14, moved to Southern California with his parents when he was six years old. Early on, he developed a passion for math and science and majored in mechanical engineering in college. Seeking a career path different from traditional engineering, Yan went to Wall Street, where he focused on quantitative analytics and machine learning at the investment firm BlackRock.
After nearly a decade in investing, Yan began to look at career options outside of financial services. “I got as far as I could on Wall Street and wanted an MBA to pivot my career,” he said. “I wanted an EMBA program with academic rigor and a strong alumni network. Wharton was the right fit for me.”
Yan credits several aspects of Wharton’s EMBA program with helping to not only advance his career, but to take it in a new direction:
Cohort Diversity: “Everyone in this program is a superstar in their respective domains. It’s not every day that you get to spend time with people who are amazing at what they do and from so many different backgrounds. It’s a great learning environment because you learn from each other.”
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: “There were five companies started by my classmates, such as Boomerang Commerce and Stringr. Being next to these awesome entrepreneurs day-to-day gave me the confidence that I can also succeed as an entrepreneur. As a student, I tried to start a hedge fund, workforce-management company, a social networking app, and a translation app. All of them failed, but I learned the skills that starting a business requires: being scrappy, fundraising, and delivering product. Most importantly, I learned how to pivot and restart after each failure. Entrepreneurship is a bumpy and unpredictable path and entrepreneurs need to get used to things not working. You have to roll up your sleeves, learn quickly, and iterate after each learning.”
Class Relevance: “The core classes are a great equalizer. We all come from a specific area of expertise, but to become a better general manager, we need to know how to build a budget or present a sales pitch. Building the business foundation enabled us to elevate our management capabilities. Electives provide opportunities to dive deeper into areas of interest. I learned about innovation and how to go from ideation to business planning to execution. I use the concepts from these courses everyday.”
Powerful Network: “The Wharton network is truly amazing. The guest speakers, who were often alumni, shared their knowledge and career journeys, which was impactful. My classmates became invaluable resources. Whenever I have a question, I can call someone and immediately get guidance from a knowledgeable person. For example, I recently cofounded Bond.tech, a fintech developer platform. During the formation of the company, I consulted many of my classmates on issues around pitching, valuation, and deal structure. I ultimately raised a $10-million seed round and I credit my classmates with sharing knowledge that led to this exciting outcome.”
Career Impact Since Graduation
After Wharton, Yan transitioned from Wall Street to Silicon Valley and became head of data for SoFi, where his 70-person team led initiatives on analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, Yan realized that his passion for entrepreneurship wasn’t going away. When the opportunity to join Bond Financial Technologies as a founder came up, he “jumped in with both feet and is loving every minute of the journey.”
Bond is an enterprise-grade financial technology platform that accelerates the pace of financial innovation and access to capital. Through AI-powered infrastructure, Bond enables digital brands to better engage their customers by offering personalized and compliant banking products. Launching at the end of August 2019, Yan notes that Bond raised one of the largest seed rounds in fintech history.
He credits Wharton with helping change the direction of his career. “Before Wharton, all I knew was financial services. I didn’t know about tech or VC or anything that I’m working on now. Wharton exposed me to so many new perspectives and provided the opportunity to see what is possible.”
Today, Yan continues to immerse himself in the Wharton community by returning as an alumni for various events and speaking engagements. “The impact that the Wharton EMBA program and alumni network has made on my career is invaluable and I want to make sure that I contribute to this community as much as I can.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: February 5, 2020