When I began looking at colleges four long years ago, I was thrilled about business. I didn’t even consider schools that didn’t have a top undergraduate business school. Harvard? Out. Princeton? Out. Stanford was the only exception for their entrepreneurial spirit and obvious Computer Science prowess in more ways than one, but I even botched the application placing too much emphasis on how badly I wanted to go to a business school. Now, after three years into my Wharton education, I’m transferring out.
I arrived at Wharton with grandiose visions of starting my businesses, getting acquired early, and retiring at the ripe old age of 26 like so many of my similarly arrogant, tech-savvy peers imagined as bright young minds in the middle of a startup bubble. I expected to learn how to get things done in business school, to learn what it takes to run a company, and manage my employees. I got exactly what I bargained for with my Wharton education, but not in any of the ways I had hoped. I did learn all of those things but all from the perspective as a cog in a finance-oriented mega-corporation, not a lean startup or local small business. Don’t get me wrong, Wharton churns out some of the best and most highly paid cogs in the business, but when over 70% of the student body is concentrating in Finance and the school collectively drools over Investment Banking positions, there’s not a lot of support for learning how to drum up leads for a new small business or structure your organization to facilitate face paced innovation.
It turned out that what I considered business and business education was really just learning how to work, and specifically in my case, how to work as a software engineer. After two years of taking computer science courses instead of finance classes, I realized I was closer to graduating an engineer than a suit. It’s not that business was bad or Wharton was bad or even that Investment Banking was bad. Wharton and I just had a fundamental misunderstanding of what business is really about. I wish all my former classmates the best as they practice their definition, but I’ll continue to pursue mine in the engineering school.