Twenty-nine-year-old Bhavna Goyal is a trailblazer in her own right. She excelled in her mechanical engineering studies at Indraprastha University in her native country of India. But as a woman, she was barred from many of the professional opportunities that existed in her chosen field.
Realizing the discrimination she would face, Bhavna pivoted into information technology and landed a job at Tata Consultancy Services, a well-known IT firm that is India’s third largest company. After four years at Tata, she joined the Class of 2010 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She used her MBA from Fuqua to successfully pull off a major career switch. Today, she is an assistant vice president in the New York City office of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, the financial services division of BofA.
After graduating from college, I quickly realized that being a woman in India would shut a lot of doors in my face if I chose to pursue mechanical engineering professionally. Knowing this, I segued into the technology filed in an attempt to bring an engineering perspective to projects geared at computerizing and modernizing previously existing technologies such as boilers and turbines while working for Tata Consultancy Services in India.
My job did not turn out the way that I imagined. Decisions were made at the very top of the company and rolled down to the rest of us. I was the last woman on the totem pole. Instead of using my brain and background to develop new innovation, I basically ended up coding small pieces of predetermined projects that I had no input on whatsoever.
That was about the time that I realized I needed an MBA. Not only was I not interested in coding and developing software, but I wanted to have the opportunity to make a more far reaching impact. I wanted to gain a bigger picture perspective—a macroscopic view as opposed to the microscopic one that I had. I also wanted to be less tactical and more strategic in my work.
One thing that did turn out well for me, however, is that towards the second half of my tenure at Tata, I got the opportunity to work with financial clients such as the National Stock Exchange (the largest exchange in India) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). The latter affording me the opportunity to live and work in Toronto for a year.
I quickly discovered that I enjoyed finance and developed an interest in working in the financial space. I was a career switcher and looked to an MBA as the appropriate next step in my professional trajectory. Ultimately, I was accepted to and chose the Duke University Fuqua School of business.
Duke Fuqua was my first choice for many reasons. I loved the team-oriented atmosphere and the school’s focus on global expansion. I was also impressed with the way in which the school supported women. Nearly forty percent (40%) of my class—the Class of 2010—were women.
I was also offered a very attractive financial package. This was important to me because my family did not have the kind of money to be able to sponsor an education in the United States.
Duke has completely over delivered in terms of helping me to not only achieve but exceed my goals. My current position at work is so much better than I would have ever thought was possible for me—especially coming from a technical background rather than a finance background.