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Changing Work/Life Priorities for Wharton MBA Men

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with men from Wharton’s MBA program about their hopes and expectations for their future careers. Siddharth Shankar (WG’14) and David Ash (WG’15) discussed how demanding work schedules make it difficult for new college graduates to cultivate their personal lives outside their jobs

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Shankar and Ash:

Stew Friedman: We’re talking about the summer internships that students typically do between their first and second years. What’s the downside to a hundred hour work week?

Siddharth Shankar:Siddharth Shankar  I think there’s much more focus on the pros and cons than there was even a few years ago. I think back to my time as an undergrad.  My main considerations then were definitely different from how I evaluate my life now as a graduate student.

SF: What’s changed?

SS: I think as an undergrad all I cared about was maximizing income and maximizing experiences without caring too much about doing things outside of work that really matter to me. Now as I think about post-graduation and working, I put much more thought and effort into considering what I am going to be doing that makes me whole as a person.  That’s not something that really figured into the conversation before.

David Ash: I think that’s definitely right. Out of college, David Ashyou think of your first job, and you want to jump quickly to a great place. I think people didn’t really see that first job as something they would do forever so the goal was to get to that first stepping stone and see where you would go from there.

SF: So you guys didn’t think that when you graduated from college you would be working at the same company for 35 years and get the gold watch? That wasn’t your model?                                

DA: I didn’t think of it as a possibility or even an option. Most people our age assume they’re going to go to many different companies.

SF: Have your priorities shifted?

DA: Yes. I think in graduate school it’s different. You have work experience, you’ve gotten a little money, you’ve been in a job, and you’ve seen potentially how hard it can be to balance work and life. The job MBAs choose to pursue after graduation takes into consideration what they want to do for both the short-term and long-term. Many people are thinking about having families in the shorter-term, and that’s an important consideration for them as well.

SS: In my first job after undergrad, it seemed like there was a wide divide between the folks who seemed to be available for the team at all hours of the night versus those who partied at the end of every week and tended to slack. At the time, I kept questioning why these people were not as committed to work as I was – “I’m putting in 100 hours per week, why isn’t everyone doing the same?” My myopic viewpoint of just thinking about me, my work, and not anything outside of that probably led to that impression.

SF: Do you have the opposite view now?

SS: I think I’ve had much more of a reality check and seen that there are things that those individuals were thinking about at the time that I probably needed to be think about as well. I think my tolerance for allowing for and respecting people who make choices to prioritize things other than work has definitely increased since business school.

SF: How does that effect how both of you are thinking about what you’ll do next with your lives?

DA: I’m still thinking about what I want to do next, but I am saying to myself for the first time, “I want a valuable personal life.” The change is in thinking that there’s more to a job than just “where I can go from here?” and “how does this position me well?”

SS: One difference I see between the time when my dad was working and now is that most companies are realizing that employees who give their 100% at work and do not take care of anything outside of that for the bulk of their early careers become a liability at later stages in their employment.

SF: So there’s a long-term cost associated with the burnout?

SS: Absolutely. I think, especially in consulting firms, all the successful partners that I’ve seen are not the ones who seem to embody the values that I had as an analyst, but quite the opposite. They carved out time for their families, and they were very deliberate and open with the team, like, “Hey, I have to attend this particular concert that my daughter is giving, so we can’t do a call at that time.” I really respected them for that, and they have since become role models that I will try to emulate.

SF: Is that consistent with what you’ve seen, David? That the people who rise highest are those who have full and varied lives?

DA: Definitely. When I started in consulting, I had the perception that for these hard-charging businessmen, it’s all about business. They might have been divorced multiple times or spend very limited time with their kids. I was very surprised though that all the partners I saw were still married and had good relationships with their kids. I have no doubt they put in a lot of work to manage that.

SS: I also think companies are doing a much better job these days with that. I always think back to my dad’s company in India and how different his choices were than those I have now. For instance, I never saw my dad the entire week. I’d wake up at 8 in the morning to go to school, and he’d be out by then, and then I’d be asleep by 10 at night, and he’d come in after I went to bed. I’d only see him on Saturday when he didn’t go to work and also maybe on Sunday. Now, there are so many schemes at so many of these companies that are recruiting on campus. Some consulting firms even have this option called “take time” where they let you take two months off every year to just do whatever you want. They look at it as time for you to recharge and engage your entire self in an activity that you consider rewarding. They expect that you bring that new experience and learning with you when you come back to work, which I think is amazing.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Wharton alum Erica Dhawan, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of Cotential, and Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of Mom Corps. Visit Work and Life for a schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

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