How does a technologist move into a broader function like business development, venture capital, or corporate strategy? When Shivaraman (Shiva) Ramachandran, a global supply chain account manager at Intel, came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco, he hoped to explore these different areas, identify his long-term goals, and learn how to achieve those goals.
Through Wharton’s EMBA Career Management resources, Shiva is finding answers to his questions. Starting with Career Day, first-year students learn about the many career management resources available in the EMBA program, including a dedicated West-Coast career management director, Steve Hernandez, who provides career coaching. During that event, students focus on identifying goals through self-assessment and hear from industry specialists. Another Career Day is offered for second-year students that covers areas like interviews, resume writing, and case preparation.
More recently, Shiva participated in a yearly event at Wharton called “Career Conversations,” which brings alumni to Philadelphia and San Francisco to discuss and provide customized feedback on students’ career goals. This year’s event in San Francisco featured 80 alumni who were matched with 40 students.
After indicating his interests and providing a resume, Shiva was assigned three panels of alumni. The first panel was comprised of venture capitalists, the second included alumni in business development, and the third panel worked in technology marketing and strategy. “The alumni provided a lot of clarity about my best path forward,” said Shiva, noting that they gave practical advice and feedback.
Highlights from Shiva’s Career Conversations
Is a step back required to change functions?
Shiva’s top question for the VC panel was whether you need to take a step back in seniority to transition into a new area like venture capital.
This was an ideal panel for Shiva, as the alumni had both transitioned into VC roles from other functions. One alumnus had remained on his prior path until he was offered a VC position at his desired level. That ended up taking a few years, but he ultimately was asked to join a VC firm as a partner. Taking the opposite approach, the other alumnus took a step back to become an associate at a VC firm. However, within a few months he was promoted to principal and later became a partner.
“That showed me that nothing is impossible. You don’t necessarily have to take a step back, but it may take longer if you wait for a more senior position,” said Shiva.
How to transition into business development
When Shiva asked the same question to the business development panel, they agreed that a step back wasn’t necessary. An alumna, who had worked as an engineer before coming to Wharton and then transitioned to the business side, suggested that Shiva leverage his prior experience and pursue a business development role at his current company.
The other alumnus agreed that business development would be a good path. “I had been thinking about business development options at my organization and it was helpful to hear that plan validated,” he noted.
Don’t over-analyze options
In the final panel, the alumni stressed the importance of not over-analyzing a decision about his next role. “This advice resonated with me, as I recalled hearing alumnus David Pottruck, the former CEO of Charles Schwab, speak in our Leadership class on risk. He elaborated on the need to get out of one’s comfort zone to learn new areas to become a complete leader,” said Shiva.
“These were very valuable conversations because I went in with a lot of questions and came away with clear examples of what is possible. The alumni gave me real-world, practical advice. I wouldn’t have been able to get that kind of feedback anywhere else.”
Posted: May 9, 2017