2016 Best MBAs: Rahul Sharma, USC Marshall

Rahul Sharma USC

Rahul Sharma

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

“Focus on depth rather than breadth in what you involve yourself in. I made the rookie mistake of taking on too many channels of involvement my first few weeks as an MBA. Everything will sound enticing to you, but it’s critical that you buckle down and decide what will likely hold the greatest meaning for you down the line. As time continued, I found myself investing my time in activities and positions I knew had the greatest capacity for me to leave a legacy in my community and make an impact on my growth as a leader.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Fremont, California


University of California, San Diego – Dual B.A. Urban Studies & Planning, Political Science

Hunter College – Master of Science, Education

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice – Data/Analytics Coach and Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Starbucks – Seattle, Washington

Where will you be working after graduation? Starbucks – Product Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Student Body President

Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management, Fellow

Marshall Ambassadors, Board Member

Marshall Youth Outreach Mentor

Junior Achievement Classroom Volunteer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While anyone’s business school career is no doubt defined by personal achievements, no accomplishment can eclipse the immense pride I shared with my classmates in bringing home the Challenge for Charity (C4C) “Golden Briefcase” for the 7th year in a row. C4C is a year-long competition, fiercely fought between eight of the West Coast’s top MBA programs with the goal of infusing philanthropy, community service ,and social responsibility within the MBA experience. Each program shares a focus on supporting the Special Olympics along with an array of local charities through fund raising and volunteer hours. The year’s efforts across each program culminates in a fiercely contested sports weekend that spans over 18 sports and is tabulated alongside money raised and hours volunteered to bestow one winning program with the Golden Briefcase (which literally is exactly what it sounds like).

USC Marshall earned the title once again this year by raising $284,000 and volunteering over 6,400 hours. It’s rare to find a program so deeply invested in bettering not only the lives of its students but also in having a profound impact in the community we share beyond our campus. C4C reminds me of the importance of being a balanced business leader cognizant of the responsibility that comes with earning an education.

Seeing the intensity and compassion that comes through the relentless work of my classmates towards a shared and worthy cause is so immensely special. The camaraderie and support felt throughout the year is what develops us as holistic leaders and brings me the utmost pride as a graduate of the program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Leaving a legacy is always a defining part of how I assess my impact on anything I’m involved with. Teach for America gave me the opportunity to impact the lives of students as an educator. And after four years in the classroom, I am eager to ramp up my impact on a more macro level. As a Data Coach for a public school in the South Bronx, I was tasked with the ambiguous challenge of leveraging big data in the world of education. My role required me to consult with members of my faculty to develop frameworks by which data and analytics could not only inform, but improve the quality of instruction for our students.

While the process was tedious and required constant feedback and redevelopment, I was proud of the array of tools I developed for my school across subject areas and grades. The knowledge that these structures were helping my faculty better reach the needs of our students make this an achievement I’m deeply proud of. This was my way of leaving a mark on a field I’ll always be committed to.

Favorite MBA Courses? Branding Strategy, Strategy and Operation Through a CFO Lens, Corporate Strategy and Competitive Dynamics

Why did you choose this business school? Put simply, the people. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of programs I was accepted to and took the time to attend admit events for each of them. By and far, there was an intangible difference at the USC Marshall campus that set it apart from the rest. The camaraderie between classmates, faculty, and staff was clear from my earliest interactions and did not take long to win me over. Mentorship was very real both within the program and beyond with alumni. As a career changer, I was looking for a truly transformational experience as an MBA. I quickly came to understand how vital community is in the process of molding you into a true business leader. After all, your community is what should challenge you and push you to grow as an individual.

The intimate size of the Marshall community, combined with the access, resources, and prestige of the University of Southern California, made the decision a no brainer. In a world where the rhetoric of business school programs can almost become monotonous, Marshall was a pleasant breath of fresh air. I saw myself flourishing here. It didn’t take long for me to accept my place in the Trojan Family.

What did you enjoy most about business school? It is one thing to say your program values diversity, but it is another to proclaim your program embraces it. The intimate size and dynamic of the Marshall community served as a platform for me to truly learn from my classmates and their experiences. The diversity of experiences and backgrounds played a critical role in team structures, opinions, and contributions both within the classroom and beyond it. Marshall does an amazing job of ensuring we are exposed to a balance of perspectives across all aspects of the program. It’s helped me to never stop learning from those around me.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? How collaborative and supportive your fellow classmates can be was a huge surprise. While MBA’s are no doubt an outwardly competitive bunch, I was amazed by the patience, compassion, and warmth of my classmates. It was commonplace to see open tutoring sessions hosted by students and formally organized interview prep sessions being held at all hours of the day. The dynamic between first and second year MBA’s was also a huge surprise. These second year veterans of the MBA experience spent endless hours grooming us to be prepared for all the challenges of being an MBA. We truly want to see each other succeed and that compassion is embedded in you the day you arrive.

What was the hardest part of business school? Balancing the 3 “C’s” (as we call them at Marshall) of Career, Curriculum and Community can be a challenge. Finding your groove across the demands of academics, the importance of recruitment, and the dynamics of being social can be a process. I found the close mentorship between first and second year MBA students to be a vital source in developing the best ways to find my balance.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Understand the meaning of being a Trojan and becoming a part of the Trojan Family. We truly are a community here at USC Marshall and it is critical that you not only understand this concept but that you take the time to experience it. Whether it’s through a campus visit or by interacting with an alum, you’ll understand what sets our program apart and how you can frame your place in the community as a future student. No website, publication or anecdote can serve the same impact of taking the time to reach out and understand what makes this place so very special.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I came to realize the far greater impact I could have with the proper tools and skills of a real business leader.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…the host of my own talk show. That isn’t to say it doesn’t still remain a possibility.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to become the CMO of a Fortune 500 Company and to transform the way we reach and speak to consumers. I would want to guide my company towards embracing more conscientious practices in developing sustainable and symbiotic relationships between ourselves and our consumer. As the dynamic between companies and their consumers continues to evolve, I see there being a huge space for further developing the impact services and products can have on the world. In my final chapter as a professional, I plan on returning to public education in a strategy role, applying all I’ve learned in the business world to a field I’ll forever be passionate about.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would want to thank my parents and several of the teachers and professor I’ve had growing up. My family has been a guiding and supportive presence throughout my life and no doubt are the main reason I’m in the position I now find myself in. They certainly challenged me when necessary and offered the care and compassion necessary to push me along to where I now stand. The influential educators I’ve had did just the same for me but through their own unique ways. Offering me the perspective of their fields while simultaneously developing my skills, they played a critical role in ensuring my development was holistic yet progressive.

Fun fact about yourself: My senior year of high school I was falsely crowned Homecoming King. I had the opportunity to wear the crown for about a minute until the mistake was discovered. Though short lived, had it not occurred, I might never have known the glory of attaining such an illustrious title.

Favorite book: The Good Earth

Favorite movie: Persepolis

Favorite musical performer: J. Cole

Favorite television show: Daria

Favorite vacation spot: Tokyo, Japan

Hobbies? Film editing, trampolining, and USC Football

What made Rahul such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Rahul shined bright as a star student without an ounce of ego. His classmates and fellow board members celebrated his leadership because he was focused and explicit about his goals, and put actionable plans in place to benefit current students and alumni.”

Sasha Strauss

Managing Director and Founder of Innovation Protocol

Adjunct Faculty, teaching graduate level courses in marketing.

Class name: Brand Strategy – Marketing 533


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