2019 Best EMBAs: John David Tamas, The Wharton School

John David Tamas

University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School

“A balance of two contrasting traits: serious and humorous.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas

Family Members: Cheryl Tamas (spouse and fellow classmate)

Fun fact about yourself: I can imitate just about anyone on command, and while that’s fun it tends to work more against than for me.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Arkansas, Bachelor of Business Administration

Where are you currently working?

  • NXT Capital, Vice President
  • NXT Capital builds and manages private credit funds backed by middle market businesses.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Extracurricular Activities: Competitive mountain bike racing, building headphone amplifiers, and losing money speculating in cryptocurrency markets. I also run five miles every day before work.
  • Community: Volunteer math tutor at KIPP Truth Academy.
  • Awards and Honors at Penn: Director’s List in multiple terms; First Year Honors.
  • Awards and Honors at the U of A: Walton Finance Scholarship; graduated with Honors.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Making an A in Professor Smetters’s managerial microeconomics class. The exams were wholly comprised of protracted calculus problems tethered to the economic concepts we discussed in class. I distinctly recall everyone being surrounded by mountains of eraser chaff after the midterm, thinking to themselves: “That couldn’t have possibly gone well for anyone.”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I hope that it’s the positive professional impact I’ve had on the people I’ve helped bring into and move up through the various institutions for which I’ve worked.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? That would be Professor Kaiser, who, through a series of lessons that integrated physics, evolution, human behavior, and finance, helped me find more purpose in my chosen line of work—and even life in general. I should also mention that he armed us with class-leading valuation and balance sheet restructuring frameworks.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Managerial Communications, which requires each student to give a series of speeches in an array of topical, temporal, and audience formats. Students then receive live critique from third-party communications consultants and classmates. Leading up to this course, I thought that I was great at giving presentations. However, I quickly found that wasn’t the case, and at the end of the course received the “most improved” award.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? After researching and visiting the top programs, Wharton was the clear winner for me because it offered the academic rigor and courses that most aligned with my career needs and personal interests. In addition, the flights to and from Philadelphia offered a few hours of focused time for schoolwork—and it doesn’t hurt that I now have top-tier status with American and enough miles for a few vacations once I graduate.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Building friendships. That was super important to me because I hadn’t had much opportunity to develop friendships outside of the office. In the second year of the program, two of my classmates were groomsmen at my wedding.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? That work should be about creating and delivering products and services that make people’s lives around us better. In the case of investing, those involved are often multiple steps removed from where the dollars deployed ultimately have an impact. I find it worthwhile to think about and remind myself of the good that our capital is facilitating.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? In the second year of the program, I got married, moved, and started a new job. My wife went through the same steps over the same timeframe. We were both operating at our respective redlines—though, admittedly probably me more so than her. But like most challenges, it was tough at first but became easier over time.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? It’s totally manageable and you won’t regret it. The program is a great way to catalyze positive change in your career and meet new, high-quality people. That said, it comes at a price that includes an hour or two each night and the occasional missed family, work, or social event. The process of preparing a thoughtful application will give you a great sense of what that commitment feels like and condition you for the two years to come. It also helps to be open with those around you about your schedule and attribute your successes along the way to their support.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’s more about what you do with what you learn and who you meet than the fact that you attended school. I found it helpful to bounce work, investment, and life ideas off my classmates and professors.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Having to say “no” to some of the optional activities outside of the classroom—GMCs, class vacations, panels, nights out, club memberships, etc. Business school really is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Impossible to select one—each of my classmates were smart and hard-working, and I’d back almost any of them in just about any endeavor.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I reached a point in my career where I noticed that everyone ahead of me had some form of advanced academic achievement.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To create and lead a middle-market credit fund management company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they won’t have to because I plan on staying in touch.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Getting licensed for and buying a twin-engine turboprop. That way, my wife and I can annoy our future children by following them around wherever they go. It’s going to take some convincing to get my wife on board.
  • More near-term: locating and acquiring a 1962 Austin Healey 3000 MK II tri-carb roadster—a car that is very special to me.


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