Last month, I graduated as a member of the Wharton MBA Class of 2015. Sure, it took me four years to graduate from the two-year program … but it was for good reason and certainly worth the wait. Originally a member of the Class of 2013, I took a leave of absence in 2012 to focus full-time on CommonBond, a marketplace lending platform for student loans that I co-founded in fall 2011 during my first semester at Wharton.
Five months ago, I decided to finish my Wharton degree. CommonBond itself went from a MGMT 801 project to a national lending platform, serving over 700 graduate degree programs, offering the broadest product suite in the industry and saving thousands of borrowers—my fellow Wharton MBA graduates included—a lot of money.
I came to Wharton to start a FinTech company, and learned a tremendous amount from successfully doing so: raising both equity and debt capital, hiring a team, developing company culture, creating financial analytics and reporting, securing NYC office space, building a real corporate infrastructure and much more. I’d argue there is no better way to build upon the Wharton MBA coursework than starting a company from scratch.
I have also always seen tremendous value in being a full-fledged graduate; it was very important to me to finally cross the finish line.
Returning was in line with long-standing advice I hold dearly: Never stop learning. All the education I’ve gained has ironically only made clearer just how much more I need to learn. Continuing education is critical for sharpening skills and for adding new ones to remain competitive. Following that reasoning, I took courses in personally uncharted territory: retail strategy and retail supply chain management. I worked on the roll-out and marketing strategy for a startup’s product launch. I also took Wharton Lecturer Bob Chalfin’s “Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition” course, as acquisition is how I’d likely pursue a future entrepreneurial opportunity. In addition to classes, I worked with Wharton’s Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Assistant Professor Ethan Mollick, which was fitting given CommonBond was conceived in his class in 2011.
In the Wharton MBA Program, we learned from both professors and each other by drawing from personal work experience. I converted my CFO experience into a white paper—a framework to help early-stage founders think through their own forecasting issues.
Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting lots of talented new people along the way from the classes of 2015 and 2016—even on graduation day. It’s been an amazing ride, and I leave Wharton ready for the next challenge and excited about what the future will bring.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article appeared on the Wharton Entrepreneurship Blog on May 22, 2015.