2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Susana Navarro, Wharton School

Susana Navarro

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton San Francisco)

“Passionate about bringing people together to make an impact and drive exceptional results together.”

Hometown: From Lima, Peru; Lives in Irvine, CA

Family Members: Husband: Brett Walmsley; Children: Isabella (8) and Luca (6)

Fun fact about yourself: I started a microfinance company to support entrepreneurial women in Peru

Undergraduate School and Degree: The Pennsylvania State University, Electrical Engineering

Where are you currently working? Google Cloud, Partnerships and Alliances

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Co-founded the Hispanic ERG, Latinoforce, at Salesforce in Irvine and currently co-lead the Hispanic ERG, Hola, at Google Orange County. Through these activities, I support the Latino community within my company and community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Following a Wharton Global Business Week summit in Chile, I organized an extracurricular trip to Peru for 40 of my classmates to build upon the lessons learned and experience first-hand what difficulties countries in Latin America face, while showcasing Peru’s world-renowned cuisine and rich historical attractions. This experience brought our classmates even closer together, and may have impacted some of them to consider those less fortunate in their future business endeavors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m very proud to have worked on impactful DEI initiatives that were based on the foundation of bringing people, corporations, and communities together.  For instance, I specifically worked on a corporate alliance to maximize our reach to the Hispanic communities in Southern California in Reading Across America, reaching a large portion of underrepresented communities. Kids and parents were thankful to see Hispanic representation at larger corporations, and were encouraged to continue working hard as they saw a path for success for themselves.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Every single professor offered a magical touch to each of their classes, so this is a hard choice. Professor Zeke Hernández went above and beyond as his “Zekrets” bring a personal touch to our learning experience that are complementary to our class discussions, emotionally touching every student. Additionally, his linear thinking and lecture execution are on pointe every time.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Wharton offered me a chance to experience an Ivy League education on the West Coast, while providing access to a thriving learning environment. Additionally, the Wharton brand is very strong globally, where we can have access to the most powerful executives in any geography and industry. This became compelling when my learning group had to interview C-level executives, such as the CFO of Costco, Richard Gallanti, and doors were immediately opened.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Rely on each other; you’re not on your own. At WEMBA, you’re surrounded by individuals who are extremely smart, yet open to sharing their knowledge. It’s humbling to be in an environment where individuals have always been in the top 1%, but we quickly realized we’re in this together, and it becomes more powerful when we learn from each other. Therefore, asking for help and helping others when you can, creates an environment where we can all thrive.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I decided to take a course, Tech Strategy, on the East Coast in order to meet the requirements for my strategy major. Classes were held every weekend for half a term, so I had to rely on my family’s support. In order to successfully juggle family and education, I tried to include my family on some of the trips so they could be a part of the Wharton community and better understand what I go through – this was a success. Additionally, I had a very honest conversation with my boss where I shared how this course could be immediately applied at work. My teammates’ support was also essential to provide the coverage I needed while I was gone.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Be ready and prepared for the first term because it is a big adjustment and requires additional effort to get into the school rhythm. In order to successfully accomplish this, l would suggest investing time to do an internal assessment to understand your areas of weaknesses and prepare accordingly.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “There’s a perfect time to go back to school someday.” In reality, opportunities don’t present themselves at the perfect time. Taking action and committing to working towards your goals as soon as possible is powerful since life will throw new things at you without warning. I’m finding that having the MBA under your belt will strengthen your ability to thrive under the hardest circumstances.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Looking back at all I have learned and experienced, I wish I would have started sooner. After having my two kids, I thought it would be better for them to be past the toddler age to start grad school, however, as short as the program is, the sooner, the better.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? All my classmates have a fascinating background, and I admire them deeply. For many of my classmates, learning never stops, and the MBA helps them get to the next step of their career regardless of age. I admire them for their determination.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to be surrounded by experienced professionals who could contribute to a rich class discussion, and I absolutely got that at WEMBA. Additionally, I can immediately apply what I learn at work, making an executive program relevant when thinking about my career growth.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to lead the Alliances and Partnerships organization at Google. Additionally, I would like to become a partner at a Latin American VC firm to help contribute to the development of innovation and growth in the region.

What made Susana such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Susana is a well-respected leader amongst her Wharton peers, known for her ability to build strong teams by focusing the group’s energy on the common goal. Something unique about Susana is her strong drive to help others succeed and serve as a role model for the next generation of business leaders.

While studying for her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Susy embraced her position as an underrepresented minority in the field by joining societies such as the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). She went on to excel in careers at Cisco and Salesforce, and recently landed a position at Google, working in ISV Strategy and Go-To-Market.

Susy makes conscious efforts to lift other women up professionally. A strong supporter of women-led small businesses, Susy is an advocate for women and underrepresented minorities in both business and higher education. She has done incredible work supporting entrepreneurial women in Peru develop business opportunities for women to rise out of the ranks of poverty. And in addition to all this, she is a great mother to her two kids and commutes to San Francisco from Southern California every other weekend to earn her Wharton EMBA.

Susana exemplifies the type of leadership that can transform a company and pave the way for future generations. Wharton is lucky to have Susana and we can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Barb Craft
Director of Admissions, San Francisco


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