Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Nate Foote, Wharton School

Nate Foote

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Lifelong learner with a passion for pushing the envelope and an embarrassingly large sneaker collection

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I played professional football.

Undergraduate School and Major: Wesleyan University ‘12 – Government, Psychology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nike, Inc. – Senior Manager of AI Consumer Insights

What has been your first impression of the Wharton MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Wharton story so far. The Wharton network really is a force like no other, and its gravity began pulling me in even before I decided to pursue an MBA. A close friend and mentor from my time at McKinsey reached out to me at the height of the pandemic. As a two-time Wharton graduate and 18-year member of the faculty, his signature Wharton energy and sense of community planted a seed in my mind to pursue my MBA. My desire to attend Wharton blossomed over a friendly catch-up lunch. His enthusiasm, commitment, and love for Wharton were infectious, and, with the benefit of hindsight, I know it was then that I decided to apply to business school and specifically set my sights on Wharton. I remember so clearly walking back to my rental car, belly full of cheesesteak thinking, “You know, even a decade into my career, if I were to find myself at Wharton, getting my MBA would really be worth it!” There is a straight line (flanked with blinking blue and red lights) from that moment to where I am now.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the Wharton School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As I was looking into various MBA programs and their offerings around AI, the Wharton Customer Analytics program really stood out to me – specifically its recognition of Applied AI as the next frontier of developing, marketing, and selling consumer products. I remember when IBM’s chess-playing AI, Deep Blue, proved its superiority to humans, it seemed to portend the end of human ingenuity in the game. In fact, we now know that a human partnered with AI consistently outperforms either one alone. This is the potential of Applied AI. And while other schools have expanded their AI offerings, Wharton stands alone in its focus on, and investment in, Applied AI for consumer products.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at the Wharton School? I began getting involved with the Wharton Hispanic-American MBA Association (WHAMBAA) when I started my Wharton outreach and application. The community was exceptionally welcoming and supportive – even though I was just a prospective student. Beyond my passion for growing Hispanic representation in business and STEM, interacting with members of the club engendered a powerful feeling of community and camaraderie (and yes, definitely shared ambition, too). I wanted to be connected to WHAMBAA regardless of which school I ended up attending. As I’ve become a part of the Wharton community, WHAMBAA has continued to be a tremendous resource and community helping me navigate my first steps on this wonderful, new journey.

When you think of the Wharton School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Leadership. Almost painfully cliché, I know, but looking back on every space in which I’ve worked over my 10-year career, it’s impossible not to notice how many of them are led by Wharton alumni. It’s a huge part of why Wharton was my first choice, and aligns with one of my primary learning goals throughout my MBA.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Nike executives allowed me to lead my own team to realize a bold vision: injecting AI into the design process for sneakers and apparel. By the end of year 1, the proprietary AI capabilities we built had contributed over $75 million in additional product sales and drove the redesign of some of Nike’s biggest product franchises. If you’re wearing anything with a Nike Swoosh, Jordan Jumpman, or Converse Star on it, you’re almost certainly wearing some of our AI-enhanced work.

What do you hope to do after graduation (at this point)? I plan to leverage the tremendous entrepreneurship resources at Wharton to launch an AI consulting firm within the highly-valuable but underdeveloped space of consumer-focused, Applied AI. My firm will use Applied AI – that is to say, AI that supplements, synergizes with, and expands upon human expertise – to help companies excel at consumer-centric design and experiences. I know Wharton’s entrepreneurial functions and opportunities, headlined by the Venture Lab, will help mold my idea into a tangible business. A little funding help won’t hurt either.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I recently read and loved The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball. It is the story of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, who are widely credited with founding the field of behavioral economics. Behavioral economics introduces the simple yet paradigm-shifting question, “What if human beings are not the relentlessly rational, utility-maximizing entities that the prevailing Homo economicus model assumes?” Without giving too much away, Tversky and Kahneman shine a light on the deeply-human biases and mental shortcuts that keep us from making rational judgments. The story is quite aligned with Wharton and its paragon professors like Angela Duckworth, who address behavioral economics at the intersection of economics and psychology.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg, UCLA Anderson, Oxford Saïd, Cambridge Judge, IESE, Columbia, Harvard

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Wharton School’s MBA program? Make a list of exactly what you hope to gain from your MBA. I cannot emphasize enough how much this list helped me throughout my application process and beyond. I evaluated every MBA program I considered against this list and only seriously considered those whose unique strengths connected point-by-point to my goals. This helped me narrow down my list while also making it much easier (and more authentic) to focus on the unique aspects and capabilities of a school, and how they will help me become the professional I seek to be. I refer back to this list constantly in my conversations with Career Management, my class selections, and my focusing in the course readings and problem sets.

DON’T MISS: MEET WHARTON’S MBA CLASS OF 2025

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