You learn not to take yourself too seriously and you learn how to help each other push through creative roadblocks.
Before Wharton, Melody Chen, WG’17, spent long days as an attorney negotiating contracts and drafting agreements. She joined the Wharton MBA Program to pursue a more collaborative and innovative path, where an extracurricular role as a writer on the Wharton Follies pushed her in an unexpected direction – a brand strategy internship at Funny or Die, the internet comedy venture founded by Will Ferrell.
“Wharton Follies gave me an opportunity to exercise creativity,” Melody said. “I got to spend eight hours every week writing, collaborating, and laughing with some of the funniest people I’ve ever met. It made me want to find a similarly creative atmosphere to intern in.”
Supplementing her academic credentials, her second-place finish in the Penn Design Challenge, and leadership in the Innovation Summit, she applied to Funny or Die with a pitch deck that included links to Wharton Follies videos she’d worked on.
“Follies trained me to better understand and create material for your audience, which is very important for a brand strategy role,” she said. “Given that my background was in law, I think having Follies on my resume gave the credibility to be considered for the Funny or Die role.”
A California native, she’s now recruiting for jobs on the West Coast that use all of her skills – legal, creative, and business – in a partnership or marketing position.
Here’s what she had to say about how Wharton’s open culture changed her:

When you’re first introduced to Wharton, you hear a lot about “stretching yourself,” or going on a “stretch experience.” Stretching requires putting yourself outside your comfort zone and pushing to try something new. Wharton provides this wonderful two-year period when we’re encouraged to take risks, whether it be in the classroom, in our career search, or out on a leadership venture. Rather than resigning ourselves to failure or being complacent in success, Wharton students use stretch experiences as an opportunity for developing new skills, self-reflection, learning more about our peers, and developing leadership and teamwork skills.

One example is Wharton’s grade non-disclosure policy — which encourages students to take classes they find challenging, or outside their intended major or career interest. This policy gave me the push to take Sports Management (even though I barely watch sports) and Principles of Retailing (even though I’ve never worked in retail). It gave me the resolve to try playing hockey for the first time at age 30, lead a trek to Cuba, and plan the MBA Innovation Summit for more than 300 attendees. You also have the Wharton community supporting you. This is a community that reserves judgment, encourages you to push yourself, and most importantly, has your back and will pick you up when you fail.

One of my absolute favorite stretch experiences at Wharton has been writing for Wharton Follies, a comedy group that writes, films, and produces an annual song, video, and skit comedy show satirizing the Wharton MBA experience. I’ve always had a love of comedy and had taken improvisation classes prior to Wharton, but one thing that always made me uncomfortable was acting, which also just happened to be part of the Follies writer responsibilities. Follies writers not only write the skits and songs for the show, but also star in the video skits that play a part of the show. So, with the need to “stretch myself” in mind, I went for the writer’s role.

And I’m so happy I did. When you spend that much time writing with a group of snarky and hilarious Wharton MBAs, you inevitably develop a close bond. You meet an incredibly interesting group of people with diverse backgrounds that inspire you and make you strive to sharpen your wit, your observational skills, and your comedic touch. You learn how to better collaborate with each other, how to encourage each other, and how to positively build on each others’ ideas. You learn not to take yourself too seriously and you learn how to help each other push through creative roadblocks. They make you laugh so hard you cry. They tolerate your #dadjokes, email you about job opportunities, and prep you for interviews, even though they don’t have to. They become your network, a part of your unofficial family, and an integral part of your life.

Posted: January 26, 2017

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