Meet The Duke Fuqua MBA Class of 2017

Aiyappa Marunvanda

Aiyappa Maruvanda 

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Hometown: Bangalore, Karnataka (India)

Undergraduate School and Major: Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Electrical & Electronic Engineering

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Accenture, Analyst & Consultant (Accenture’s Management Consulting practice)

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? I would recommend adopting the following habits and guidelines when preparing for the GMAT or GRE. These helped me tremendously in improving my GMAT score and overall application.

  • Continuous Study Habits: Have a focused and continuous plan to prepare for the GMAT or GRE. Long breaks of non-GMAT or non-GRE study time hurt the previous work and effort, leaving you to most likely start from scratch.
  • Practice: Get as familiar with the test format, timing and experience by completing as many practice tests as possible. Mimicking the test environment builds a sense of familiarity and thus relieves some of the nervousness on test day. 
  • Seek Help: Understand your mistakes, and seek help from friends or experts to give you a different perspective. 
  • Relax & Be Confident: Mental preparedness on the day of the test and a few days before are crucial to a successful test experience. Be confident of the hard work that’s gone into your preparation and trust yourself to do your best on test day.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? As you consider different schools and MBA programs, I urge you to look beyond the MBA school rankings to find the true heart andsoul, academic and career offerings, and social culture of each MBA Program. A program is a good-fit for you if you are able to relate to its endeavors in these four segments. A few clues that could help you start the research process for these segments are as below:

  • True Heart/Soul: At the heart or soul of each school are certain values that remain integral to your experience with the program in terms of interactions with faculty, staff and peers. Most schools have this information readily available online. Other sources of information include current students and speeches from academic staff or deans. 
  • Academic Offering: Go through the program’s course calendar and find subjects that align with your career goals and passions. Courses, concentrations, professors, and teaching methodologies could make all the difference when deciding between schools. 
  • Career Offering: Understand the program’s processes to help you land your dream job. It’s worthwhile to check if your dream company or job exists under the program’s belt from previous years. If not explicitly specified in their employment reports, the career center’s commitment and processes to support your job search are vital to consider. 
  • Social Culture: Location and people are two big components of your social life while at school. Speak to current students or alumni about their experiences at the program. This will help you paint a strong picture of the community and environment while at school.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf?

Actually Applying To School: The MBA application process is no doubt a long and arduous one. Hence, starting the process early and being organized are crucial to a good experience with the process. You will have plenty of information from different sources (online, conversations with program representatives, brochures, etc.). Keeping these organized for future reference as you write your application will definitely help. Attending school information sessions, visiting campus, and speaking to students gave me great insights into overall culture and pace of the program. These helped me narrow my school search and enhance my passion for certain schools over others.

Writing Essays: Seek help from family and friends to review your essays and don’t be worried if these go through multiple iterations. Remember that you are trying to put your best foot forward. In that endeavor, quality isn’t something to be compromised. This part of the process does take time, so do allocate time for reviews from others. Keep your essays as focused and detailed as possible. Schools would like to understand the clarity of your research. And this comes to light when you are able to share details of the program that you are excited about (courses, professors, extra-curricular activities, values etc.).

Doing Admissions Interview: Practicing in front of a mirror or with a friend definitely does set you up for success with the interview process. With thorough research on the school and its interview process, you should be in a position to elaborate on your goals, past experience, interests and hobbies, and the school/program itself amongst other behavioral-driven questions. Short and genuine thank you notes are helpful in showing your keenness towards the program.

Recommendation Letters: Selecting the right recommenders are key to starting this part of the application with the best intent. Recommenders who have worked closely with you are in a much better position to represent you and showcase your personal and professional qualities. You will have to supervise them however, to keep them honest with the deadlines while answering any clarifications that they may need on the process. As we live and work in a busy world, it’s to your advantage to manage their time and patiently guide them through the few months of the MBA application process. A meal or drinks treat at the end of the process will always be appreciated and even help foster a long-lasting relationship with your supervisors.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Referencing the various factors I’d mentioned previously – heart/school, academic and career offerings and social culture of the school – Fuqua ticked all the boxes for me.

The school’s commitment to prepare leaders of consequence, along with its focus on the growth of communities through a teamwork-based approach, that strongly resonated with my past experiences and my vision of the professional working environment in the future. A teaching methodology that incorporates multiple styles, such as case studies, lectures, interactive learning across a breadth of business fundamental courses and specialized electives, will offer an exciting and holistic learning experience. Speaking to Fuqua’s Career Management Center broadened my perspective on the coaching and guidance, along with necessary resources and tools, provided by Fuqua to help students in their career progression and job hunt.

With an impressive plethora of diverse institutions and industries recruiting Fuqua students, it was easy for me to recognize the potential of the school and program in this regard. Lastly, the social culture – characterized by the extremely helpful, warm and caring nature of the staff and students, led me to Fuqua. Interactions with students and alumni affirmed these qualities and their experiences with the school was always filled with exciting anecdotes from their time at Fuqua. It seemed like an energetic and eclectic culture run by students. In my first few weeks at Durham, these are true to the bone. These are some of the broader reasons that led me to Fuqua, besides having one of the most fun and essays on the application.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate?

As I start my MBA program, I plan to devote my time to these goals:

  • An expanded perspective of the business world and how organizations and institutions function. With a background in engineering, I look forward to learning about the various cases, theories and research on business operations, management, leadership and ethics in the real world.
  • An all-round educational experience that not only enhances my leadership and management skills through academics but also through practical training and learnings from peers.
  • Long-lasting friendships with some of the world’s most talented, accomplished, ambitious and diverse individuals.
  • Fostering an attitude to continuously live the Fuqua core values and contribute back to communities and societies for the greater good.
  • A ticket to a Duke versus UNC basketball game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

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