During his two years in business school, Jeff Ellington (Wharton, ’17) stayed busy on various activities, classes and experiences. Whether it was some of his interests/hobbies that he always had (VC, skiing, and hockey) or new and emerging interests (statistics and machine learning, among others) Jeff made sure to make the most of his MBA experience. During our interview, Jeff shared the impact that these experiences had on his time at Wharton, and how he managed to fight FOMO.
MBASchooled: What is your favorite memory of business school?
Jeff: During Spring Break 2016, 40 ski club members ventured to Niseko, Japan in search of their world-famous powder. Instead, we hit the worst week of the season and found ourselves scraping on top of ice. On our final day of skiing, it snowed an inch or two overnight, creating a few wind accumulation pockets with six inches of dry, light powder. I found one of those pockets, and screamed, “THIS IS WHY I CAME TO JAPAN” at the top of my lungs. Unfortunately, my ski buddies were 50 yards to the right and missed the good snow, so they gave me the nickname, “The Iceman”. Over the course of that week, I fell in love with Japan, which made traveling 7,000 miles for those 7 great turns worthwhile.
Ski Trip To Japan
MBASchooled: What will you miss most about your MBA experience?
Jeff: The Jagr Bombs, our D-League intramural hockey team. Our team started out this season 1-3-1, and didn’t appear to have much promise. Fast forward 6 months, we were playing in the championship (sadly blew a 1-0 lead with 10 minutes to play, eventually losing 2-1…). After the game, a number of the “Bombs” came back to our house and stayed until 5am. The team had such a special dynamic — it was a group of people from all dinner pockets of Wharton that somehow became a family with incredible heart and fire. Playing on the Jagr Bombs for the past two years was a joy and an honor. I’m thrilled we’re leaving the team in great hands. One of my goals for next year is to make an alumni appearance on the ice… Watch out MKP!
MBASchooled: What’s the most important lesson you learned in business school?
Jeff: My experience on Dorm Room Fund was the most valuable activity I was involved in at Wharton. The experience taught me two important management lessons. First, the First Round Capital team treats the DRF partners with tremendous trust and respect, allowing us to invest in student founders on their behalf. This trust earned our respect and inspired the team to work quite diligently. Secondly, Dorm Room Fund started as an experiment at UPenn with a handful of students. Now, just five years later, the program is at 10+ schools, has made 130 investments and created a network of over 400 student founders and DRF partners. Treating people with respect and taking the initiative to experiment can have incredible compounding effects.
MBASchooled: What part of you has undergone the most transformation while in business school?
Jeff: Prior to Wharton, I’d never heard of a t-test, p-value, or 95% confidence interval. Somehow my undergraduate philosophy major hadn’t covered these critical topics! My first class at Wharton, 9am Intro Statistics with Prof. Pitkin, opened my eyes to statistical thinking. Wharton has a reputation for being fairly quantitative, and that proved to be a huge resource that I’m extremely grateful for. I’ve now taken eight Statistics classes, including an Independent Study with Prof. Pitkin where we applied Bayesian Hierarchical Models to NHL Goaltending. Hopefully this knowledge will be useful as automation and predictive intelligence become larger components of working life. (A special thank-you to Matt “The Oracle” Connor for his unwavering patience and generosity!)
MBASchooled: What are you most proud of from your MBA experience?
Jeff: A few weeks ago, I met with an undergraduate machine learning engineer to discuss his NLP company. After the meeting, he sent me a note saying he was ‘super impressed’ by my ML understanding and included a textbook on ML he’d written (!), which I was able to follow fairly easily. I had tremendous insecurity about my non-technical background prior to business school, so this feedback made me feel the hard work was worth it. I’m still a far cry from an engineer, but I’m really happy with the decision to learn technical skills at Wharton.
MBASchooled: Who is someone who has had a positive influence on you while in business school?
Jeff: Carlos Vega (CEO of Tesorio and WG’14) — Carlos and I first met at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto over Thanksgiving break my First Year. We were scheduled for 30 minutes, but ended up talking for closer to 3 hours. I was then fortunate enough to work with Carlos some during the school year before interning full time at Tesorio over the summer. Carlos opened my eyes to what it means to be a dedicated startup CEO, taught me an incredible amount about fintech, and always welcomed me into Tesorio’s strategy and product discussions. The summer at Tesorio was my happiest 3 months of business school — joining Carlos (and Fabio!) everyday made work truly enjoyable. At the end of the summer, Carlos introduced me to one of his investors, Chris Howard at Fuel Capital, where I’ll working after school. No one has impacted my career more than Carlos. But most importantly, no one has set a better example of what it means to work with integrity and grit. I really admire Carlos and am grateful to continue working with him!
MBASchooled: Is there anything that you haven’t gotten to do that you wish you had done?
Jeff: There are many things I wish I had done, which is why “FOMO” in business school is so real! Luckily, I’ve gotten tremendous value from my time at Wharton and accomplished the three major personal goals I had coming to school. Business school is a very personal experience that can be tailored to a number of different goals, backgrounds, and personalities. While there is no one “right” way to do it, I’d encourage anyone coming to school to make sure they are choosing activities, classes, and friends that reflect their goals and reasons for going to business school.
MBASchooled: Where do you hope to be in five years?
Jeff: So long as D-League hockey salaries (-$700) continue to be an unviable career option, I hope to be right where I am today: working at Fuel Capital, happily married to Katie Ellington (also WG’17!), and sneaking away for the occasional snowboard trip. I feel very lucky!