While you might think that most executive MBA students come from corporate environments, there are plenty of Wharton students who come from other backgrounds. Alumnus Stephen Tang is a good example.
After finishing his PhD in biotechnology, Tang started up a technology assessment consulting firm and became the assistant director of the Center for Molecular Bioscience at Lehigh University. However, he quickly realized that he was just as interested in the business of science as he was in the science itself. But to pursue a career path in business, he knew he would need “more seasoning” in business so he applied to and was accepted into Wharton’s EMBA program.
“I fell in love with the give and take of the study group and class dynamic and found that my Wharton experience put me in my element for the rest of my career,” says Tang, who joined Gemini Consulting after graduation, focusing on the chemical industry. He later moved to A.T. Kearney where he headed its pharmaceutical and healthcare practice, growing it from a $20-million to an $80-million business.
After eight years in consulting, he was ready to return to a startup environment and became CEO of the clean tech firm, Millennium Cell. Just two months later, he took the company public. Subsequently, he joined Olympus America Inc. as general manager of their $250-million life science business where he engineered the company’s first acquisition of a technology-based company.
With quite a portfolio of business successes under his belt, Tang in 2008 became the president and CEO of theUniversity City Science Center in Philadelphia, the oldest and largest urban research park and business incubator in the U.S. “For someone who spent a good part of his career straddling academia and industry, this was a great fit. I liked its entrepreneurial mission as well as the ability to be entrepreneurial in helping update and execute that mission,” says Tang, who credits his Wharton education for his unique career path that has combined both business and science.
“I don’t think it would have happened at all if I had not gone to Wharton’s EMBA program,” he says. “My degree provided me with the business knowledge I needed and gave me a general manager’s mindset, which has served me well ever since.”
As he works to fulfill the mission of the Science Center – to create companies and jobs in the Greater Philadelphia region – Tang relies on that business knowledge and mindset every day. “My awareness about what it takes to start a company began in the EMBA program, and through my career I’ve been populating that awareness with elements of experience to meet new challenges each day. When I talk about building companies and creating jobs through economic development at the Science Center, I reach back to the holistic experiences at Wharton as the main reason I can appreciate each entrepreneur’s journey based on first-hand experience.”