2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Jorge Cardenas, Wharton School

Jorge Cardenas

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Piano enthusiast, five-language polyglot, traveler (to very unusual destinations), advocate for the oppressed, out-and-proud.”

Hometown: Tampico, Tamaulipas (Mexico)

Fun fact about yourself: Since a very young age, I have been able to play the piano by ear.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Tec de Monterrey (B.S. Industrial Engineering)
    • Exchange programs: University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Stanford University (Palo Alto)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Accenture (Strategy Consultant)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Amazon (Seattle, WA)

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture (Senior Consultant / Manager)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Fellowships:
    • Henry Ralph Ringe Fellowship
    • Student Life Fellowship
  • Board Positions:
    • Out4Business (Vice President – Marketing)
    • WHALASA (Wharton Latin American Student Association) (Vice President – Admissions)
  • Other Roles in Business School:
    • Teaching Assistant in FNCE611 Corporate Finance

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I feel very fortunate to have been chosen as a Student Life Fellow (SLF) at Wharton. After being admitted into the program, I was nominated by the Office of Student Life to serve as the SLF head for Cluster 2, serving 200+ MBA students while they navigate their first year at Wharton. I accepted this position without hesitation, since I saw a clear opportunity in it to give back to my Wharton community.

Through this program, I had the opportunity to onboard members of both the Class of 2023 and Class of 2024 through our Wharton HQ Platform. Together with a team of 50+ students, I organized the Wharton Olympics for the Class of 2023 during their Pre-Term, and throughout my second year, I facilitated various events that have helped build community, foster connections and generate greater affinity across our business school.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Back as a Strategy Consultant, I had the opportunity to help advise AT&T during their entry into the Mexican market, its first Wireless market outside the US. It was a gratifying experience given the cross-functional nature of my assignments: rebranding, supply chain transformation, and cost reduction…among others. I was part of a very diverse team in terms of backgrounds and nationalities, and thus different enriching perspectives were always on the table.

Our assignments were technically complex (managing Big Data from multiple sources) and there were multiple stakeholders; our client had 4 different CEOs in only 5 years! Despite that, in part due to our work, our client was able to meet its market entry goals as well as its long-term profitability metrics.

Why did you choose this business school? The size of Wharton’s alumni network is unparalleled. With more than 100,000 living alumni, it is the largest business school in the world.

Wharton’s scale is also evident before graduation. Here, I always found people with whom to fulfill my hobbies/passions, career aspirations, business ideas and global travels. We were the largest Class of 2022 among all MBA business schools: 916 students to be exact. Yes, our class size was overwhelming at the beginning, I’ll admit it, but in such a big class you’re never alone. Thanks to our non-grade disclosure policy, there is always a feeling of camaraderie instead of rivalry. This feeling of cooperation then remains after graduation, and you can clearly see it when a Whartonite reaches out to another Whartonite out there, since we’re all always willing to lend a hand if possible!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could go back in time, I would have joined Project HOME, since my Day 1 in Philadelphia. Project HOME is a nonprofit that provides access to affordable Housing, job Opportunities, Medical care and Education to vulnerable populations in Philadelphia. This organization is one of the main drivers for which our city has one of the lowest homelessness rates across major cities in the US. Project HOME is a societal pillar in Philadelphia.

While the pandemic deterred me from joining Project HOME when I arrived in Philly in August 2020, I am now certain that the societal impact of supporting this organization would have vastly outweighed the risk of getting COVID. Moreover, the power of convening volunteers and donors at Wharton could have been enormous. I totally regret not having joined this organization.

What is the biggest myth about your school? There is a myth out there that says that Wharton is “The Finance School.” While our Finance courses, network and programs are inarguably solid, the power of Wharton is holistic. Our business school is the cradle of several of the world’s most renowned tech entrepreneurs (e.g. Elon Musk and Jeff Weiner), well-rounded CEOs (e.g. Sundar Pichai and Alex Gorsky), and countless philanthropists that have built successful careers in all types of areas beyond Finance.

My classmates come from all types of industries and functional backgrounds, and we are all joining and founding companies in all sorts of domains. Wharton is thus not only “The Finance School”, for sure.

What surprised you the most about business school? There were three things that surprised me the most about business school. First, academic rigor is way stronger than I anticipated. I’ll never forget the endless studying for my Corporate Valuation course with Prof. Wessels, and I am certain that all five valuation models we learned in class will help us out throughout our careers. Second, I found the most diverse setting I have ever encountered in my life in terms of career backgrounds (veterinarians, marine vets, professional athletes, etc.), job levels (Vice Presidents and beyond), sexual orientation (LGBTQ+), nationalities (70 to be exact), races/ethnicities and more! Third and lastly, the breadth of extracurricular activities was remarkable: sports clubs, community service, affinity clubs, professional programs, social clubs, and more. Learning how to prioritize so many events occurring at the same time is key, and the FOMO feeling is always there. However, finding one’s self busy all the time improving oneself personally and professionally is simply unparalleled!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? My application process started back in 2016, when I had only two years of work experience. I had felt part of the Wharton community when I first visited this school six years ago, and I was determined that I wanted to come here. Thus, I applied to Wharton and only one backup school; unfortunately, I was not admitted into either of these two schools back then. I recognized I had failed, and I had the option to apply to other business schools in later rounds, but I was obstinate with going to Wharton. Thus, I chose to wait until I strengthened my candidacy instead.

It took three years for me to finally feel that my candidacy was strong enough. I had been continuously exposed to C-Suite level clients at work and had gained a more global perspective by traveling across the world. Most of all, my career goals were now clearer than ever before. I was ready to apply again, and so I did during Fall of 2019, with the fascinating news that I got admitted into Wharton in Round 1. Patience is indeed a virtue, and that was the cornerstone of my admittance into my dream school!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of my MBA classmates that I most admire is Patrick Nugent. He is a Marine Captain veteran who lost a leg entirely five years ago during a night live-fire exercise in Hawaii. After his tragic misfortune, he has had the all the required endurance to be a medal-winner in powerlifting, track & field, and rowing. He is also one of the most avid bike riders and hikers at Wharton. Patrick humbly embodies determination, and he serves to all of us as an attestation that no mishap in life can stop you from achieving your goals.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in grad school? Back when I was in Consulting, I always had the opportunity to keep growing organically within the firm without an MBA degree. I was grateful, however, to have a great career mentor back in Mexico City that pushed me to not lose sight of my dream of going to business school. He himself had earned an MBA degree from Europe’s most prestigious program, and he would constantly astonish me with the practical lessons he had acquired there, both in terms of hard (technical) skills and soft (people management) skills. I thank him so much for two things: not letting me succumb to the temptation of staying in my comfort zone back in Mexico, and being such a time-devoting recommender during my MBA application process.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I have set my professional goals in chronological order. Right after Wharton, I will be going back to consulting, where I will focus on bridging strategy and technology to catalyze change across organizations around the globe. I strongly believe in the intersection of business and social impact, and I am certain that through this job, I’ll gain the skills required to fulfill my longer-term career goal: to become a Tech Entrepreneur.

As a future Tech Entrepreneur, my ultimate goal is to develop an app that will send users’ live videos/photos of crimes & corruption to trusted, internationally vetted third parties, joining “eyes” on the ground with established organizations to significantly improve safety in Latin America.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has certainly changed the way we interact in business, especially with our colleagues and clients. I am a strong defender of in-person interactions; we are social creatures by nature. However, virtual interactions have proved to be effective, and I am confident that flexible models with both in-person and virtual components will be prevalent even after the pandemic.

For me, these flexible working models will allow me to more often be close to family. I will be based in New York City after Wharton, but my entire family will remain in Mexico. Therefore, I will leverage our opportunity to work remotely (to the extent that immigration, tax and corporate policies allow it) to visit my family more often and at the same time remain connected at work. The pandemic has had silver linings for sure!

What made Jorge such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Jorge is an unassuming leader in the Wharton MBA community. An international student hailing from Tampico, Mexico, Jorge has remained committed to exploring all that Wharton, Penn, Philadelphia and even the United States have to offer – and he’s invited his peers along for this journey. He’s managed to strike a balance between academics, social life, and career aspirations that allows him to prioritize all the things he loves about life. He has brought his love of the piano to a small band. He has organized runs to, and through, Old City and along the banks of the Schuylkill. When he has organized trips, he’s focused on their inclusion and accessibility. He wants his peers to not only be Wharton Proud, but to be Penn Proud and Philly Proud. He’s particularly invested in helping international students realize the cultural, historical, and political value of the city.

Through his role as a Student Life Fellow, he’s helped admitted students make the all-important decision to attend Wharton, and once here, he’s served as a kind and caring mentor for them as they find their own groove. His support for marginalized communities has also been notable. He has helped expand the reach for Out4Biz by revamping their social media and digital presence – doubling engagement with students. He’s helped the club find new partnerships to allow more students to experience what Out4Biz has to offer. In the Wharton Latin American Student Association, he’s focused on helping prospective and admitted students learn more about the community at Wharton. In the process, he has helped with onboarding initiatives, and connecting individuals informally with others with whom they can relate. Jorge embodies many of the characteristics that make the Wharton community so great.”

Nadir Sharif
Associate Director of Student Life
Wharton MBA Program




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