Retail is a fast-moving field, but for EMBA alumna Vivi Lynch, WG’14, it wasn’t moving fast enough until she earned her MBA at Wharton San Francisco.
“Working in the retail industry, I was feeling a bit constrained because my industry wasn’t growing and evolving as fast as others. Although people innovate every day on the creative side, innovation wasn’t there on the supply chain side,” she said. “We were behind the times and I wanted to be more impactful in the industry. I felt like an MBA was the best way to learn how to do that.”
The Wharton MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco changed the trajectory for Vivi, now a vice president of global supply chain at American Apparel in Los Angeles, CA.
Shifting Mindsets and Impacting the Bottom Line
“I have a very different mindset now,” said Vivi. “Before Wharton, I recognized trends or potential issues in my industry, but I didn’t have the tools or vocabulary to address it up the chain. Now, I see a problem and can put together a meaningful solution for how to implement change and present it persuasively.”
She added, “I know I can impact the bottom line of our business. I credit the Wharton curriculum, which teaches us how to use data and modeling to support our decisions. It’s a big shift in the way I present my ideas.”
She noted that Wharton accelerated her ability to get to the next level of her career. During the program, she moved to a different company to lead the launch of an apparel line. However, after graduation she was looking for new challenges. The Wharton name on her resume, she said “opened a lot of doors,” as her education provided a new skillset that was in demand. She ended up joining a company that was in the emerging market of military wear, leading the forecasting and supply chain team. Next she joined American Apparel in her current role to lead the company’s reformation.
The Value of a Collaborative Community
Before starting her new position, Vivi reached out to the Wharton alumni network.
She explained, “When I was contacted about the opportunity, the company was going through a restructuring. I wanted to learn more about working in that environment so I reached out to a classmate who is an expert on restructuring. Not only did he spend time on the phone with me, he also sent notes from school on the topic of restructuring. I joined the company and have been helping to improve operations by applying prior experience as well as the knowledge I gained at Wharton.”
She noted that this type of collaboration began when she was a student in the program. “If you had trouble in a particular subject, you could get help from other students who had expertise in that area. The program is intimidating at first, but once you get into it, you find it’s a very supportive environment. We even had a Dropbox where we shared notes from classes with each other. It was a very useful library that covered business concepts across all areas, which I still use as a reference today.”
Vivi is still very close with many of her classmates, especially her study group and the people she commuted with from Los Angeles. “San Francisco is a great city with many fun activities. In my first year, I flew up on Thursday nights so I had the opportunity to hang out with students. Our class also had an unspoken rule that we’d work as hard as we could during the day and even into the night, but once we were done with schoolwork, we would hang out on Friday nights to connect.”
That mentality creates strong bonds. “The experience at Wharton is 50% learning and 50% the relationships you make,” Vivi said. “These relationships have carried forward into my post-Wharton career, and continually keep me motivated to innovate.”
She added that the women in her class enriched her experience. “The women were inspiring because they were smart, motivated and fun. These women are fierce. It was great to be part of a group of strong women business leaders. There are a limited number of women in the country in senior executive positions, so my fellow female Wharton classmates became an incredible network.”
Vivi said, “The program taught me a lot about time management; my female classmates taught me how to balance priorities and be successful in my career.”
Posted: January 3, 2017