Serge-Alain Wandji

“I had been in and out of school for a long time, but some of my best years as a student were at EMTM because of the interaction with fellow students, the quality of the program and the word-class faculty.”


Serge-Alain Wandji, MS, PhD, EMTM’01
Intellectual Asset Manager
Cargill
Minneapolis, MN


Serge-Alain Wandji, MS, PhD, EMTM’01

Serge was a post-doctoral research scientist in endocrinology at Cornell University, and later at Hershey Medical Center, when he developed a method for freezing female eggs. He decided to use this technology to start an egg bank, but the discovery prompted a realization: In order to take new technologies such as this one to the marketplace, he would need more than his advanced degrees in physiology and neurophysiology. “I became very interested in technology commercialization, and knew I needed formal business training in order to take this project to the next phase.” Midway through EMTM’s program, he found he had enough insight about these issues to work for Penn State’s Technology Transfer Office, where he helped Hershey Medical Center’s scientists leverage their research into startup ventures. He also worked as a consultant for A Propos Group, an international technology licensing company, before coming to Cargill to focus on developing the company’s intellectual assets.

Why EMTM?

A traditional MBA never held much appeal for Serge, since he knew that whatever business education he would get would have to address issues of technology commercialization. “When I came across EMTM I was really impressed with the curriculum, which just seemed right for what I was looking to do.” The strong combination of Wharton and Penn Engineering further piqued his interest, and after a campus visit during which he met other bright, enthusiastic students, he felt certain about his decision. “Right away I saw the benefit of being able to network and potentially learn from the other students as much as I would learn from the official curriculum.”

Career Impact

When he enrolled in EMTM, Serge was juggling two jobs plus the program, but he found that managing his responsibilities was made much easier by EMTM’s capable and accommodating staff who helped ease the transition from a busy workweek to a welcoming learning environment. The classroom experience was also memorable. “I had been in and out of school for a long time, but some of my best years as a student were at EMTM because of the interaction with fellow students, the quality of the program and the word-class faculty.”

Of the classes he took at EMTM, Serge cites the Innovation and Entrepreneurship electives as being the most influential on his work. “Strategic Management of Intellectual Property was very important in my decision to go into commercialization. It taught me how to leverage technology, monetize an invention and build it into a startup venture.” Entrepreneurship gave him insight into writing a business plan and the confidence to seek capital from investors and venture capitalists.

Serge is continuing to develop the technology for his egg bank and he knows that when the time comes to take it to the public he will have all the tools he needs. In his current role at Cargill he uses his experience from EMTM — from real options and computational finance to valuing, structuring and negotiating a commercialization deal — for the company’s customer’s focus as well as intra- and entrepreneurial pursuits. “EMTM helped me make the next step in my career, bridging the gap between scientist and technology entrepreneur.”