Feedback on Wharton’s new General Management Program (GMP) from two senior leaders, with two different perspectives on their own personal professional development, provides an instructive insight into the value of executive development engagements at the highest level.
As chairman and CEO of Sallie Mae, the major US student loan company very much in the political spotlight recently as the growth of student debt has become a national concern, Raymond J. Quinlan is in a high-pressure, highly important, leadership role. Sallie Mae, which has been helping students and their families plan and pay for college education for over 40 years, is all about personal development and learning. So, it is no surprise that its CEO should understand the importance of lifelong learning and believe in it for himself as much as for others.
Quinlan was seeking in-depth exposure to the latest and best thinking in business, and because he already has an MBA from Columbia Business School, he likes the fact that Wharton’s GMP allows him to tailor his curriculum to the subject areas that are most relevant to his current management role. “I have a band of experience,” he says. “I don’t want or need to study everything that is covered in an MBA. The ability to tailor my learning experience so that it concentrates on strategy, innovation, and marketing is what sold me.”
Sanjay Rajaram, founder and president of ImagineSys Inc, a company dedicated to providing quantitative analytics for Wall Street financial clients, came to the program with this objective in mind: “Completing Wharton’s GMP will not only sharpen my management skills but also help grow my business.”
Entrepreneur Rajaram realized his personal background in engineering and computer science would not be enough for him to lead his company as it grew. “I needed new knowledge and skills to be able to better run my business,” he says. Receiving guidance in selecting the individual programs that would help him meet his goals, he chose to focus on finance, with four programs in core business acumen (one each in leadership, strategy, marketing, and finance), and two finance electives.
“For me,” he says, “the GMP was a better option than a traditional MBA. I needed more flexibility because of my role at ImagineSys. But I chose it…because it uses MBA curriculum and is taught by the very best professors.”
That flexibility also initially appealed to Quinlan, who has appreciated the level of dialogue and access he has had with Wharton professors. “I didn’t count on it, but I appreciate the high level of interaction I’ve had with faculty so far,” he says.
Rajaram says in addition to faculty interaction and the rigorous curriculum, another GMP feature stood out. “The program is very experiential,” he explains. “I will be leading different teams and experimenting with new leadership models in one program, and analyzing and optimizing companies’ capital structures in another.”
There are three other aspects of the GMP that complete the story for these CEOs. First, they receive high-quality, research-based executive coaching. This helps build and strengthen their skills and behaviours and keeps them on track to meet the personal goals identified at the beginning of the process. Secondly, they meet and share ideas with peers from other industries on the program. Thirdly, as Wharton alumni, they will now benefit from access to a global network of more than 95,000 alumni in 140 countries, webinars held by Wharton faculty, and Global Forums that explore timely issues with faculty, government officials, and distinguished alumni. Upcoming forums will be held in Miami, Hong Kong, and Sydney.