2017 Best MBAs: Paul George, University of Illinois

Paul George

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

“An inventor and automotive enthusiast with a passion for technology and entrepreneurship.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun fact about yourself: Part of the team that holds the Guinness World Record for the largest human letter.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Mahatma Gandhi University, Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communication Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Geolite Elastomers Pvt. Ltd., Co-founder and Director – Business Development

Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Ltd., Technical Lead – Car Multimedia Division

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Dell Inc. (Austin, TX), Product Line Manager Intern

Where will you be working after graduation?

Delphi Automotive PLC, Project Manager – Advanced Engineering (Autonomous Driving)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

1) Vice-President and Treasurer of MBA Association – MBA Association is a student body that governs all the MBA clubs (business, cultural and community service) and their activities.

2) Dean’s Fellow – I was involved in a special project with the MBA office to enhance the student learning experience by fostering a stronger connect with the industry. We established student driven collaborative career councils where students could use each other as resources (for networking and interview preparation) thereby augmenting their job search efforts.

3) Lead Consultant – Illinois Business Consulting, nation’s largest student run organization that consults on projects for startups and Fortune 500 companies. I was handpicked to develop a go-to-market strategy for a technology startup.

4) Graduate Teaching Assistant and Student Mentor for statistics and data analysis courses during my second year.

5) Mentor, James Scholar Honors Program Students – Mentored academically gifted students on developing their business skills such as creating business plans, giving effective presentations and drafting case reports.

Honors and Awards:

1) Winner – Illinois Business Consulting Case Competition 2016, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Western Monroe Partners. Presented strategies and tactics to our technology client to enhance their customer focus while developing products and services.

2) Runner-up – Dell MBA Case Challenge 2016, that saw MBA marketing interns from 21 top business schools in the country battle it out for the top honors. Presented strategic recommendations on investment opportunities for sustainable growth in the cyber security space to executive stakeholders in the Dell Cyber Security Division.

3) Winner – Illinois Marketing Case Competition 2015. Our team comprising 5 members was adjudged winner at the annual marketing case competition held at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. A total of 16 teams participated in the competition. Teams presented a marketing plan for a startup in the dairy industry.

4) Recipient of the Academic Excellence Award for securing a GPA of 3.95 (2nd rank holder in the batch).

5) Recipient of Merit Scholarship and Dean’s Fellow Scholarship.

6) Elected member of the honor society, Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline academic honor society (all semesters).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Since our school is located in Champaign – Urbana, IL, I realized that it was harder for us to connect to the industry than if we were in the city. I believed that a stronger connect to our Alumni network would help increase the industry exposure. Therefore, as Vice President and Treasurer of the MBA Association, I raised funds, planned and promoted opportunities to bring more alumni on campus. As a result, we had 50% more events conducted with a strong focus on alumni engagement to enhance the career search of students, 200% greater alumni involvement in the events conducted and 96% summer internship success rate. To top it all, we achieved all this while reaping in 20% additional profit for other association activities.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am extremely proud of the startup that I co-founded in 2014. Trying to establish a startup with very limited experience and capital in a developing economy poses a world of problems. Even though we had a lot of difficulties in the initial stages such as getting government certifications and licenses, securing key client accounts, and recovering payments for the goods and services delivered, we came out very strong and secured over 8 key client accounts and our sales revenue touched close to $1 million in the first year. Today we have over 50 key client accounts and our top line revenue is close to $10 million. Our company is reputed in the industry for product innovation, and fair and ethical business practices.

Why did you choose this business school? My post-MBA career aspiration is to take up a job that would allow me to marry my passion for technology with my business acumen. The primary reason for choosing the Illinois MBA was the flexibility it offered to design my own curriculum and the opportunity it provided to interact with students and professors from both the business and technology streams. For instance, in the second year of the program, I could choose subjects from other colleges of the university including college of engineering, law and labor and employment relations. My experience of mentoring students from the engineering school and sharing classes with finance majors has exposed me to learning which I would not have had otherwise.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The family-like culture of Illinois is what I enjoyed the most about the business school. Being in a small class of 76, there is a lot of camaraderie between classmates, professors and the staff. Folks really go out of their way to help each other out and individual successes are celebrated as group achievements.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Joining the Illinois MBA program, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to meet students from diverse backgrounds and representing different parts of the globe. But the extent of diversity in thoughts and ideas stemming from cultural, educational and geographic differences was beyond what I had imagined, and still continues to surprise me at business school. During the course of my MBA, I have learned to appreciate different points of views and I am able to make decisions taking into consideration alternate perspectives.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Take risks and experiment all you want while you are in the Illinois MBA program! The program not only gives you access to the MBA course but also all the resources of a world class university, including a research park with over 200 companies.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Apart from academic and professional development, University of Illinois offers students a plethora of opportunities to learn fun skills such as ballroom dancing and golf. Since I was actively involved in a lot of academic and extracurricular activities such as case competitions and student-run initiatives, I could not find time to pick up some fun and cool skills that would have made my business school experience more enjoyable and well-rounded.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have a lot of respect and admiration for my fellow classmate and friend Brad Miller. Brad has great time management skills. In four years, he managed to complete a master’s degree and would be completing his PhD and MBA. Over and above this, Brad participates and leads several projects as a Dean’s Fellow, Illinois MBA case competition member, and Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) consultant. He is also a mentor at the Illinois Leadership Center guiding people on professional development. To top it all, Brad is a father of two beautiful girls and leads his church council. Working with Brad over multiple projects, I realized that the secret to his success is that he is highly organized and plans his calendar out well in advance after thorough introspection to define clear priorities.

I knew I wanted to go to business school…when I realized that technical brilliance was not enough to create great products that sell. My patents were not creating any revenue for the company that I worked for. Later, when I was pursuing my own startup, I faced difficulties while planning the product line, pitching the product and negotiating prices with our potential customers. This reinforced my plans of joining a business school.”   

If I hadn’t gone to business school…I would have still been an entrepreneur with limited skills and exposure. I am sure I would have struggled to scale and sustain.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would work towards increasing the collaboration between various programs in the university. Even though we have a lot of collaboration between schools on the academic side, programs could do better by tapping into the alumni network and career services of other schools in the university. This would unleash the true potential of having the largest alumni network in the world and increase the prospects for students to land their dream jobs.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to set up an incubator/accelerator firm in a developing economy like India to guide and nurture young startups. Having gone through the struggles of establishing a startup in India (a developing economy) and having consulted for startups in the U.S. (a developed economy), I feel I can help people realize their startup dreams by guiding them with my knowledge, experience and network.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my wife, Lisa for all my success. She had to make a lot of sacrifices to accommodate my MBA plans. Apart from funding a part of my education, she was always there for me with good advices, tips and words of encouragement when I needed them the most. She pushes me to dream big and strive towards accomplishing those dreams. I am sure I would not have been able to accomplish anything close to what I have today had it not been for her constant support.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a genuine and hard-working person who encourages people to achieve beyond what they can imagine.

Favorite book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Favorite movie or television show: Something the Lord Made.

Favorite musical performer: Eric Clapton.

Favorite vacation spot: Queenstown, New Zealand.

Hobbies: Restoring cars, racing, tennis and drumming.

What made George such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Paul George is an absolute delight to work with. He is a bright student who scored very high in my course, so much so that I hired him as my TA for my course the next year. He is fun to talk to on a personal level as well.

I’m sure that he has a bright career ahead of him.”

Dharma Kwon

Associate Professor

Department of Business Administration      


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