2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kunal Khatri, Wharton School

Kunal Khatri

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

Age: 38

“Government diplomat, restless and adventurous, passionate about economics, finance and geo-politics.”

Hometown: Manchester, United Kingdom

Family Members: My wife, Patty Tredway, five-year-old son, Asa, and three-year-old daughter, Simi.

Fun fact about yourself: I was on a TV drama when I was 10-years-old. On the back of that I was offered a whole series except my parents turned it down and never told me about it until I was 21!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Oxford University, Magdalen College, BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1st)

London School of Economics and Political Science, MSc International Relations (Merit)

Where are you currently working? I’m currently the Deputy HM Trade Commissioner for North America at the British Consulate in New York, representing the UK Government and Department for Business and Trade

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: MBA 2023 graduate from Wharton with Honors. Chair of the UK government in US Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Network, and mentor to Black and Ethnic Minority professionals through the Oxford Blavatnik School of Government Pathway to Success scheme.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was honored to host a screening of a fantastic documentary, Slavery in the Age of Revolution, produced my colleague Oliver St. Clair Franklin CBE, the UK’s Honorary Consul General to Philadelphia. It’s an incredibly powerful film that exposes the business and complicity in the transatlantic slave trade, reveals stories of resistance, and the involvement of Oxford’s Colleges. It was a special moment to host Oliver for a screening and discussion with my MBA classmates together with the Museum of the American Revolution.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I lived in Beijing for five years working for the British Embassy. I’m proud of learning fluent Mandarin in my spare time to drive influence and economic outcomes that can only come by developing personal, culturally aware, and close relationships. The prize achievement was negotiating to secure the launch of the London Stock Exchange – Shanghai Stock exchange Connect Programme. The experience that my wife, my children and I had, is uniquely valuable at a time of rising geopolitical tension.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Chris Geczy. I’ve always followed financial markets and Chris’ class on investment management was a fascinating deep dive on portfolio theory and construction. Chris’ other course on impact investing took the same approach drilling down on ESG performance. After a career in politics, a heavy quantitative approach was invaluable to strengthening my ability to influence stakeholders by talking factors, volatility, and performance – and not just politics. He also loves football (the real kind) which is a bonus.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? After a career leading financial and economic policy, I was eager to develop a stronger understanding of business and markets themselves. Wharton is not only one of the best business schools globally and in the US, but it is by far the strongest and most renowned finance school. On top of that, the school is driving new thinking around business’ impact on broader society through its “Beyond Business” series, and I knew my public sector experience would be a good fit with the school.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The strategic management classes, together with dedicated career coaching, were instrumental in developing my leadership skills and confidence. I moved to the US to take on leading a team of over 100 people and entered the role in height of the pandemic. Managing the transition to remote working, safeguarding the health of colleagues, leading through unprecedented social stress, and responding to urgent policy demands all tested my resilience to the extreme. The MBA teaching, but equally the support and advice of my classmates, were critical to getting through that period.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The last two years have been a constant juggle. Whether it’s doing homework until midnight, looking after sick kids, and doing it all when down with COVID, an Executive MBA stretches your ability to prioritise, plan, and cope. I remember one weekend in the first term trying to manage a full weekend of classes, exams, homework, as well as preparing for a Prime Minister visit the following week and working flat-out to keep my head above water. Ultimately, by doing the Executive MBA, you’ll realise you have more hours in a day than you seemingly ever had before, and you’ll leave with extraordinary multi-tasking skills!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? An Executive MBA will stretch not just your own but your family’s resilience. You’ll make many sacrifices, but so will those around you. If you are entering the MBA with kids at home, it’s essential to have honest conversations with those who will be picking up the burden when you’re away, to make sure you bring in extra help, and always be understanding of the sacrifice that others are making to help you through. My wife has been our family’s rock these last two years and I’m enormously grateful for the sacrifices that she made.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Only that I hadn’t done it sooner. The MBA has enormously enhanced my leadership, confidence and analytics skills, and has helped give me much needed clarity and impetus for the next stage of my career.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  This is a universal call out for all the moms in the Executive MBA. It was hard enough as a dad, but a number of classmates had children during the course. Two members of my learning team, Nina Butler and Shelley Xu, had children in the very first term of the MBA when we were all wide-eye terrified, struggling to get up to speed, and striving to cope with the avalanche of homework and exams. I’m in awe of how they still managed to keep top of all the work. More than that, they change jobs, launch new companies, move cities, and remain two of the most positive people I’ve ever met.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? With family, kids and a career, the opportunity cost of a full-time MBA was not an option. At the same time, I wanted the full value, content, and teaching of the full-time MBA, and Wharton was one of the few business schools to offer that opportunity through an in-person and executive format. Fully online and remote learning is simply not the same as face-to-face learning and relationship building. I have loved travelling from New York to Philadelphia every two weeks and having the time on campus and away from work, to dive into the course and bond with my classmates.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am passionate about working at the intersection of business, government and geopolitics. I’m fascinated by how finance can deliver high, sustainable, and impactful returns. I want to continue to build a career in this space, spanning the public and private sectors, to create value, drive growth, and increase economic opportunity across all parts of society. At some point, I hope to scratch the entrepreneurial itch and take the plunge to start my own business.

What made Kunal such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“It was a pleasure getting to know Kunal, who is committed to building strong relationships with his cohort in and outside the classroom. Kunal is the United Kingdom’s Deputy HM Trade Commissioner and volunteered to help connect his classmates with several contacts in London during Global Business Week. Kunal genuinely cares about getting to know as many members of the class as possible. He even organized and hosted an event for our students at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He is a truly valued member of the class and we’re proud to have him as a member of the Wharton alumni network.”

Cathy Molony
Director of the Philadelphia Cohort
Director of Alumni Engagement, San Francisco and Philadelphia


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