The Wharton MBA not only gives you knowledge, it gives you credibility. It tells people that you are a smart and strategic manager who is capable of taking on significant challenges.
When Nate Jenkins was accepted by both the full-time MBA and MBA Program for Executives at Wharton, he had a tough decision to make. Ultimately, it came down to opportunity costs.
His boss at the time, the secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, convinced him to do the EMBA format so that he could continue working and not miss out on professional opportunities.
We asked Nate, WG’15, to tell us more about his work for the government and the impact his Wharton education is making on his career so far.

Why did you choose the MBA for Executives Program?

My first job out of college was for Teach for America, teaching sixth-grade social studies in Atlanta. However, after going through a week-long campaign training boot camp sponsored by then-Senator Obama, I decided to start a career in politics. I worked on the first Obama presidential campaign in Florida and then moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Democratic National Committee.

Later, I managed the governor’s race in Florida in 2010. After doing these senior-level political jobs, I was recruited to the Obama Administration to the position of White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). There, I worked for the secretary of HUD and oversaw the hiring and management of the agency’s 90 political appointees, ensuring we had the right team in place to execute the president’s goals. After two years in this impactful and rewarding position, I decided to apply to business school.

I applied to both Wharton’s full-time MBA and MBA Program for Executives with the goal of transitioning out of politics and into the private sector. I wanted to formalize my business knowledge and couple that with my political strategy and management skills in the private sector.

I decided to go to the EMBA program for a two reasons. First, my wife had a great job in Washington, D.C. and it would have been challenging to move her job to Philadelphia. Second, when I talked to the HUD secretary about choosing between the EMBA and full-time MBA program, he convinced me not to leave the Obama Administration.

He pointed out that by continuing to work in the government while at school, I’d likely acquire career opportunities that wouldn’t exist if I left the workforce for two years. Looking at the possible opportunity costs at this point in my – and my wife’s – career, it made more sense to continue working and go to the EMBA program.

How did Wharton impact your career?

The HUD secretary was right! A year into the EMBA program, I was hired as the deputy director for private sector engagement at the White House. In this role, I helped lead the White House business team in managing the president’s relationships and strategic partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and CEOs. It was a great job that allowed me to apply lessons learned at Wharton in real-time. I would never have had this opportunity if I had left government to attend to the full-time MBA program.

Students in Wharton’s EMBA classes tend to be more experienced. It was not uncommon for a professor to talk about a case or recent business event and a student to raise their hand and say they were somehow involved or had one degree of separation from it. Working in the federal government, I was able to share my experiences too.

For instance, in our Tax Strategy class we talked about a new rule intended to curb inversions, a technique being implemented by U.S. companies to be acquired by smaller foreign companies in order to change their tax status. At the time, my office was actually overseeing discussions between the Administration and Fortune 500 companies about this new rule. This ability to have fulsome and informative discussions in class with the people who were actually there was truly beneficial to all of us and was a consistent theme during my time at Wharton.

You might wonder how WEMBA students end up with such strong bonds. I believe it is in part due to the residential aspect of the program. Even though most of us do not live in the Philadelphia area – in fact students come from all around the country, and as far away as Moscow – we don’t just take classes and go home to our respective cities. We take classes together and then bond on Friday nights over social events. We also stay in Philadelphia through the entire class weekend. The format allows for each class to become a very tight unit. You get to know not only your classmates, but also their partners and kids. This is a big differentiator for Wharton’s EMBA program.

How did you handle work/life balance?

One of the most challenging parts of the program was finding work-life balance. Not only was I in school for two intense years, I was newly married and working extremely long hours at a challenging job in the White House. However, Wharton was amazingly supportive and did a good job teaching my fellow classmates and me to manage our time efficiently. While it’s very hard to find that balance at times, our class nonetheless had 27 babies born during our two years in school, and at the time of graduation, there were six more babies on the way!

The Wharton MBA not only gives you knowledge, it gives you credibility. It tells people that you are a smart and strategic manager who is capable of taking on significant challenges. As a political appointee, my job (I’m now a senior advisor at HUD) expires at the end of the president’s term so it’s also helping to open doors as I explore opportunities in both the public and private sectors.

Posted: March 3, 2016

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