2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Maria Devassy, Wharton School

Maria Devassy

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

Age: 49

“Resilient driven business leader, mom, entrepreneur, cancer survivor, passionate about food, travel, tech, and sports.”

Hometown: Bay Area, California

Family Members: my supportive family:  Husband: Binu Mathew, my 3 kids: Kate, Paul, and Anya

Furry family: Frodo & Sam

Fun fact about yourself: I went bungee jumping off the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand… and I have a fear of heights.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor’s in Physics University of Madras, Master’s in Computer Applications University of Madras

Where are you currently working? Executive Vice President, Business Development and Partnerships at Compliance.ai

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Multiple Director’s List [top 10% of the class] Recipient

2023 Wharton Class Gift Co-Chair

Board Member: Hers Breast Cancer Foundation

Advisory Board Member: Compliance.ai

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As co-chair of the class gift committee, one of the proudest moments for me was to see how our class came together with 100% participation and well past our dollar goals so we can continue the tradition of giving back. We came here as individuals, but we leave as a community that has been shaped by the support, guidance, and resources at Wharton. I am blessed to be part of this amazing cohort and community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest moments have been as a product manager, where I had the opportunity to conceptualize, launch a new product, and take it to market. Collaborating with the team to build it and receiving feedback from customers about how happy they are with the product and how it helps them in their job has been immensely gratifying.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Robert Chalfin taught me everything I wanted to know about the life cycle of acquisition, from sourcing opportunities and carrying out due diligence to raising capital and closing transactions. Professor Chalfin is one of those professors that combine theory with practical applications from the field. His course  Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition is designed to provide students with a comprehensive strategy on how to acquire an existing business and was one of my favorite classes.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Wharton’s global reputation and financial and analytical curriculum are very strong. I also had a few alumni friends from Wharton who I admired who had started entrepreneurial ventures after completing the program. I heard great things about the entrepreneurship program here that combines theory with practice and working on field projects, so I chose Wharton.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? One of my current objectives is to help scale the business through new business opportunities, and one of my favorite courses was the Mergers & Acquisition class taught by Professor Harbir Singh. He teaches the analytical process involved in M&A and inorganic growth and how to best scale and drive growth and change. The learnings from these strategies and frameworks augment my experience and are very relevant to my work, especially strategies on when to Ally and when to acquire; where will you play; how will you win; what capabilities must be in place; and which management systems required. I’ve applied strategies to create advantages for my firm, extend boundaries and build a competitive advantage. The good thing about the Wharton MBA program is the continuous application of concepts we learn. We have opportunities to enhance our work by applying concepts that we learn during the weekend at work the next week.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I joined the MBA program when my kids were a bit older, but it came with different challenges. The first term was tough as I was getting back to college after 20+ years. On the family front, my oldest daughter had moved to LA for college post-COVID. My son was heading out to college, and my youngest was in middle school. I did not want to miss out on the family trip to LA to help her with her apartment move and before my son left for college.

So, I went to LA a week before my term finals with my binders and homework. I worked out of my daughter’s apartment for work. While the rest of the family went for the Disneyland rides, I sat on the bench by the Mark Twain riverboat area with my laptop and backpack and worked on my practice exams and homework. I missed out on the rides, but could get my work and schoolwork done and be in the same space as my family, so I was not completely missing out on these critical years.

Balancing work, school, and family can seem like a constant juggle, but this experience has shown me how important it is to lean on your support system when things get stressful.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Stay the course as they begin the program. With school comes homework, studying, social events, and more. While this program is a challenge, it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ll make lifelong friends, join the world’s largest business school alumni network, and learn more than you thought possible. As you start the program, remember to take care of yourself – and don’t forget to have fun!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That one is too old to do an MBA. I have to admit that getting to school after 20+ years can be intimidating. The WEMBA staff were so supportive, and it helped knowing I had my class manager, study group, and classmates in my corner. I made the Director’s List [top 10% of the class] by the end of my first year, and I have my family and support network to thank!

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not attending enough Global Modular courses (GMCs). The Wharton MBA Program for Executives offers unique opportunities for students to gain a global perspective on business. These courses have a mix of undergraduate, full-time MBA, and EMBA students and are led by Wharton faculty in key business locations around the world. Each year, a dozen or more experience-based learning courses are offered in countries including Ghana, Japan, Israel, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, and Estonia. I did get the opportunity to go to a couple, but I would have loved to be able to attend more since the GMCs expose students to a unique combination of local immersion, course concepts, and cutting-edge business and social issues.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sreenivas Kasturi, Team1, is a truly remarkable teammate. His willingness to help others, ability to manage various responsibilities, and intellect make him an invaluable asset to the team. Sree’s dedication, balance, and positive attitude set a high standard to aspire to. Sree juggles family, work, fun, and school and makes it look easy, and is a great role model in the classroom and beyond.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives?  For me, the decision to pursue an Executive MBA was primarily aimed at broadening my perspective, establishing an in-person network, exploring new avenues, and leveraging knowledge and frameworks to drive the growth of my current company. Additionally, I intended to use this experience as a stepping stone toward future entrepreneurial endeavors. The Wharton Executive MBA program offered the best of both worlds by providing continuous learning of valuable concepts and the opportunity to apply them to enhance my work immediately. There were a lot of opportunities to bond in person with the class and the professors both during and outside of class. These experiences were highly valuable and played a significant role in the overall experience of the Wharton Executive MBA program.

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

“Maria Devassy received first year honors and shows up for classes and events, volunteers without beings asked and has taken on a leadership role in this class as the Class Gift Co-chair. During her program, she was promoted from EVP Customer Partner and Success to Executive Vice President Business Development and Partnerships at Compliance.ai. Maria is also a member at large on the Board of Directors at HERS Breast Cancer Foundation.”

Fele Uperesa
Associate Director, Wharton MBA Program for Executives


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