Deborah Close

“You’re there to learn and be successful, and that’s the modus operandi of the staff and faculty. I felt part of the Penn community, which is something you don’t necessarily expect from an executive program.”


Deborah Close, EMTM’95
Director of Information Services
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Hillsborough, NJ

Deborah Close, EMTM’95

Deborah joined AT&T right out of college and, within a few years, was a middle manager in the new business venture and development area of the company, working with the cable industry and residential consumer services. When she sat down with a VP to discuss her career goals, both Deborah and her boss agreed that a role in senior management was the next logical step in her career — but they also agreed she would need to shore up her management skills with technology-specific education. She considered applying to executive MBA programs until a colleague suggested EMTM. "EMTM attracted me because at the time I had quite a bit of experience in product management, new business development, joint ventures, marketing and working in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants situations in startups within my company, but I was looking to enhance those skills with greater depth vis-à-vis technology. An executive MBA would not have advanced my thinking and my contributions to the company in the same way." During the summer between program sessions, Deborah got the promotion she was looking for and served as a director within the semiconductor unit; she continued to work for Lucent when that unit was spun off from AT&T in 1996. In 2001, she joined the Doris Duke Foundation as the director of information services.

Why EMTM?

Deborah recognized that EMTM's curriculum could help her fill in the "gaps" in her work experience, and the program came highly recommended. The first thing she remembers noticing, however, was the caliber of fellow students and the diversity of their career experiences. "Because my whole career had been with AT&T, it was wonderful to interact with students across many different sectors. They brought so many different perspectives to the table, and those interactions really enriched the curriculum and the case study discussions."

Deborah praises the program staff for creating a professional atmosphere and an encouraging environment for study. "You're there to learn and be successful, and that's the modus operandi of the staff and faculty. I felt part of the Penn community, which is something you don't necessarily expect from an executive program."

Career Impact

Almost immediately, EMTM had a positive impact on Deborah's career. "The program helped me express myself and think more strategically in a way that would prepare me for a higher management role. I moved beyond a task-oriented operations level of analysis to analysis that could drive business strategy." This change was reflected in a performance review after her first semester in which her boss recognized that she was ready for a promotion.

"The biggest insight I took away from the program was that, in order to move beyond the junior level or mid-level position in any company, you have to be willing to stretch your thinking; the risk is in sharing that stretched thinking with your colleagues and your boss and your boss' boss. I came away from the program feeling prepared to do that." An added benefit she wasn't expecting was that colleagues from the technical side of the company regarded her with greater respect as a result of her association with the program and her newfound capabilities.

Deborah found her class work at EMTM to be extremely relevant to her professional work, and she drew from her company's real-life examples for projects on photonics and business development. "It's that type of interaction that occurs so often in the program, where you have the opportunity to take information from your job to the classroom and from the classroom back to your job and apply what you learned." Just as she began her promotion to the semiconductor unit she was taking EMTM's microelectronics class, which helped her navigate the factory floors and less-familiar technology.

When it came time to move to another position, Deborah found that the program was useful in creating opportunity, even as she sought a very different kind of role in a different kind of organization. "I know that having the degree from Penn moved my resume up in the pile at the Doris Duke Foundation — it gave me credibility." In her current work she often refers to a human resources course for personnel strategies, a product design class that informs her business decisions and an elective in environmental management that, although she wouldn't have known it at the time, gave her important background for understanding one of the foundation's major grant areas.

"Once you learn things in EMTM you carry them with you throughout your career, and then it's a matter of continuing to apply and hone those skills. Today I have nothing but thanks and gladness I participated in the program."