We realized there was no turning back. We had to do this.

During his two years at Wharton, Mike Lemmons, WG’16, ate lunch at Greek Lady restaurant just about every day. The meal that stands out the most was the one he forgot to eat.

After working with Ami Patel, WG’16, on the Welcome Committee during their first year, they grabbed lunch to discuss their common interest in human capital management. Over that Greek salad of destiny, Ami and Mike talked nonstop, launching the idea that became the Wharton Human Capital Club.

They’d been excited by organizational behavior and management classes and research by professors Peter Cappelli, John Paul MacDuffie, Adam Grant, Matthew Bidwell, Sigal Barsade, and Nancy Rothbard, but there was no corresponding student group. So what if they started one? Mike and Ami spent spring and summer drafting a club charter – the values and programming it would have, how many people they’d need on board.

“It was our proof of concept about what we would need to make it all work,” Mike said. “As we started garnering support from friends and pitching it to them, it caught a lot more traction than we thought. We realized there was no turning back. We had to do this.”

The Human Side of Management

So what is human capital management and why was a club needed at Wharton? Mike defines it as the processes, methodologies, and resources that organizations and managers use to lead, understand, and improve their most important asset – their people.

It differs from human resources, which is the employee experience with respect to administrative functions (e.g. benefits, payroll, onboarding). It differs from people analytics, which is a data-driven approach to managing people at work. Human capital management is the employee experience with respect to management and employee development.

Mike and Ami aimed to build the Human Capital Club on three pillars:

  • Careers
  • Widespread education about human capital
  • A community for those planning to work in the field down the road or immediately after Wharton

“We will partner with People Analytics on things like bringing speakers to campus, but we’re not going to focus on the data-driven analytical aspects,” Mike said. “We focus on how to think about culture at a high level, develop about a retention strategy, and train people to become better managers.”

Background on Playing and Consulting Fields

While Ami came from a background in education and human development, Mike had previously worked at a software company in Boston and in New York in consulting and business analytics. His interest in leadership goes back to his days playing college football at Brown and continuing to his post-college work.

“I had managers and coaches who were very good at connecting with and understanding the motivations of people on their team,” he said. “I myself always wanted to be someone who could manage through that sense of personal accountability and relationships, rather than through a position of authority.”

Mike knew he wanted to go back into consulting, and now he’s a senior consultant at Deloitte. But he sees human capital as vital as he moves forward in his career.

“When you leave an MBA, you’re immediately executing. As a senior level associate, you’re working on models or presentations and interacting with clients,” Mike said. “But two to three years later, your primary job is managing people. If I’m going to have 15 to 20 years in consulting, my primary value add isn’t going to be me crunching numbers. It’s going to be understanding the people I manage (so they) get the best out of themselves.”

Wharton’s Culture of Empowerment

Before starting the Human Capital Club with Ami, Mike was already the president of the Wharton Rugby, one of Wharton’s biggest and best established clubs.

“It’s got a long history as a large operation with many officers,” said Mike. “I contrast the two groups because we’re a bit more scrappy in Human Capital. Since I’m not going into the startup world where you create and build on a daily basis, it was exciting for me to have something that I created that will hopefully last for a long time.”

He sees Wharton as a place where it’s possible to start something new and find a cohort of students who have the same interest and will help you fill the void.

“You get inspired when you see classmates building actual businesses – doing things that are making a huge difference in people’s lives and adding value to society,” Mike said. “So when you have something you’re passionate about, you see that you can impact a lot of people too. You feel empowered.”

Staying in Philadelphia

Now that Mike has graduated, he’s still living in the Rittenhouse Square apartment where he lived during Wharton. During recruiting, he decided to stay in Philadelphia.

“I don’t intend on leaving,” he said. “I was born in D.C., I moved to Providence for school, up to Boston and down to New York for work. I’m an East Coast guy, and Philly is the biggest value proposition on the East Coast.”

Since he travels so much for business, he’ll still get his time in New York and D.C., which are just two hours away. And then he comes home to Philly.

“Philadelphia is a little more low-key and enjoyable. It has a lot of charm. The BYO scene is great,” he said. “I’m excited to have a chance to try out Old City and Northern Liberties, so it’ll be a different experience. I love being here, and I’m hopefully here to stay.”

– Kelly Andrews

Posted: September 27, 2016

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