Meet The Wharton MBA Class of 2017

Jose Guerola

Jose Guerola

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Undergraduate School and Major: Universidad de Lima – Bachelor in Business Administration, Finance

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

The Carlyle Group – Private Equity

International Finance Corporation – Investment Analyst

Credicorp Capital – Investment Banking

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing to take either the GMAT or GRE? First of all, I would tell students to dedicate some time up-front to building a solid plan and thinking strategically about how to maximize the use of their study time. Finding time to study in a way that is smart and efficient while working is not easy for anybody who wants to achieve a high score. I found it really helpful to create a weekly study schedule where I’d give more emphasis to areas where I felt I could do better and most importantly keep track of my progress at the end of the week by doing practice tests.

In the same way, I found that an important part of the process is learning how your mind behaves when getting accustomed to solving problems under time pressure. Some good advice for applicants is to try spending a decent amount of time reviewing questions they got wrong and really trying hard to solve them before checking the answers. This learning process helps you become more knowledgeable of strengths and weaknesses and lays the foundations that will allow you to adjust your study plan accordingly.

Finally, I’d encourage students to try to make this process enjoyable by finding a study buddy an instructor or being actively engaged in GMAT forums. This way, you can not only master concepts more quickly, but also make the experience less stressful – considering studying for the test can take several months in many cases.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? First and foremost, I believe thinking thoroughly about want you REALLY want to accomplish in life and what is the right path to get there is the first step every applicant should take before deciding to apply to any MBA program. From there, I’d say also learn about leading professionals in your area of interest to understand what skills and behaviors make these people successful in their everyday life. The third step is thinking deeply about which skills you currently have and which skills you need to develop at this point in your career to get where you want to be in the next couple of years. Fourth, I would prioritize these skills/knowledge in order of importance and exploring what different MBA programs offer in each respect and how they differ from one another. Finally, engage with the programs you think will help you get to where you want to be from a professional standpoint, either by talking to alumni or making a class visit so you can really gain an understanding of the culture of each school and find the one that will bring out the best version of yourself.

In my experience, leadership development was a huge priority given that I felt I had reached a point in my career where I needed to complement my technical skill set with formal managerial skills. In that sense, my main goal was to find the right program which would allow me to gain some of the tools and frameworks to become more effective as a team member as well as being able to influence others around me in any type of setting.

After having a better sense of the different schools that could help me take the next step in my career, I built a plan to try to engage more closely with them by attending information sessions, going on campus visits, and meeting with current students and alumni in my area for coffee chats. This ultimately allowed me to make a much more informed decision of where I thought I wanted to be and gain a much better sense of the culture here at Wharton.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? As trite as it might sound, the first advice would be to be honest and true to yourself when writing the application. Keep in mind that admission officers need – and most importantly WANT – to get to know YOU for who you really are. So try facilitating this process by sharing interesting aspects about your background, your family, your hobbies, your motivations and any other important pieces of information that you think would make you stand out from the thousands of other applicants.

It is also important to think strategically about the key themes you wish to convey in your application and have engaging stories to back up each of these. Also, think about how to choose each part of the application to tell a different story or to highlight a different theme about your candidacy. For instance, your resume should already do a good job giving the admissions team an idea of your main accomplishments in the different roles you took. But it will be less effective at explaining what where the motivations that made you pursue each of these An essay is a good way to share these thoughts and explain what your ambitions are and the qualities that will allow you to be a leader that can contribute to the student and alumni community of each program.

In the specific case of Latin American applicants applying to Wharton, our club WHALASA offers a mentorship program for prospective students where we guide them through the process and offer tailored advice to make the best out of this process. But regardless of this point, don’t be shy to ask for help to navigate through the process since admissions teams and current students are always happy to share their experience and give back to new applicants.

In terms of interviews, I’d say be very professional, humble, and (at the same time) confident of your qualities and strengths as a candidate. The fact that you get an interview is a huge accomplishment in itself, so it should only let you know you are on the right track. Being yourself is definitely the right way to go.

Also, be prepared to share stories about times where you lead, took initiative, failed, worked as part of a team during the interview. Last but not least, know your resume inside-and-out and practice consistently common questions such as walking people through your resume in two minutes or less or knowing every detail of anything that’s listed there.

An important note on recommendations would be to ask for letters from people who know you best and who will be in the best position to write about your accomplishments and your qualities as a person to become a successful leader. Always be ready to back up every claim of your performance at work with real examples that illustrate each. Also, make this process enjoyable for your recommenders by giving them enough time and guidance for writing the letters. Most of all, be grateful to them for taking the time to write these letters for you.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Having worked in finance for several years, I realized I needed to build much more than technical skills to become a well-rounded leader who could in the near future inspire larger groups of people and have a more meaningful impact in any type of organization worldwide.

Working at The Carlyle Group and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) prior to Wharton allowed me to appreciate the importance of working across multi-functional teams to help organizations create value. In my specific role analyzing investment opportunities, I often found myself working hand-in-hand with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, such as accountants, lawyers and industry specialists. Therefore, I wanted to replicate these types of meaningful interactions in a learning environment where I’d gain a deeper understanding of a the way a company functions from different types of businesses from all these different angles. This would help shape the skills and knowledge I needed to go back to my desired career path and make a lasting impact in investing in these organizations.

I personally knew that if I came to Wharton, I’d be truly immersed in a diverse student environment where I’d get to learn from the most accomplished professionals across different business functions and which would allow me to achieve my goal in becoming a well-rounded business leader. Wharton prides itself of having one of the most diverse student bodies across leading MBA programs worldwide, with students coming from over 70 countries, and with minorities represented broadly across different metrics. That was a high priority for me as someone interested in expanding my reach far beyond my own region.

The other important reason for me was the leadership component of the program that perfectly complemented Wharton’s well-rounded business education. Here, I will have so many opportunities to build soft skills from early on, learning to work effectively across teams, making the best of each member’s talent in different task assignments, taking a board position in a club, or helping organize one of Wharton’s largest conferences.

After the first two months of my MBA experience, I’ve learned things about myself and about others who have not only inspired me but also changed me in so many ways. Taking my first class at Wharton with such a renowned expert in leadership as Adam Grant was a breath-taking experience where I had the chance to learn many of the tools and frameworks used to enhance effectiveness in the world’s leading organizations. But also, learning to develop these types of skills outside the classroom by taking active roles in student organizations and different clubs has been a great way to learn to work across teams and help others as I learn more about the way I lead. Wharton is a very tight community even before classes start by making friends during pre-term, cluster Olympics and social events that makes every student feel at home even before formal classes begin.

Finally, Wharton gives ample bandwidth for students who like me have a strong interest to step out of their comfort zone and pursue stretch experiences that would ultimately help them navigate uncertainty as future leaders. In my case, this has ranged from signing up to a Leadership Venture to Antarctica to joining the school’s Crew and Rowing Club to meeting new people and learning to work as a team in other environments. In all, Wharton is the perfect place to keep finding ways to learn more about myself and narrow the skill gap I need to one day become a leader who can help shape a better future for my region.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? There are many goals I set for myself before coming to Wharton, but I’d like to share four that I believe are the most important for me as an international student from Latin America:

• First, improve critical management skills such as public speaking, team building, presentation that will be key as I take on higher responsibilities further on in my professional career.

• Second, learn to constantly embrace the joy of pursuing passions and interests that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone to know more about myself.

• Third, be genuine and open to learning from others every day and build on these interactions order to build a tight network of friends that will remain close to me for the rest of my life.

• Finally, growing as a person. We all learn businesses ultimately come down to teams capable individuals driven by a common purpose. I believe learning how to make the most out of working with others will allow me to go far in my future aspirations.

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