2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Michal Benedykcinski, Wharton School

Michal Benedykcinski

The Wharton School & The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania

“Global citizen passionate about collaborating to unlock smart technologies and create the future of commerce.”

Hometown: Inowroclaw, Poland

Fun fact about yourself: In the summer of 2017, as part of the Global immersion at Lauder, I traveled to eight countries in eight weeks across Asia, Africa and Europe. So far, that’s the closest I’ve ever been to completing Around the World in Eighty Days journey of my childhood hero Phileas Fogg.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Yale College, B.A., History & International Studies (Double Major)

The Lauder Institute at University of Pennsylvania, M.A., International Studies (Dual-Degree Student with Wharton)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? 3i Group (formerly EISER Infrastructure Partners), Private Equity Investment Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018?

CEO & Founder at Dexio, enterprise blockchain advisory to precious commodities sector

Venture Associate at Ericsson Ventures in Sunnyvale, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m currently working on an open-source project at Manulife and John Hancock’s Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT) incubator.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 2018 Jacobson Global Ventures Award
  • 2018 Microsoft BizSpark Azure Award
  • Weiss Fund and Penn Wharton Innovation Fund Awards
  • 2018 ConsenSys MBA Blockchain Venture Competition Finalist
  • 2018 Wharton Startup Challenge Finalist
  • Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Penn Blockchain Club
  • Recipient of Lauder and Raciszewski Fellowships awarded for exceptional professional and personal achievement

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

As a member of the founding cohort, I’m proud of growing UPenn’s Blockchain Club into one of the largest student-run blockchain clubs in the world, with more than 600 active members across UPenn schools, alumni, Penn administration, and faculty. In my role as Director of Partnerships & Outreach, I organize regular speaker events from industry leaders, technical/coding classes, workshops, popular lunch & learns while managing partnerships with prominent companies in this space. As a culmination of our inaugural year, I helped organize a blockchain conference at Penn to promote dialogue between academics, students, and professionals about what it takes to build and scale blockchain to its full potential. This year we’re hard at work to make our second UPenn Blockchain Conference on April 6th, an unmissable event for the industry, helping us cement UPenn as a thought leader in this space.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Discovering my passion for implementation of emerging technologies. Before school, I worked in brick-and-mortar financial institutions, starting as an investment banker and soon turned private equity investor. The extent of the disruption I was exposed to in my day job was limited to innovative transaction structuring or pure financial engineering. I soon found myself exploring the world of financial technologies startups in the rich London ecosystem. That’s when I first came across a group of cryptocurrency enthusiast hailing from a variety of disciplines – law, finance, government, technology – all trying to rethink the future of commerce. It wasn’t until 2015 when I saw first-hand the transformative power of distributed ledger technology in the cross-border payments world when sending money back home. As I embarked on the MBA adventure, I started noticing a significant gap at the enterprise level between business expectations and digital transformation readiness. Driven to bridge that gap, I started Dexio, a student venture developing blockchain and distributed ledger solutions in the commodities supply chain. For someone that loves to learn, the interdisciplinary nature of blockchain technology has been a source of intellectual enrichment and practical professional development. As I embark on new projects my mission for making enterprises smarter continues.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Adam Grant who taught our introductory Foundation of Teamwork & Leadership management course and set the bar high for teaching standards. His work on job design, motivation, and generosity opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about my career. One of my regrets is not taking advantage of the opportunity to mentor undergraduate students as a part of his organizational behavior course last year. Adam also practices what he preaches by being incredibly generous with his time and advice and I know I could always count on him getting back to me.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was researching schools, I was naturally drawn to the joint degree programs that offered access to the best business education while cultivating my interests in global affairs. Visiting my college friend J.T. Kennedy (G’18 WG’18) on Wharton campus and talking to his fellow students at the Lauder Institute sealed the deal for my wife and me. The ease at which I was able to connect to students and faculty hailing from over 20 countries and speaking multiple languages made me feel right at home. I always wanted more out of my MBA experience and couldn’t think of a program that could complement my business education better while helping me develop my global mindset further.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The advice I always give to prospective applicants is: be yourself! Once you pour out your heart and soul into the essays, make sure your friends and relatives can recognize your unique voice. The common pitfall I see is applicants trying to project a certain image of themselves that they think will be prized by the admissions committee. In the competitive pool of the MBA applications, a natural way to stand out is by being genuine, which often means exposing your vulnerabilities and owning up to your shortcomings. The whole process is a marathon, not a sprint, so you can never stress enough the importance of preparation and pacing yourself and your recommenders. Starting the thought process early on why you are applying to school in the first place will shine through your application materials. Finally, try to visit the campus. If you can’t, at least virtually engage with students and clubs of your interest. You can gain a lot of great insight you just won’t be able to glean from examining the glossy brochure or website.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Do not be afraid to take the road less traveled! With the focused recruiting period (FRP) inching closer every year, there is going to be a lot of pressure to follow one of the well-trodden career paths. While charting your own course can seem extremely daunting at first, it can be extremely rewarding when you explore your passions without reservations.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s too hard to pick one individual but I would like to recognize fellow student founders in my class, building the Wharton startup ecosystem with their ventures: sigo insurance, aavrani, okko, MD Ally, Keaton, Nomm, Two Robbers and clove among others. The balancing act required to get a venture off the ground while pursuing a full-time degree is a heroic effort and it can get quite lonely in the process. Having a supportive community of other founders going through the struggle has certainly made my journey to date that much more enjoyable.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It has to be my wife, Samantha Parsons. We met in Berlin in 2010 during our postgraduate fellowships at the Free University Berlin and she has been my best friend and muse ever since. She is unafraid to challenge me to think bigger about my role in society and saw an MBA as a natural springboard for launching a high-impact career. One big takeaway from my time at Wharton is that behind every great MBA experience, there is a supportive partner – they are the true unsung heroes of this two-year adventure.

What is your favorite movie about business? I have to go with Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless classic Godfather. It’s the only movie I would re-watch at different stages of my life helping me to reflect on the complex nature of human relations and the critical role of values at the foundation of every successful venture.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? It’s the “Fear of Missing Out” otherwise known as FOMO. It’s present at every step of the MBA journey and has been a great source of learning of how to let things go ever since I discovered it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a diplomat.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Please check back with me in five years. Before taking the leap, it was an equation I struggled with a lot as a finance professional. From the personal growth perspective, it’s been a priceless experience.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Launching the next great tech product and starting a family, I would argue both require a comparable level of grit, sacrifice and a healthy dose of good luck!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A realistic optimist always open to receiving and giving advice to others, but above all a reliable partner bringing out the very best in people.

Hobbies? Working on my ventures, group work-outs with friends, polo, scuba diving, swimming biking or running to the tune of my favorite podcasts & audiobooks.

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

“Michal joined the Wharton/Lauder program in the spring of 2017 as a part of a select group of students chosen each year for Lauder’s Global program. Raised in Poland, he gained significant professional experience across multiple continents before joining Lauder’s culturally diverse Class of 2019.

Michal is fluent in Polish, English, Russian and German. Before coming to Wharton/Lauder, Michal was working in private equity and M&A advisory in the infrastructure space in London, liaising with investors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. A graduate of Yale, Michal’s international background, work experience, and strong academic achievements made him a great fit for the Lauder’s MA in International Studies joint degree program with Wharton.

Professor Fred Dickinson, Co-Director for The Lauder Institute, says “Michael was an energizing presence in my Asia Area History immersion in May 2017. As one of only a handful of non-Asia concentration students in the class, he brought to weekly discussions an insightful comparative dimension to discussions, based on his rich personal experience in and understanding of Europe and its multiple trade relationships with inner Asia.”

Aside from being an outstanding student and classmate, Michal has a demonstrated entrepreneurial streak. In summer 2017, he had an opportunity to visit Chamber of Mines in South Africa as part of a summer immersion. Inspired by the opportunity within a matter of months, he put together a proposal to develop his own company, Dexio, which focuses on enhanced best practices in the diamond supply chain through the use of blockchain technology. He was only one of two students to receive a Lauder Jacobson Venture Award in addition to Weiss Tech House and Wharton Innovation Fund Awards to support this effort. Dexio was admitted to the Wharton VIP incubator, and Michal spent this past summer further exploring enterprise applications of emerging technologies at Ericsson Ventures. Most recently Michal has partnered with the Manulife and John Hancock’s Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT) incubator to work on a new open source blockchain protocol that promises to change the insurance industry.

“Michal epitomizes the cosmopolitan entrepreneur who intends to create value for mature enterprise while deploying emerging technology in a novel way.” Howie Kaufold, Vice Dean, MBA Program.

Finally, Michal, who came to the program with his wife, is a cherished member of the Lauder global community participating in myriad trips, including Lauder’s Intercultural Venture to Madagascar or Culture Quest from Trinidad to Guyana in 2018, as well as countless other student activities. He has also been incredibly helpful to prospective applicants going through the admissions process serving as a contact for students interested in the Global track and sharing more about his experiences at Wharton/Lauder in a recent student profile.

He also has been extremely generous with the other Lauder students, sharing advice and contacts across the PE, VC, incubator, blockchain and start-up sectors. In short, Michal’s performance as a student both the MBA and MA programs has been stellar on all fronts.”




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