2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Timothy Shishko, Wharton School

Timothy Shishko

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, MBA for Executives (Philadelphia)

Age: 34

“An unapologetic problem-solving capitalist entrepreneur family man.”

Hometown: Dix Hills, NY

Family Members: Zhanna (wife), Timothy (son-6), Irena (daughter-4), Maximilian (son-10mo)

Fun fact about yourself: My first important job was working at a fish market when I was 15 years old. Ralph Rega, the owner, taught me business, customer service and how to demonstrate your personal values through entrepreneurism. The debt I owe to Ralph and Lee Rega for their impact on my life is beyond calculation.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Baruch College, BBA

Where are you currently working? Standard Fire/Standard Group. It is a mechanical services group that I started in 2016.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I do not really do much besides start or buy and run businesses, some real estate deals/development and spend time with my family. I like to think that I have a great community in my business, and I am exploring additional leadership roles post-graduation.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My team and I were able to buy three companies and two commercial properties and double our revenue while in school and during a pandemic. I think it is important to look at any large-scale event, even something as awful as the pandemic and use it as an opportunity.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Before talking about what I am most proud of, I need to preface this by explaining that my achievements are either wholly or mostly because of the support of my wife Zhanna. That said I am most proud of quitting a job of 10 years with a borrowed 100K from an online lender with a very pregnant wife to start my first company, Standard Fire Suppression Corp. Going from employee to entrepreneur was the single best professional decision and the best personal decision (next to marrying Zhanna) I have ever made.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Gad Allon. This was tough because I resonated with a lot of professors and derived so many valuable insights from them to apply to my business. Gad’s scaling operations class completely altered my view of my business and what it means to build a truly scalable company. I would also like to mention Mike Roberts, who taught finance with such passion and clarity that even a former pipefitter could understand it and Habrir Singh who gave me great advice for my business and personal life.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I only applied to Wharton because I always thought of it as the top business school in the United States. Also, the analytical and quantitative approach to management and business is a dramatic but valuable shift from the typical management of companies in the industrial services space.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Growth as an objective is the number one reason that corporations experience financial distress and bankruptcy according to Kevin Kaiser in Corporate Restructuring. This knocked me for a loop because growth targets are part of almost every company’s business plan (mine included). I changed our targets to be profit centered and did away with growth for growth’s sake as a target.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My group bought a company that nearly doubled our size four months into the program and then we had our third child Maximilian roughly halfway through the third term. Concurrently, I was in a race to get the financing closed on an investment property otherwise where our deposit was at risk. I just remember thinking how absolutely stupid it was to do all of this at once and also started to realize that your threshold for stress increases with exposure to it and this was a great exercise in pushing those limits.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it! I absolutely hated high school and college. I dropped out 3 times in undergrad because it felt like such a waste of time. This was the exact opposite. The teachers are brilliant and so into what you do. The classmates are so talented and give incredible perspectives on whatever you’re working on and even the academics which I was dreading were so valuable. In reality, the degree is the cheapest education and best value I can imagine compared to learning by trial-and-error.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? A lot of my business associates thought it was crazy to go back to school when you have built a successful business. The biggest myth is that you don’t need to do it. You do need it if you want to expand your horizons from whatever your day-to-day framing has created. If you think you know it all you’re an idiot.

What was your biggest regret in business school? We did a very large acquisition that nearly doubled our headcount shortly into the program. It was and still is a very difficult deal to process. I wish I had not taken that on because it took an incredible amount of time and effort that I could have used applying practices learned in class to my businesses. Also, I learned a lot of things in school that I could have applied to potentially avoid the deal all together if I had waited.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rob Low. The man chose to defer Wharton to command a nuclear submarine for the US Navy. I don’t think anything more needs to be said.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I value my time very highly. If I am going to go through something like this, I want to be around others who share as high of an opportunity cost of time. The EMBA format weeds out a lot of low performance people and creates a self-selecting group of incredibly interesting people that I enjoyed spending time with and getting to know. Online, part time, and even full-time programs would not generate an equivalent experience.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to own a large and diverse holding company that espouses my capitalist ideals making the lives of my employees, clients, vendors, and other constituents better through massive value creation.

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

“Tim is the absolute embodiment of what it means to be self-made. He’s a guy who came up through the union, working for Sirina Fire Protection Corporation in New York while chipping away at his bachelor’s degree. He started out as a shop hand and worked his way up to a director role by putting in the hard work and pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

What I really like and appreciate about Tim is the unique perspective that he brings to the WEMBA program and community. He commutes down from Long Island every other weekend and brings with him such a sense of excitement and gratitude for being here. I think Tim probably has a sense that he learns a lot more from his classmates than they learn from him, but I would disagree with that sentiment. Tim is proof that if you put in the work and you have the drive, you can rise to heights you never thought possible.

Even though Tim is the CEO and Founder of Standard Group and has founded several other successful companies, he sought me out to discuss his long-term career impact. He is not a student who lets pride get in the way of self-improvement. Instead, Tim takes every opportunity he can get to learn more about his potential as a well-rounded business leader. Diversity can take on a lot of different faces within an MBA program and Tim’s is certainly one that has benefitted faculty, students, and the administration within WEMBA. He’s a breath of fresh air in class and we were very lucky to have him in this cohort.”

Colleen France

Director of Career Advancement


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