2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: David Latshaw II, Wharton School

David Latshaw II

Wharton Executive MBA (Philadelphia)

Age: 34

I blend science and business to make a positive impact on the lives of others.”

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Family Members: Alina Latshaw (wife), Elyse Latshaw (daughter), and Cora Latshaw (daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I like to train for extreme endurance events.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Arizona State University, BSE Chemical Engineering – North Carolina State University, MS Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering – North Carolina State University, PhD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Where are you currently working? BioPhy, Chief Executive and Chief Scientist

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering member; entrepreneurship mentor during COVID-19 Call to Action; and academic/career mentor to scientists and engineers through multiple organizations

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of collaborating with the National Academy of Engineering during the COVID-19 pandemic on their Call-to-Action program. I was able to coach teams of scientists working on technology to mitigate the negative social and human health impacts of COVID-19. I did this by helping them understand what was needed to translate their work into commercial applications with a specific emphasis on technical feasibility, cost, and scalability.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my career transitions from an academic doctoral program to a large pharmaceutical company and finally to entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each change was drastic and in the face of significant uncertainty, but I could not be happier with my decisions.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My vote is split between Christopher (Chris) Geczy and Robert (Bob) Chalfin. These two professors represent very different worlds but have a profound understanding of their respective disciplines. Chris communicates the intricacies of equities management with a rigorous quantitative thought process to give you the tools to analyze investment opportunities in public markets, which is a skill everyone can benefit from. Bob specializes in owning small businesses and real estate and takes a very practical, hands-on approach to the entire process. Again, this is something everyone would benefit from understanding but few people value appropriately at first glance. Their areas of expertise are very different but taken together are quite powerful.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Coming from a scientific background, I wanted to diversify my skillset as much as possible during my degree, so I wanted to attend Wharton to focus on finance and operations. Wharton’s world-renowned expertise on my ideal focus areas combined with a community and network that is second to none made it my school of choice.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? There is always enough time if something is important to you. This lesson allowed me to take on far more than I previously thought, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, and put me in a position to make the impact I wanted to make on others.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? It goes without saying that the pandemic was a major contributor to the time management I had to maintain. For three months during 2020, I had to maintain my performance at Johnson & Johnson, spend time with my daughters who were home full time during the pandemic, plan for my transition to starting my own company BioPhy, support my wife’s equally demanding career, continue learning during my MBA at Wharton, and keep it all together. That level of effort was unsustainable for more than a few months, but it taught me what is possible when you have your priorities straight and give it your all.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Make sure you know exactly what you want out of the program, even if it changes while you are there, and pursue it relentlessly. Executive MBAs should be an active experience, not a passive one.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Either that you are too busy when you are in the middle of your career, or it is too hard to get back into the swing of learning in a classroom. My experience at Wharton has shown that both are false, and it is your mindset that really determines whether or not you are capable of doing those things.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not starting sooner. The experience changed my entire understanding of careers, business, and purpose so I can only imagine what an impact it would have had on me if I had gone through it earlier in life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Steven Truong the most. Steven has always showed great resilience, thoughtfulness, and intelligence and those qualities, among others, are what inspired me to work on BioPhy with him.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose an executive MBA because I did not want to put my career on hold. I have always been a full steam ahead kind of person so the idea of putting a pause on a major part of my life just to return later did not make much sense to me. I knew it would be a challenge but if I could do both at the same time, I knew I would be better for it.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? At a high level, I want to continue to solve challenging problems and use that ability to make a positive impact on the lives of others, including those that I work with and those that experience the output of our efforts. I am currently working on just that with BioPhy and plan to take our efforts far into the future.

What made David such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“David Latshaw is a case study in the transformative power of an MBA program. Prior to Wharton, Dave spent 10 years in academic research working on his PhD and subsequently joining Janssen Pharmaceutical where he rose to the level of Senior Scientist. His curiosity and aspiration to achieve a business leadership position led him to pursue his MBA. Dave has been recognized in his class for both academic strength as well as leadership. Those characteristics attracted a group of similarity minded overachievers who found an entrepreneurial idea and after deep research they have launched and raised seed capital for the business. I’m confident Dave will be successful in his career and will inspire others with his story.”

Scott Sill
Executive in Residence
Wharton MBA Program for Executives

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