Hometown: Bangalore, India
Undergraduate University: Bangalore University
Class Year: 2002
Position: Vice President, Sustainable Operations Solutions Leader—North America
What prompted you to go back to school to earn your MBA degree?
After college, I worked with Hewlett Packard. I'd always wanted to do my MBA, but I'd given up the dream to get work experience in a multinational. I was all of 24 years old and Program Manager for a transformation program for Nestle in Hewlett Packard Consulting. With five years' work experience in strategic business planning, process optimization, and program management offices, and a couple of overseas assignments, I was confident that I could get married, immigrate to the USA, and very easily find my next big gig, a job either with HP or with any other multi-national company.
I walked into the USA as a new bride on an H4 visa in 2007, just before the Great Recession hit. I applied for various jobs but was passed over for lack of status or due to my geographical constraints. That's when my husband and I agreed the best path forward for me would be to take my GMAT and apply for an MBA. It was unnerving to go back to school again and pause my career trajectory, but I also saw the upside—I could revive my MBA dream, and I could also do it in a prestigious school (which my husband had already started his MBA in that past year, and we could plan on graduating together), and I could start a brand-new page in my career journey.
How did the program help you grow as a professional?
My journey at William & Mary was instrumental in shaping my viewpoints and helping me learn how to research, how to study, how to form team relationships, and how to collaborate; it was not my first experience working in an international setting but turned out to be an enriching baseline for how I'd experience corporate America. I was able to form lifelong friendships with a lot of my colleagues by working in multicultural teams in a very immersive format. The PTMBA program gave me an opportunity to come into my own and lean into my identity and my authentic self as a woman of color who was studying in America and looking to embark on a professional career in a different country.
Since you graduated from the PTMBA program, you've worked a lot with Mason School students. What makes a William & Mary graduate business student special?
When you go to the Mason School, students are recognized for where they come from and are celebrated for who they are. There is absolute diversity that adds to the cultural richness and the variety of perspectives that each of the team members bring to the table. To build on that, William & Mary students also have this sheer force of will and a willingness to excel and exceed the expectations that are put upon them. This is reflected by everyone I've interacted with, including the professors, executive partners, coaches and mentors, career services, and the teaching assistants. Students are empowered by the school's mantra "Own It," which simply means they are prepared and ready to take on the opportunities that appear in front of them.
What advice can you provide current or prospective students who are embarking on their new careers in business?
When I mentor students, I try to impart on them the importance of ownership. The mantra, "Own It," is my mantra too. I believe you have to own it, do it, be it, and take agency of your own career and learning experiences. My advice for students and early career professionals is to connect the dots and not leave any stone unturned in their quest for a creative solution for themselves, for a client, or for their organization. They must endeavor to do everything in their power to own, advocate, support, make someone else's life on their team better, and to chart successful pathways, despite constraints. I encourage to think of themselves as an ally, a champion, and a user-centric professional. And I also beseech them to "Pay it Forward".
I met my would-be boss at Arcadis through another pro bono engagement while doing strategic planning for the Virginia Water Environment Association. I started at Arcadis in 2012, thanks to Esteban Azagra, an immigrant from Spain and the-then leader of the Business Transformation Team, who took a chance on me despite my location and work authorization constraints. Thus began my journey at Arcadis, a company that lets me be my authentic self and allows me to do good for people and for our clients.
With Arcadis, I have had the good fortune to Pay It Forward. What my mentors thus far had done for me, and the doors they opened had to be paid forward. And I had the ability to now do that a few years into my career progression in the company. I did not have to look far for talent. We had it being nurtured right here in our own backyard—at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.
I have hired and worked with many talented individuals from William & Mary, paying forward what my mentors have done for me. Paying it Forward may seem like an old-fashioned value, but it's kept me grounded and focused on maximizing impact in the communities in which I work, live, and engage.