2016 Best MBAs: Tarana Shivdasani, London Business School

Tarana Shivdasani London Business School

Tarana Shivdasani

 
London Business School

“Tarana has been a tour de force on campus and for our community and has helped us to develop a new approach to engaging students from across our degree programmes in activities that benefit others…Tarana has truly left a legacy behind her that will impact future generations of students in the long term….Her focus on culture, community and leadership will all stand her in great stead for the next steps in her career.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Education: Yale University, B.A. in Psychology and History

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Head of Marketing at REDI Technologies (Goldman Sachs Fintech Spin-Off); Sales & Marketing at Goldman Sachs

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Google (EMEA HQ, Dublin) – Branding for Large Customers

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: My focus during my time at LBS has been to foster the community and facilitate the exchange of ideas and development of new perspectives. To that end, my leadership roles over the course of the last two years have included:

Co-Chair, TEDxLondonBusinessSchool (2015 – 2016)
Senior Social Affairs Officer, Student Association (2015 – 2016)
Co-Organizer, London Business School India Trek 2015 (December 2015)
Communications, TEDxLondonBusinessSchool (2014 – 2015)
VP, New Development & Innovation, Industry Club (2014 – 2015)
VP, Marketing Club (2014 – 2015)

I feel very honoured to have been awarded Bain & Company’s Student Impact Award for my contribution to the London Business School community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As a Senior Social Affairs for the Student Association, one of my goals coming into the role was to broaden the definition of social. To that end, I conceptualized and founded LBS for London, an initiative that enabled students, staff, faculty and administrators to contribute to tangible progress in the broader London community. We partnered with non-profit organizations around London to make a meaningful difference over one weekend in London. 230 volunteers from the LBS community contributed 988 volunteer hours to complete 27 community projects, from building playgrounds and community cook-offs to planting gardens. The feedback from both the LBS and the London community was overwhelmingly positive, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to start a new tradition of how the LBS community engages with the broader London community.

An additional accomplishment I am proud of is LBS’ new Guinness World Record, which celebrates the diversity of the LBS community. Together with a team, I spearheaded the initiative for a Guinness World Record attempt in advance of LBS’ annual celebration of diversity. More than 200 students, staff and faculty from 71 different nationalities participated in the attempt, in which we simultaneously sang “Imagine” by John Lennon. Nationalities were verified by independent authorities, and the attempt was deemed successful by a Guinness World Records adjudicator and independent stewards. Setting a Guinness World Record was an extremely unique experience – not only did it showcase the diversity of the LBS community and our communal spirit, but it also inspired us to be ambitious and push boundaries.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? For REDI Technologies, being perceived as independent from Goldman Sachs was critical to the company’s success. We were transitioning from being a business unit within Goldman Sachs to being owned by a consortium, which included Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citadel and Lightyear Capital. I had been selected to lead marketing for REDI Technologies in advance of its separation from Goldman Sachs.

In order to demonstrate our independence, I initiated and coordinated for REDI to ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange (typically, only companies that have are listed on the NYSE have an opportunity to do this). We negotiated this on the basis that our investors were listed on the NYSE, and rang the bell together with key representatives from our investors. Not only did this visibly demonstrate our independence, but it also garnered a lot of free publicity and boosted employee morale at a critical juncture.

Who is your favorite professor? Gabriel Adams for teaching us how to think about, develop and navigate our “Path to Power”.

Favorite MBA Courses? Leading Teams & Organizations, Dr. Margaret Ormiston; Brand Management, Dr. Simona Botti; Communications, Richard Hytner

Why did you choose this business school? Three key factors influenced my choice of business school: (1) the opportunity to have a global MBA experience with classmates who had diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experience; (2) flexible exit points that would enable me to adapt my MBA experience as required; and (3) the London location with access to some of the world’s best companies

What did you enjoy most about business school? Undoubtedly, the incredible, inspiring people I’ve had the privilege to meet. I’ve learnt so much from my classmates and their experiences, and I feel extremely fortunate to have this global network of trailblazers as my friends.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Empathy and an authoritative leadership style (rather than a democratic approach) has the biggest positive impact on the working atmosphere.

What was the hardest part of business school? I came into business school knowing that I was passionate about marketing and technology. Yet, as recruiting season approached, holding out for my dream job whilst many of my peers finalized their summer plans was more challenging than I expected. In addition to the role and job function, I placed a lot of emphasis on cultural fit, which led me to turn down job offers that I received earlier in the year, and continue recruiting. The gamble paid off, and I landed a dream role at Google. That said, the journey was much harder than I expected, and I learnt a lot about myself as a result.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Business school is a great opportunity for introspection and personal development. I truly believe that the more you put into London Business School, the more you get out of it. So, when applying, focus on not only how the MBA will help you, but also how you can contribute to the LBS community and grow as an individual.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized I wanted more for myself, both in terms of career progression and personal development.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…focused on marketing for finance/fin-tech and moving up the ladder.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? At the risk of sounding clichéd, I admire several traits from various people, rather than a single executive. To name a few – Sheryl Sandberg for her role in changing the conversation and dynamic for women in the workplace; Nandan Nilekani for his humility and determination to use technology to transform the lives of Indians; and Howard Schultz for his vision and focus on customer experience.

What are your long-term professional goals? I have to confess, my long-term goals are a work in progress. It sounds obvious, but my overarching goal is to have a career that allows me to be excited about what I do on a daily basis. I also want a career that will challenge me, and allow me to have a meaningful impact on the broader community, whilst enabling me to maintain a work-life balance. Finally, I want to create and shape a culture that inspires and motivates employees, celebrates strong female leaders, and helps redress the gender dynamics in the workplace.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my husband, Saad Usmani, for encouraging me to take risks, be better and push the boundaries. For believing in me, and helping me believe anything is possible.

Fun fact about yourself: I have an inexplicable fear of…broccoli! (Cauliflower is fine, it’s just broccoli!)

Favorite book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Favorite movie: Casablanca

Favorite musical performer: Coldplay

Favorite television show: Currently, Game of Thrones

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town

Hobbies? I’m passionate about food, cooking, hosting dinners, dancing, organizing events, traveling and South Asian fiction

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

“Tarana has been a tour de force on campus and for our community and has helped us to develop a new approach to engaging students from across our degree programmes in activities that benefit others. LBS for London was a fantastic three days for the London Business School community to give back and the impact this achieved both on and off campus is significant. Tarana has truly left a legacy behind her that will impact future generations of students in the long term. Her journey to her summer internship shows a strength of character that is enviable, to resist the temptation to take an ‘easy’ option or to follow the crowd is one of life’s most important skills, and Tarana has truly forged her own path. Her focus on culture, community and leadership will all stand her in great stead for the next steps in her career.” — Erica Hensens, Programme Director, MBA programme, London Business School

DON’T MISS: CLASS OF 2016: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST GRADUATING MBAS