For over twenty years, Wharton San Francisco has offered an elite, executive MBA program to seasoned professionals who are interested in top-tier business education on the West Coast. Anand Raghavan, WG’13, enrolled in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives to gain a better understanding of business while maintaining his full-time job as Blue Jeans Network’s first engineer. Ten years later, he shares the story of how he leveraged his Wharton MBA to found Armorblox, an innovative cybersecurity company that was acquired by global tech leader Cisco in July 2023.
In addition to his full-time role as a founding member of Blue Jeans Network, Anand was also involved in Asha for Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education to children in underserved areas of India.
“I loved being part of a small, mission-driven organization and making a social impact,” Anand says. “I wanted to explore ways to bring more of that impact and growth into my daily life, so I reached out to mentors of mine in the VC/startup space. They connected me with a current student in the Wharton EMBA program who recommended that I look into the program to help me broaden my skills. I’m still in touch with them to this day.”
After researching EMBA programs and attending an admissions event on Wharton’s San Francisco campus, Anand felt confident that the executive MBA program would provide him with the strongest business foundation to achieve his goal of one day leading his own company.
“I only applied to Wharton,” says Anand. “For me, it was about pursuing an MBA for the right reasons. I wanted a program that would give me the best business education possible.”
Impacting Social Change
In year two of the Wharton EMBA program, students choose from over 200 electives to tailor the curriculum to their interests. Anand enrolled in Social Impact and Responsibility, a course which explores how businesses can play a role in meeting societal needs by protecting the environment, improving health, or eradicating poverty. His previous experience with nonprofit organizations and passion for social change inspired him to collaborate with Wharton faculty and students to put theory into practice.
“Professor Kent Smetters connected us with Dr. Harvey Rubin, a physician and professor at Penn’s medical school,” recalls Anand. “Dr. Rubin was developing his idea for a nonprofit organization focused on improving the availability of vaccines in underserved areas. This was exactly the kind of hands-on, social-impact work that I was passionate about.”
Working as a team, Anand and his classmates helped Dr. Rubin launch Energize the Chain, a non-profit organization which co-locates vaccine refrigerators at cell tower base stations to provide guaranteed power needed to store vaccines at the required temperatures. In many developing regions, especially in rural and off-grid areas, access to electricity can be unreliable or non-existent, posing a significant challenge for storing vaccines that require refrigeration. By providing sustainable and reliable cold chain infrastructure, Energize the Chain aims to ensure that vaccines can be safely stored and transported to remote and resource-constrained regions.
Wharton’s Immediate Career Impact
Students in the Wharton EMBA program receive individualized career coaching from the Career Management office, which also facilitates 100+ career programs, workshops, and speaker events throughout the two-year program.
“In one of my counseling sessions, the Director of Career Management asked me if I had ever considered exploring a career in marketing. I said, ‘What? No! I’m an engineer.’ They pointed out my strengths with communication and creative thinking, which infused confidence in me and led to an exciting new career opportunity.”
Despite lacking professional marketing experience, Anand landed a senior-level marketing role with data analytics company ThoughtSpot after graduation.
“I attended a Career Management speaker event which featured a lecture by Wharton alum Arif Janmohamed, a board member of ThoughtSpot”, says Anand. “I connected with him after the session and as it turned out, they were hiring.”
Heeding encouragement from Wharton’s Career Management team, Anand leaned into his potential, leveraging his Wharton MBA to position himself as an asset to the company. The CEO of ThoughtSpot saw beyond Anand’s lack of marketing experience, recognizing his diverse skill set and ability to bring analytical thinking and effective communication to the table. Equipped with his Wharton MBA, Anand took on the role of Director of Product Marketing, defying traditional boundaries and propelling both himself and ThoughtSpot forward.
Drawing upon his extensive network, the insights gained from his diverse career, and the knowledge he gained at Wharton, Anand co-founded cybersecurity company Armorblox in 2017. He served as the Chief Product Officer, working with design, marketing, and sales engineering teams.
“The entrepreneurship courses I took helped shape our path and build a strong foundation for the company. Wharton turned me into the ‘spreadsheet guy,’ because I had a strong understanding of the financial aspects of starting a business. Even things like reading term sheets, deal-making, relationship-building- I learned much of it during the program.”
Armorblox gained recognition in the industry for its use of artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models like ChatGPT to stop targeted email attacks in real-time. Over the years, Anand and his team continued to evolve the platform, incorporating new AI advancements and expanding its capabilities. In July 2023, Armorblox achieved a significant milestone when it was acquired by global tech leader Cisco to further its plans for an AI-first Security Cloud. Using generative AI, the cloud will deliver intelligent, adaptive, and automated security capabilities. This acquisition allows Cisco to integrate Armorblox’s advanced AI-driven security capabilities into its portfolio, further strengthening its commitment to providing cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions to businesses worldwide.
“Everything comes full circle – I’m going to be in engineering again,” shares Anand, who recently began his new role as Cisco’s Senior Director of Engineering, AI.
“My advice for prospective EMBA students is to focus on relationship-building as opposed to grades. When you go to your ten-year Wharton reunion, people remember the time you spent together and what you gave back to your network – not who was a Palmer Scholar [Note: Palmer Scholars represent the top 5% of their class]. The Wharton alumni network is what you put into it, so be sure to cherish the personal connections you make during your time in the program.”
In the end, Anand’s journey from Wharton to co-founding Armorblox and now driving innovation at Cisco underscores the enduring value of Wharton’s network and the transformative power of the School’s EMBA experience.
— Kendra King
Posted: September 19, 2023