2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Tejinder Singh, Wharton School

Tejinder Singh

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

Age: 40

“Semiconductor Technology Leader and a Startup Co-Founder.”

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Family Members:

  • Devora Pinsky (Spouse)
  • Maeva Kaur (Daughter, 7.5 years)
  • Zach Singh (Son, 2.5 years)

Fun fact about yourself: I love to dance Bhangra, a Punjabi folk dance. I introduced myself to my Wharton classmates by dancing a Tik-Tok style Bhangra at the orientation week in Philadelphia. I also love to hike, travel, and read and play with my two kids.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Undergraduate:
    • School: Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India (2000-2004)
    • Degree: Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Chemical Engineering
  • Graduate
    • School: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (2005-2010)
    • Degree: Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering

Where are you currently working? I’m the Director of Products & Technology at Applied Materials, a semiconductor equipment company. I lead the 300mm Product Management & Product Marketing Team in the Specialty Semiconductor Business Unit (referred to as ICAPS). It’s an exciting time to be in the semiconductor industry since the demand for semiconductor chips has grown exponentially in the last decade. We live in a smart and connected world that’s powered by these chips and the ICAPS revenues have increased 4x the last two years (from ~$2B in 2020 to ~$8B in 2022). Personally, I’m responsible for a Product Portfolio with over $1B in SAM (serviceable addressable market) and I travel frequently to customers in US, Europe, and Asia to understand their product requirements and position our products. I’m also a Co-Founder of a Startup with one of my Wharton classmates and we are looking forward to launching the startup in the coming few months.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

I am very proud of the dual academic recognition, namely, the Benjamin Franklin Award & the Palmer Scholar, that I received during my Wharton MBA graduation on May 06, 2023. During the ceremony, Lynn Krage, Director of our Executive MBA program announced that I was the top-ranked student in the class. I had a near-perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA and I graduated with Entrepreneurship & Innovation Major.

The Benjamin Franklin award is bestowed on the student who has exhibited a strong work ethic, demonstrated a practical application of ideas, fostered teamwork, and is quick to lend a helping hand in order to “give back” to the class. Peer recognition is by far the most unadulterated form of acknowledgment, and I truly feel honored to be recognized by classmates. I conducted tutor sessions for the Statistics, Investment Management, and Venture Capital classes that my classmates found extremely helpful. Throughout the program, I always believed that we are stronger and better together, so I didn’t hesitate to share my learning with my classmate.

I was also one of the five students who received the prestigious Palmer Scholar designation. Personally, this was an incredible academic achievement since the Wharton class is immensely talented and hard-working. It required strong commitment, discipline, and teamwork and I was able to sustain that throughout the last two years. I couldn’t have done it without the love and support from my wife, Devora Pinsky, my parents, my sisters, and members of my learning team.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I love to dance Bhangra, a Punjabi folk dance. During the MBA Program, I choreographed and danced Bhangra twice in front of my classmates during the annual Halloween/Diwali (also called Hallo-wali) party. It was a fun event and allowed me to express a different side of myself, not the academic nerdy one. I was also one of the organizers of our WEMBA47 Prom Party, an annual class tradition to celebrate the end of the program, and was attended by over 160 students, spouses, and staff.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, we were competing to win a multi-million-dollar business from a UK customer. They were setting up a new manufacturing facility and were looking to buy semiconductor equipment. My manager assigned me to lead the project. Initially, it was a challenge since we had to work remotely, yet we had to conduct experiments in person in the lab. I led the team of hardware, software & process engineers, and we were able to hold consistent meetings with our client virtually and build a very strong customer trust. We ended up winning the business and I was promoted to director last year in 2022 and that win played a role in my promotion.

Also, last year, I was granted six U.S. patents from the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and I was recognized by the “Prolific Inventor” award at Applied Materials. I’m very proud of both of these professional accomplishments, however, I firmly believe the best is yet to come. Wharton has provided me with such a solid foundation and will open a world of possibilities that I could have never imagined before. This is the start of a transformational journey and I’m confident the whole class will find the experience rewarding as we build and grow our professional careers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Wharton is renowned for its world-class faculty, and we were truly blessed to be taught by some of the very best Professors. We were at Wharton’s San Francisco campus and professors would have to fly from Philadelphia every two weeks to teach us. If I had to pick my favorite professor, I would pick two: Professor Richard Waterman, who taught us Statistics, and Professor Tyler Wry, who taught us Venture Implementation. Both courses have had a profound impact on my professional career. Although I had used Statistics in my work before at Intel Corporation, where I was a Process Engineer, I didn’t fully understand concepts like p-value, t-test, and regression analysis. Later, we took Finance, Investment Management, and Option Pricing classes where understanding of Statistics is important to build intuition and do well in those classes. Business leaders today face many challenges and need to make several data-driven decisions and a solid foundation of Statistics is critical to them.

I also enjoyed Professor Tyler Wry’s Venture Implementation class. I’m deeply passionate about starting my own business and his class was very insightful. We got to work on a real idea, perform customer interviews, talk to industry experts, develop a pitch deck, and present our idea to venture capitalists. Wharton offers an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Major and there are a lot of resources that we could utilize if we want to launch our venture. What I learned was that you don’t need to raise large venture capital funds to launch a startup, but you can conduct quick experiments to test product-market fit and later raise funds when you are ready to scale the business.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Wharton is known for its Global brand and is one of the top-ranked business schools in the world. A couple of my classmates from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, who had graduated with an MBA from Wharton were highly encouraging me to apply for Wharton. They also told me that if you want to move to Singapore, India, or Europe, Wharton MBA is globally recognizable, and finding an opportunity internationally is possible through Wharton’s large alumni network. Although I got admitted to Berkeley Hass, I chose Wharton for its global perspective, large alumni network, and academic rigor especially in Finance. When I found out that Wharton has significant resources available for Entrepreneurship, the decision to choose Wharton was an easy one. Wharton truly exceeded my expectations. The school’s role is to prepare us as business leaders and now it’s our turn to apply the skills learned in school and give back to our communities.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained during the MBA is that Leadership can be learned and developed. Wharton gives you a platform to form, build, and maintain relationships that are critical to being an impactful leader. One of my goals for the WEMBA program was to develop my leadership abilities and I was conscious to take leadership roles in group projects. Initially, I was a bit tentative within my learning team but slowly I gained confidence to be a better leader. The best example of leadership during school is when I traveled to Latvia and Estonia for a Global Modular Couse (GMC), and we were in a team of seven people. We had to do a consulting project with an Estonian company of inventory and raw material risk management. I expressed my interest to be the team leader and I led the team during the consulting project. I got really good feedback from other team members they said I had been very motivating to them.

It was an excellent learning experience for me since leadership is about building relationships and sharing a vision, being able to inspire and motivate others. During the second year, Wharton connected me with an Executive Coach, Amanda Rose, which is one of the benefits of the WEMBA program. I worked 1:1 with Amanda to hone my leadership skills. I used to view myself as an individual contributor, maybe a manager, but Wharton has provided me with an immense level of confidence and self-belief that I can become a strong and effective leader. My upper management now views me as a leader in the business unit and I have been getting engaged with quarterly strategy and business reviews that gets reported to the CEO of Applied Materials.

Overall, I believe the Wharton Executive MBA is a great platform. I never knew that I wanted to do an MBA, but for me personally, I’ve grown up so much in the last two years and I am not the same person anymore. I’ve got so much more confidence. I would say the 4 C’s that will stay with me are confidence, communication, commitment, and then connections and I’ve built every single one of them. I’m hoping that this is a platform where I can take the next stage of my career.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During our admission orientation, one Wharton alumni told us that, at any given time during the program, you will be juggling between three pressing commitments: work, family, and Wharton. And, at any given time, you will be failing at one of the three. I had a unique family circumstance during the executive MBA program. My wife was enrolled in an accelerated nursing program at Regis College in Boston and my two kids were with her. So, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts every two weeks from San Jose, CA and I would be studying or working on the plane or airport so I could spend time with my family. Despite that, my daughter would cry every time I flew back to California, “Dad, why do you have to leave?” This was one of the sacrifices I had to make when I chose to pursue the Executive MBA program. In the words of our Vice Dean, Peggy Bishop Lane, the experience was “everything, everywhere, all-at-once.” This has resonated with every single one of my classmates, and they also say that balancing work, family, and school was the biggest challenge for everyone in the program. However, the Wharton experience is so rewarding, and you’re willing to make trade-offs for two years.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The Wharton Executive MBA is an enriching and fulfilling experience. If you have any doubt about doing it, just do it and do it now. The experience, the network, and the skills you will gain out of the program are truly life-changing. The biggest advice I would give after you get admitted is to have a strong support system. The program itself is academically rigorous and there are a lot of deliverables for each class every class weekend (bi-weekly). It’s a bullet train without stops. So, you will need to prioritize work and school and if you have a strong support system, you can focus and do well in classes. You will need to maintain strong discipline throughout the program since every class requires pre-readings, case studies, homework, and exams. You will need to rely on your support system even more when you are in the program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school, I believe, is that it’s too late to do an MBA if you already have 15 to 20 years of work experience or if you are already in your 40s. I had a few classmates who were in their mid-40s and some in their 50s. Ironically, some of them were in the same learning team, and we called that team “the Seniors.” Jokes aside, we were all very inspired by their humility and willingness to learn and contribute to the class.

Another myth about going back to school is the lack of confidence that you can do well in your cohort. Although Wharton MBA’s core curriculum is quantitative heavy, there are a lot of resources to develop your quantitative skills. There’s a dedicated academic advisor who works with students who come from non-math backgrounds to hone their quantitative skills. After you are admitted, almost everyone in the class suffers from imposter syndrome. While the imposter syndrome is true when you start the program, this quickly goes away after the first few classes. So, you truly start to enjoy the academic rigor and build relationships with your classmates who will be your ambassadors after you graduate.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was not taking the two elective classes: Negotiations by Gus Cooney & Valuation by Kevin Kaiser. In the first year of the program, we take core classes where all students take the same classes. However, in the second year, everyone develops their curriculum where you take classes of their choice, interests, and career path. During my second year, I was focused mostly on Entrepreneurship and Finance classes and both Negotiations and Valuation conflicted with other classes that I needed to take for the Major. Despite that, I’m confident I can learn those skills from either a classmate or go back to Wharton in the future. One of the benefits of a Wharton Executive MBA is the lifetime of audits. This means we can go back to school and take (or re-take) any class of personal or professional interest. So, I will be looking to take “Negotiations” and “Valuation” classes in a few years. I also wish I got to know some of my classmates a little better. Every Friday night on the class weekend would be a networking night where you hang out with your classmates. I regret not hitting the bar enough to enjoy those “networking” sessions.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Our class was highly diverse with students from all backgrounds including doctors, lawyers, technologist, consultants, and business owners. While I was in awe of every single one of my classmates, I truly admired James (Jim) Whitfill, a Senior Vice President & Chief Transformation Officer at Honor Health. Although Jim was one of the oldest members of our class, his humility and desire to learn was inspiring for all of us. Jim was always a mentor and leader to everyone in the class and he had vast experience in public speaking and led change in organizations throughout turbulent times. Jim is my role model and I continue to be inspired by him and hope to become a business leader like him.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I looked into a full-time and part-time MBA program, but those programs were catered more for professionals who are a little bit younger, somebody who has three to five years of work experience. I already had a Ph.D. and almost 11 years of experience, right in the range of a mid-career professional who’s looking to grow and take more leadership roles. That’s why the Executive MBA fit perfectly with what I was looking for. I also wanted an immersive and intensive learning experience, so I felt I would derive more value from the Executive MBA program. Also, the in-person experience between faculty and peers allowed for more robust class discussions and deeper engagement with the class material. Lastly, the network and deep relationships with classmates could only be formed through an in-person MBA program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am deeply passionate about entrepreneurship. In fact, one of my Wharton classmates and I are looking to launch a startup in the next few months. We are looking to utilize skills learned in the Entrepreneurship classes and apply them to test product-market fit and develop a go-to-market strategy. I would have never imagined that I would be in a position to launch my startup if it was not for Wharton. Long-term, I hope to be a leader in a company (or my startup) where I can inspire and motivate the future generation. In the words of Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” I hope that I can apply my learning at Wharton to shape our future and make a positive impact on the world.

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

“Tejinder Singh received first year honors, he is ranked #1 in the class, and has received a couple of promotions during his program. When he started the program, Tejinder was Global Product Manager at Applied Materials. In January of this year, he was promoted to Director of Products & Technology. In his new role, he leads the Products & Technology team in the Specialty Semiconductor Business Unit at Applied Materials focusing on executing Product Development Strategy for the ICAPS (IoT, Communication, Automotive, Power, Sensor) market. In 2022 he won the Applied Materials “Prolific Inventor” Award. Tejinder is super vetted in the program (shows up for classes and events) and volunteers to help without being asked, is on the prom committee, and even performed a Banghra dance at both Hallo-Walli class parties, demonstrating quite the showmanship! Lastly, he was nominated by his class to receive the Ben Franklin Award.”

Fele Uperesa
Associate Director, Wharton MBA Program for Executives


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.