2017 Best EMBAs: Mary (Katie) Keegin, Wharton (Philadelphia)

Mary (Katie) Keegin

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, MBA Program for Executives

Age: 32

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Idealist career federal employee seeking new challenge

Hometown: Washington, DC

Family Members: Steve (fiancé)

Fun fact about yourself: I briefed Matt Damon in the White House, but I had to cut the session short to handle a request from the Vice President. My team will never forgive me for kicking him out before we could get a photo!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

BS, Foreign Service. Georgetown University, 2007. Major: International Politics. Minor: African Studies

MA, Security Studies. Georgetown University, 2009

Where are you currently working: I’m the Deputy Chief of Operations for an office at the National Security Agency. In September, I will start as a consultant with Bain&Co.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career: During my time at the White House Situation Room, I led teams working 24/7 to assist National Security Council Staff response to crises around the world. Each day was a new challenge, making the entire experience extremely rewarding.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Sonia Marciano. Her classes were entertaining and insightful.

What was your favorite MBA class and what was the biggest insight about business you learned from it?  Influence with Professor Massey. The class forced students to be extremely introspective, and I was able to immediately improve some of my relationships at work to my benefit.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted an academically rigorous program with the same material covered in a full time MBA. WEMBA is also famous for the strong bond you develop with classmates during the weekends on campus. Additionally, I knew I would benefit from being able to tap into the worldwide Wharton alumni network.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Spending time with my amazing classmates. We went through a challenging experience together and now we are forever friends.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education. It’s always a careful prioritization. At the end of my first term, I had exams at school and annual performance reviews for all of my team due the same week. I tried to work ahead, but still had to have some very late nights. I was able to get extensions at work in order to really focus in on the exams. After it was all over, I celebrated with a vacation to Ireland with Steve and his family.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? MBA programs have a reputation for being cutthroat. I found this program to be collaborative, supportive, and team-oriented.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had discovered the joys of late night Philly establishments earlier in my WEMBA career.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Erin Talbot. Erin was on my original learning team, and she balanced school, advancement in her career at E*TRADE, and two small kids (including one she had during our third term) with incredible grace and humor.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I accompanied The President on a day trip to an Amazon Fulfillment center in 2013. I had never seen such a complex operation, and I was impressed with how Amazon was innovating with technology and human capital. I realized at this moment that I had a lot to learn beyond my national security-focused education and career.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…looking for a job in tech or cyber security where I could leverage my NSA background.”

What is your favorite company: A classmate of mine is the CEO of a start-up in the financial advisory space called Fabric. Hearing about his experience has been fascinating, and I’m confident Fabric will have a huge impact on the financial industry as well as its clients who get investing and wealth management advice for significantly less than current offerings.

If you were dean for a day, what one thing would you change about your executive MBA experience? The WEMBA administration and staff was fantastic throughout the program. Would have been nice to have Saturday classes start a bit later, though…

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? TBD. I have found the most interesting and challenging opportunities presented themselves organically. I’m looking forward to seeing where my career takes me.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Over the last 2 years, my fiancé, Steve. He supported me day in and day out, encouraging me when times were tough, cooking dinner, and helping with homework.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they remember my dance moves.

Favorite book: Bossypants, Tina Fey

Favorite movie or TV show: The Americans

Favorite musical performer: Zac Brown Band

Favorite vacation spot: Coastal Maine

Hobbies? I’m looking forward to getting back into long distance triathlon after a hiatus to focus on school. I’ll be racing a half Ironman on June 4thh and my first full distance Ironman on September 10th!

What made Katie such an invaluable member of the Class of 2017?

“Katherine (Katie) Keegin was first admitted to the program to start with the Wharton MBA Program for Executives in spring of 2014.  Katie called the WEMBA Program office and very politely requested to be deferred for one year because she was asked by her boss to take a very important job as “Head of the Situation Room” at the White House for then President Obama.   Everyone on our admissions committee agreed that if we were ever to grant a deferral request that this was one of the best reasons we had ever received.  We all agreed and offered Katie admissions for the following year 2015.  Katie’s non-traditional work experience offered her classmates a window into the world of the public sector.  Katie was a contributor in all ways and was quick to help anyone in her class with academic problems, assignments or personal issues.  Katie did all this and juggled her work, home and school with grace and a positive energy that had a significant impact on her class as a class leader. Katie graduated in the top half of her class.   Katie could have sought employment in the private sector but her love of country and a desire to make a difference in people’s lives keeps drawing her back to public service.”

Catherine (Cathy) Molony
Director of the MBA Program for Executives in Philadelphia
Director of admissions for the MBA Program for Executives in Philadelphia and San Francisco