Meet Peter: He’s A Darden Student Blogging on His EMBA Journey

by Peter Vanderloo on

HIs friends call him the "Happy Lawyer"

HIs friends call him the "Happy Lawyer"

Most people call me the “Happy Lawyer! J”, my eponymous job title as an in-house lawyer at a well-known media and high technology company. I have been a lawyer, happily, for 15 years, and have experience in a wide variety of legal work over that decade-and-a-half, from litigation to regulatory work to transactional work. Prior to law school I was a commissioned officer on active duty with the US Marines. Then I worked on international legal claims at the State Department prior to graduating with my JD.


In the course of my legal career, as I became more of an expert in the law, I began to see the need to develop more managerial and business skills in order to advance my career. I realized that an MBA program would help me achieve some key goals. First, by being able to better understand the business realities of my clients, I believed I would be able to give them legal advice that was based on their business view of the world. Second, as I became more senior and had opportunities to manage more people, I wanted to immerse myself in world-class management training to become a stronger manager.

Today, I am about six months into my excellent journey in the MBA for Executives program at Darden. Sunday night just after midnight I wrapped up my exams in Term 3, putting to bed tests in Finance, Accounting and Ethics. Six months ago, I would have tentatively approached any math problem with paper and pencil, or perhaps a calculator. Sunday night, I was running 7 spreadsheets simultaneously, calculating waterfall budgets, average share price, overhead rates and return-on-equity. Where did the number-fearing lawyer go? I know I am in the middle of a transformation, and it’s more than just learning to re-love numbers. The Darden experience is a complete immersion into a managerial mind-set, with the goal of giving me and my classmates an enterprise view on every aspects of our careers.

Although the views are spectacular on this MBA journey, the road does lead uphill, sometimes steeply. Once or twice (as when I had to learn spreadsheets or how to amortize bonds), I have been forced to stop and scale steep vertical faces on the path to the MBA. However, the educational method at Darden is a team-oriented experience, and others have reached out a hand to help pull me up, or crouched down to let me stand on their backs to scale the obstacles on the steeper parts of the journey. In turn, I have contributed where I had some skills, in writing, storytelling and law.

My second leadership residency is in a week and a half. This promises to be a week of intense leadership training and bonding with my cohort On Grounds in Charlottesville.

  • Ian

    Peter, I couldn’t have found your blog at a better time. I’m a deployed Air Force TACP, 7 weeks from going home, and several months from separating. UVA is one of a handful of schools I’m looking at for an EMBA, having recently decided that was the right format so I could continue to work on my business, write books, manage my nonprofit and be a full-time dad while learning alongside a more mature set of fellow students. I will be reading your entries with great interest.

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