2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Jibran Khan, Wharton School

Jibran Khan

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

(Concurrently pursuing M.Sc. in Urban Spatial Analytics from Penn School of Design)

“Every day and every opportunity is a blessing. Give each one of them everything you’ve got.”

Hometown: San Ramon, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve lived in all four corners of the U.S. (North Dakota, Texas, California, Pennsylvania).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pennsylvania; Dual Degree undergraduate (BSc. In Economics from The Wharton School & B.A. in Philosophy from The College of Arts & Sciences)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships at HotelTonight in San Francisco.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Crescent Communities (real estate developer in the Southeast U.S.), Charlotte NC

Where will you be working after graduation? Tishman Speyer (New York-based real estate developer & investor) in their Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Dual Degree student with the Penn School of Design – 1st student to pursue a joint degree between Wharton MBA and the PennDesign Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics (MUSA).
  • Marshall Bennett Ski Classic Fellowship Recipient, Wharton Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center.
  • Etkin Johnson Scholarship Recipient, Urban Land Institute Philadelphia.
  • Directors’ List (Top 10% of Class GPA).
  • Interned with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs as a Development Associate during Fall semester 2018.
  • VP of Careers for Wharton Real Estate Club.
  • Co-President of Muslim Students’ Network.
  • Teaching Assistant in Real Estate, Finance, and Marketing departments.
  • Research Assistant in Real Estate department.
  • Deans’ MBA Advisory Council (1st year).
  • GUIDE mentor (MBA students mentoring Wharton undergraduates).
  • ULI Hines Urban Design 2018 Case Competition participant.
  • UNC Chapel Hill Real Estate Development 2018 Case Competition participant.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am the first (and hopefully not the last!) Wharton student to petition and pursue a joint MSc. in Urban Spatial Analytics from PennDesign alongside my MBA, and will be completing both Masters programs this May. Spatial analytics, also known as location-based data analytics, is a relatively nascent yet rapidly developing field that will help practitioners better understand what makes certain locations different from others. Studying spatial analytics alongside pursuing a real estate-focused MBA seemed to me to be the perfect way to blend practical industry expertise with supplementary technical skills. As an industry that thrives upon location, location, location, real estate seems to be a field that will greatly benefit with the sophistication and democratization of location-based data, and I aim to keep myself abreast of innovations in this regard by building this technical skillset alongside my Wharton MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to my MBA, I spent three years at the travel technology start-up HotelTonight, a company which helps connect last-minute travelers with unsold hotel rooms. The first part of my tenure was spent on the Market Strategy & Supply team, where I oversaw the growth of our Midwest region’s cities and hotels. This was a tremendous opportunity for building a strong operational skillset and overseeing a portfolio of markets in a fast-growing Silicon Valley start-up. Nonetheless, transferring over to the Strategic Partnerships team – the team at HotelTonight responsible for managing and growing our business with hotel brands and owner/operators – was perhaps the best move I made in my pre-MBA career, as it was here that I discovered my passion for the built environment. By working closely with hotel owners and operators, I began to appreciate the multi-faceted value hotels add to their respective cities. Hotels, at their essence, are design-forward mixed-use structures that, in addition to beds, offer lounges, multi-purpose rooms, cafes and restaurants that inspire and engage both tourists and locals. The more time I spent interacting with the people bringing these spaces to life, the more I realized that I, too, wanted to be in the driver’s seat, developing new mixed-use properties that transform their respective locations and communities. At this point, pursuing a real estate-focused MBA seemed like the best way to accelerate this career journey.

What was your favorite MBA Course “Decision Making in the Leadership Chair,” taught by Professor William Lauder, Executive Chairman of the Estee Lauder Companies. Each week, a different Chairman or CEO of a multinational corporation serves as guest speaker for the class, imparting learnings from their career, their leadership positions, and their respective industries (ranging from automotive, represented by Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr, to healthcare, represented by Johnson & Johnson Chairman & CEO Alex Gorsky). One formative lesson from this course (among the many) can be summed up by a quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say ‘We did it ourselves.”

Why did you choose this business school? I knew I wanted to professionally focus my two years of MBA toward building a strong foundation across all aspects of the real estate investment and development industry. In that regard, Wharton’s Real Estate program and its Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center offer unparalleled resources for any student – including career switchers with no background in real estate – to become proficient industry practitioners within two years. Of course, there’s no comparison to obtaining real-world experience in any career – in that regard, real estate is no different. That being said, my two years spent at Wharton have helped me meet and learn from dozens of industry leaders, engage in innovative industry research, and (most importantly) build strong relationships with classmates equally passionate about making an impact in the industry.

In addition to its leading Real Estate program, I greatly appreciated the flexibility of the Wharton curriculum, and the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary academics combining Wharton with Penn’s other graduate schools. Thanks to Wharton’s waiver exams, I was able to waive out of a number of the general requirement courses subsequently focus more class time toward areas and courses of particular interest.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Wharton (and Penn at-large) prides itself on interdisciplinary learning from across departments and academic schools. I am the first Wharton MBA student (and hopefully not the last!) to pursue a joint Masters in Urban Spatial Analytics from Penn School of Design alongside my Wharton MBA, with the hopes of integrating location-based data analytics into my real estate career. Not only does Wharton offer six credits to all MBAs that can be used toward taking coursework from Penn’s other schools (e.g. Penn Medicine, Penn Law, Penn Engineering), but it encourages interdisciplinary endeavors. See if you can find an exciting interdisciplinary opportunity to pursue here! Many classmates pursuing dual-degree programs (such as those with the Computer Science or Education departments) did not decide to pursue a secondary degree until arriving at Wharton.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school has helped me grow 110x more efficient with my time and personal priorities. Being surrounded in an environment of bright, diverse, seasoned classmates who are of similar age, I have spent considerable time thinking about who I am in relation to my peers and community, and the kind of person I want to be both in and beyond the workplace post-MBA. I have become accustomed to a wide variety of leadership styles and workplace cultures, thanks to my classmates who come from virtually every industry and part of the world. This exposure has helped further define what kind of environment I aim to create in my future endeavors. Being back in the academic environment after working for 5 years has reminded me how much I love school and learning for the sake of learning. Thanks to business school, it’s become clear to me that success is not an act, but rather a habit. Being able to learn from a variety of walks of life and backgrounds has not only broadened my worldview but has also cemented my belief that we as humans have far more in common with one another than we may otherwise be led to believe.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Although I am constantly in admiration of one classmate or another, one in particular who stands out is Minwoo Choi (WG’19), who is as talented and brilliant as he is selfless. Minwoo can put his mind towards learning or accomplishing anything – be it a musical instrument like a guitar or a foreign language like Spanish – and he is incredibly dependable at actually carrying through with doing an exceptional job at virtually any task. However, it’s as if Minwoo learns and accomplishes things almost exclusively for the purpose of them passing on these gifts to and supporting others. Minwoo is a star in the classroom, but then also serves as TA for a number of courses at the same time (and builds a reputation of being the most patient and thorough TA at explaining anything). Minwoo discovered a passion for the great outdoors, and then translated into serving as Venture Fellow and helping others learn wilderness preparation skills (again, he built a reputation for being the most selfless and patient Venture Fellow). Somehow, Minwoo finds the time to read books for pleasure while in school. Moreover, he sends out a monthly newsletter to classmates reviewing his latest reads. It’s fitting that many classmates have nicknamed him “The Minwonder.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Be it coincidence or not, prior to business school, the people I looked up to the most in every work environment were those who had an MBA. Regardless of the credential itself, these men and women happened to be the most adept team-builders, the most fluent communicators, and, above all, the biggest enablers in the workplace. In particular, however, I admired Liz Eavey, a former colleague and manager at HotelTonight (and also a Wharton alum!). Although Liz joined HotelTonight after I did (and albeit in a more senior role), she had a special gift for entering the workplace and building meaningful relationships across the company that helped grow teams and bring about new initiatives. Her mix of exceptional quantitative and qualitative skills, along with her ability to inspire others to want to act in one way or another, convinced me that business school could be a great place to grow.

What is your favorite movie about business? Mean Girls. The lesson learned is that you should never rest on your laurels. You never know when new competition will enter the scene and shake up the hierarchy.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “WOMBA” – aka, Wharton-only MBA. As in, someone who is only completing one degree during their time at Wharton. I would have never been the one to coin or use this term (and it’s definitely not ever used in a serious context), but with so many joint and dual-degree program offerings (Lauder, JD/MBA, MD/MBA, MCP/MBA, etc), the interdisciplinary culture definitely feels strong here!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…wondering what business school is actually like. It seemed like a giant mystery from the outside. Definitely try to speak with as many different people who went to and came out of business school as you can when deciding whether it’s worth it for you. In that regard, I highly recommend BeenThere Technologies, founded by classmate Colin Keeler. BeenThere helps prospective MBAs connect with and get advice from current MBA students, both on the application process and what a particular school is really like.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Thanks to my MBA education, I’ve landed a dream job at a dream company in an industry where I had minimal work experience beforehand. I’ve also built soft skills and personal discipline through rigorous self-reflection and contemplation that I likely would not have undertaken had I continued to chug along in the working world. Most importantly, I’ve built friendships and relationships with amazing people of all backgrounds from all over the world with whom I look forward to keeping in touch for the rest of my life. In all these respects, I have gained far more from my MBA experience than the price tag of my tuition and the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce for two years. That being said – and as a true business school student would say – always try to negotiate whenever you can. Every business school has a number of scholarship and fellowship opportunities available to help ease the financial burden of tuition.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Be part of a team that transforms a street or area into an inspiring place where people of many backgrounds can live, work, and enjoy themselves for decades to come.
  2. Make a considerable difference in expanding and improving education and wellness opportunities in less fortunate communities. In particular, I’d love to get more involved in Pakistan, the country where I was born and where my roots are.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would hope that classmates remember me as a positive, enthusiastic enabler.

Hobbies? Exploring new cities and urban footprints, long-distance running, yoga, wilderness hiking, playing squash, philosophy.

What made Jibran such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“When Jibran Khan was growing up, his father would tell him that wherever you are, things aren’t just one way. “You can’t expect others to fix things for you – you have to improve things for those around you.” This inspired Jibran’s dedication to real estate and design geared toward improving communities around the world.

Jibran is the first Wharton MBA student to pursue a second Masters (MSc) in Urban Spatial Analytics from PennDesign, and his innovation and dedication to this pursuit have created a framework for future Wharton students to access this dual degree. He’s also broken ground as the first Wharton MBA student to receive the Marshall Bennett Ski Classic Fellowship from Wharton Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center in his first year. Jibran has served as a Teaching Assistant for Real Estate Investments and Global Real Estate, as well as Corporate Finance and Consumer Behavior courses.

Outside of the classroom, Jibran’s contributions extend deeply into the Wharton Real Estate community. He has served as VP of Careers for the Real Estate Club, where he’s been hands-on in planning and attending treks and conferences with and for his classmates. In 2018, Jibran represented Wharton excellently in two case competitions, the ULI Hines Urban Design Case Competition, and the UNC Chapel Hill Real Estate Development Case Competition. He was able to get up close and personal with that work in his internship at Sidewalk Labs (Alphabet) over the summer.

Jibran is passionate about being part of the broader community at Wharton as well. He has been a member of the Deans’ MBA Advisory Council, a group of students that work closely with the Deans on initiatives ranging from academics to student life. He’s a GUIDE mentor for undergrads, co-president of the Muslim Students’ Network, and participates in Squash Club and Yoga Club. His involvement in the Penn community has been consistent since his days as an undergraduate student here.

In addition to all of this, Jibran excels academically. He was named to the Directors’ List both semesters of his first year (Top 10% of graduating class). Jibran will round out his time at Penn this spring with the pioneering combination of Wharton MBA and Penn Design MSc degrees. He’s certain to have a bright future due to his commitment to urban development, particularly through the lens of how cities can continue to grow and change in ways that best serve their people.”

Maryellen Reilly
Deputy Vice Dean
The Wharton School

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