This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Steve Weiner, a student at UPenn Wharton.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Steve: I grew up on Long Island, NY and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2008 with a BS in Economics.
Accepted: Can you share 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I once ran 2 marathons in 1 week because of a scheduling error.
2. I am an avid (but still amateur) yogi.
3. My first live concert was Hootie and the Blowfish.
Accepted: What year are you at Wharton? Why did you choose this program? How would you say you are a good fit with the program?
Steve: The hardest decision I ever made was to leave the military, because I could continue to have global impact while serving my country. When I met the members of the Wharton Veterans Club on my admissions visits, I saw that they shared my same vision. That’s how I knew Wharton was right for me.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Wharton? Is there anything you’d change?
Steve: My favorite thing about Wharton is the latitude that students have to explore new opportunities during and after business school. I always tell people that Wharton gave me time to think…and I fully took advantage of that freedom. There’s often a whole lot of guesswork when you leave the military and I needed to catch my breath. Wharton was like a fresh hit of oxygen and everything was new and different.
The one thing I would change is the recruiting process and timeline. I believe strongly that students are exposed to employers much too early and once you are in the recruiting jetstream, almost nothing else matters. I think employers should be told to wait, because it places an undue sense of urgency on students to make a decision on their career before they have time to fully understand their options.
Accepted: Where are you currently working? What role did Wharton play in helping you secure that position? And I see you interned at Google last year! Can you tell us about that as well?
Steve: I am Operator-in-residence at Expa, a company that creates new companies with the mission to bring to life businesses that will makes millions of people’s lives better. I’m in the process of building one of those companies. My time at Wharton made me realize just how much I love being a part of “zero to one efforts.” I like to identify big opportunities and figure out ways to address them at scale. I believe that the combination of my military experience and Wharton education gave me the tools to do that effectively.
Working at Google last summer gave me a front row seat to how a business can positively affect people’s lives every day. My summer internship made me realize that I want to start a business just like that.
Accepted: Looking back at the b-school admissions process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge and how would you advise others who may be facing similar hurdles?
Steve: My challenges with the application process and matriculation to business school are a result of spending 6 years in the US Navy. I never had to write a resume in the Navy and networking just isn’t done. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I was navigating without a chart – something I’d never attempt on my submarine.
The Wharton Veterans Club was my North Star and many members reviewed my application in order to “civilianize” my previous military experience. I always tell prospective military applicants to start early and budget at least 1 year to take the GMAT, visit schools, and work your resume and essays. It’s a process.
Accepted: What are some of your most rewarding extracurricular activities (both before entering Wharton and current activities)? How have those activities helped shape your career?
Steve: My two most rewarding experiences while at Wharton were starting Wharton FinTech and VetTechTrek (more on that later). Coming off performing the first Bitcoin market diligence at Goldman Sachs, I wanted to get more involved with FinTech on campus. When I began school, there was nothing going on and I realized that way more needed to be done to make FinTech synonymous with Wharton. Together with my colleagues, we built Wharton FinTech into a significant academic voice in the industry. We publish original content on our blog, host industry leaders every week, and I’ve had the honor to speak internationally on FinTech and millennial consumer preferences for financial services.
Accepted: Okay, next up is VetTechTrek. What are you hoping to accomplish with this venture?
Steve: I co-founded VetTechTrek (a 501c3 nonprofit) with my best friend and roommate from the US Naval Academy, Mike Slagh. We launched the organization because of our own experiences transitioning from the military and how unsatisfied we were with the existing off-ramps to civilian life.
VetTechTrek works with industry leaders to provide a baseline for veterans transitioning to technology. We’ve partnered with 50+ leading tech companies to host high-impact, immersive recruiting and networking events for 150+ military veterans and spouses. We recently launched Project Standard to build a digital library of educational content geared toward military transitions and has been referred to as the “Khan Academy for Veterans.”
Accepted: Can you tell us more about your military service? What was it like to work on submarines in the Arctic? Were you able to use any of those stories in your MBA application?
Steve: I spent 6 years on active duty in the US Navy, the majority of which was on my fast-attack, nuclear submarine, USS Connecticut (SSN 22). I deployed twice to the Western Pacific and once to the Arctic Oceans.
I can’t really talk about most of the things that I did, but I can tell you without hesitation it was the best first career I could have asked for. I operated nuclear reactors at sea, led some really neat covert operations and engineering tests, and broke through the polar ice cap and surfaced at the North Pole.
But life could get pretty lonely underwater for months at a time. We had no internet, very limited email access, and on one deployment we ran out of coffee. That said, I wouldn’t trade my Naval experience for anything. And yes, I wrote about the North Pole in my business school essays. ☺
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