CIGNA Thailand CEO Gus Giraldo on the EMBA Program

Wharton EMBA alumnus Gus Giraldo, WG’06, CEO and country manager of CIGNA Thailand, says that his Wharton education has been very valuable in accelerating his international career. We asked him to tell us more about his experience at Wharton. Here is what he said:

On coming to Wharton’s EMBA program…

I wanted an MBA to broaden my perspective and potential impact on the business which I helped to run, and ultimately hoped to lead. While my roles during the four years immediately preceding my application to WhartonGustavo-Giraldo2-299x448 involved broad financial management, as an actuary, my foundation is in the most technical aspects of insurance business. I wanted to better understand all other aspects of our business from strategy to marketing to operations. I also hoped an MBA would position me well for new opportunities in non-financial areas and eventually leadership of a business unit.

An EMBA program was an absolute requirement given that I was already in a fairly senior position and the opportunity cost of suspending that for two years was not something I was willing to accept. I also felt that an EMBA, which is by definition completed while one is still working, gave me the opportunity to test the theory being learned in real-time as I was performing my job. Wharton was my first choice primarily based on the reputation of the school, the strength of its EMBA program, and proximity to home. I was living in Philadelphia at the time.

On having a nontraditional background…

The sad reality is that I was a very poor high school student, and had no initial ambition to attend university. When I finally changed my mind after having spent some time in the workforce, my poor high school record meant I didn’t have a chance at acceptance into a proper four-year program. In fact, based on placement testing for my local community college, I had to start with remedial classes before I would have a reasonable chance of success with normal freshman coursework. I didn’t let that deter me, and I immersed myself fully in the prep work and eventually the two-year program. With that dedication, I excelled and went on to graduate with honors from that program. With a combination of academic scholarships from the Society of Actuaries and Pell Grants, I was then able to transfer to FSU to start my junior year, where I continued my strong performance and also graduated with honors. After attaining my BS in Mathematics, I then went on to complete all the necessary coursework and examinations to become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries while working in an actuarial development program at Cigna.

Originally published on the Executive MBA blog, February 17, 2015.

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