2017 MBAs To Watch: Bina Bhaskar, UC-Irvine (Merage)

Bina Bhaskar

The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California Irvine

“In pursuit of excellence through my capacity for diligence and ability to work hard.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Fun fact about yourself: I realized my love for coconut water was something special when I could chug as many as six coconuts in one sitting during the business school residential to Vietnam and nobody could match my pace.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University Bloomington, Master’s in Computer Science and BREC/JNTU, BTech in Information Technology, India.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was a Software Engineer with Cerner Corporation. During three years of my employment with Cerner, I worked on three different Healthcare IT solutions and led the software development life-cycle of a medical auditing software.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? During summer, I interned with Amazon, Inc. in the Seattle office. I worked with the Personalization org to develop recommendations strategies for Amazon’s Prime Free Same Day program.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am excited to join Amazon, Inc. as a Senior Product Manager – Technical Products in Seattle, WA.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President of Global Business Association: As the president of the GBA, I was able to further the vision of one of the most prolific and important clubs on campus. The GBA team took on three important initiatives during my presidency: 1.) Conveying to the students the importance of understanding the growth trajectory of emerging markets across the globe; 2.) Helping students understand various aspects of organizational culture as future leaders of increasingly global workforces; 3.) Providing students with avenues to network with alumni, companies and each other.

We were able to accomplish our objectives by developing a strong partnership with the Center of excellence for Global Leadership. Through the Center for Global Leadership we were able to gain more visibility as a club and establish connections with the local community. We were successful in establishing partnerships with expert faculty members for panel discussions and speaker series to highlight the challenges of working in diverse environments and teams. The GBA team hosted team-building activity sessions led by faculty members to demonstrate the impact of diversity on innovation. Finally, in addition to hosting recreational events where students could interact and get to know each other, we also formed connections with companies by organizing company site visits.

Graduate Assistant and Career Champion with the Career Services Department: I worked closely with the advisors in the career center to provide help in three areas,

  1. Support international students in their career discovery process – Having navigated the career search process as an international student after obtaining my first Master’s, I was able to share with other international students my personal experience of finding the right opportunity and succeeding at a workplace.
  2. Develop interview prep material and document best practices – After interviewing with some of the top consulting and technology firms, I put together prep material that other students could leverage to succeed in their interviews. The material highlighted the approach to communicating effectively during interviews and important frameworks to use to crack case studies.
  3. Support 1st year students on an individual basis as their career champion – Through a series of informational interviews and mock interviews, I had the opportunity to mentor members of the 2018 graduating class.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being awarded the Rosener Fellowship.

Rosener fellows are recognized for their academic and professional track record as well as their leadership potential in the classroom and beyond. The fact that I was the only student in my cohort to be awarded the fellowship makes me a proud recipient. Not only was the recognition a confidence booster, but it was also a reminder of the ways in which I could provide value to the student community.

Mindful of the qualities I was recognized for, I have tried my best to give back to the business school community by undertaking club leadership roles and interacting with students on an individual basis for career advice and interview prep. Through my work as the president of the Global Business Association and as a graduate assistant for the Career Center, I have been able to create a positive impact in the business school community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At Cerner Corporation, I was recognized as a valued STEM employee and was selected to be a speaker for the “Girls who Code” campaign. Girls who Code is a national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry. Our goal was to work with the non-profit organization’s Kansas City chapter to create awareness about STEM careers. I was able to speak of my own journey and interest in the tech industry at several local schools and encourage many young girls to pursue STEM-related courses.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Gerardo Okhuysen.

While his class Organizational Behavior was one of the most rigorous, it was also one of the most engaging and valuable courses. His level of preparation to lead class discussions and the expectations that he set for the coursework pushed the students to give their 100%. He created an environment in class where we could openly discuss, disagree and question each other in a productive manner. I was able to develop a strong understanding of what it takes to lead transformational changes in organizations. I will remember him as one of the most charismatic speakers who commanded utmost attention of the audience.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it?

  • Organizational Behavior with Prof. Gerardo Okhuysen: I was able to identify and articulate aspects that matter to me the most in a workplace: autonomy, purpose and mastery.
  • Strategic Management with Professor Libby Webber and Professor John Joseph: Overview of strategic frameworks that lay the foundation of structured approach to problem solving in organizations.
  • Power & Politics with Professor Jay Uparna: Tactics to accelerate visibility and growth in an organization.

Why did you choose this business school? I applied to the business school because of its reputation, focus on technology and innovation, and access to the growing healthcare industry in Southern California. But what sealed the deal for me was the interaction I had with the student community during the admits weekend. The intimate class size and the collaborative culture meant that I would not just be one among the crowd. I realized that I would have the opportunity to know each one of my classmates at a personal level, connect with faculty, career advisors and staff members and be able to undertake leadership roles without feeling overwhelmed. The proximity of Irvine to three beautiful beaches and the SoCal lifestyle were additional incentives.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Diversity of students.

I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with people from different professional and cultural backgrounds. The exposure to deal with different perspectives and different approaches to solve the same problem was enriching.

I vividly remember the first course project that my small group (each of the 5 of us from a different cultural and professional background) worked on. After getting introduced to each other on the same day, we stayed in the business school until 5 a.m. the next morning working through a case study only to be back in school at 8 a.m. to present our work and WIN. We went through an intense and grueling cycle of recognizing our individual strengths and collaborating as a team to accomplish a common goal. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the experience.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? How difficult yet important it is to prioritize. Everybody I spoke to warned me about the intense schedule, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of juggling coursework, career path discovery, leadership roles, and networking.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Assess and think genuinely about “Why Merage.” Do your research and gain insights about the academic approach and the unique culture. Establishing the fit criteria is the most important aspect of the application process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? It is absolutely true that we have a strong collaborative culture. While most business schools are known to be competitive, we take pride in our collaborative approach to academic courses, club activities and networking. I have built most of my professional network in the business school by tapping into the network of my peers.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The business school experience was thoroughly enriching and I was able to leverage every resource and opportunity available to me. However, if I had to pick one thing that I could do better, I would work harder to create stronger connections and network.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Shout-out to class of 2016 graduate and fellow Amazonian, Adeel Hasan. He is one of the few international students from the program who managed to launch their careers successfully in the HR function. Always ready to help and support fellow students, Adeel continues to be engaged with the business school as an active alumnus. His insights and advice helped me ace my interview and internship.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I wanted the ability to make decisions in an organization and make an impact. I knew the business school experience would be ideal to explore my potential as a leader.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…thinking about disrupting my status-quo and going to business school.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The Merage MBA experience is designed to develop the leaders of tomorrow. One aspect I would consider improving is the strategy of recruiting MBA candidates who are not only active and engaged while in Business school but continue to give back as alumni after graduation.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? It would be to run my own social enterprise that provides primary education and basic healthcare access to underprivileged children. I spent the last year of my undergraduate course in India volunteering with a non-profit organization and realized the importance of education and health awareness. I firmly believe that empowering young girls and instilling a sense of equality in young boys through education is essential for the development of a progressive society.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? First, I would to thank my paternal grandmother. She was a voracious reader and her wisdom and knowledge inspired me to enjoy reading and learning. Next, I would like to thank my parents for wholeheartedly supporting my aspirations. They have taught me the value of perseverance and diligence in life. Finally, I would like to thank all my mentors and career advisors for their encouragement. Throughout my academic and professional journey, my mentors have been the source of my confidence. They have pointed me in the right direction, provided support and inspired me to succeed.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A resourceful and thoughtful individual who is eager to learn, contribute and give back.

Favorite book: Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The powerful depictions of characters in both the books is utterly captivating.

Favorite movie or television show: Game of Thrones. The complexity of the characters keeps me engaged – even the best of characters are flawed and even the worst have something redeeming.

Favorite musical performer: Adele. A masterful lyricist with a powerful voice unlike any other.

Favorite vacation spot: London. It is a little bit of everything for everybody, be it history, architecture or nature.

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

“I am Bina’s MBA Career Advisor and have gotten to know her well over the past two years.  Bina is intelligent, talented, and hard-working – but so are all of the nominees for this prestigious award.  So what sets Bina apart?  Why is she particularly special?  To me and everyone who was lucky enough to work with her during her time in the Full-Time MBA Program, it comes down to attitude.  Bina is exceptionally bright but with that she brings humility and a hunger to learn and push herself out of her comfort zone. She has a way about her that makes her approachable and has a desire to help others and give back.  She has become the go-to person on campus for interview prep and is a thought leader among her peers. Because of her hard work, persistence and networking, Bina secured three solid internship offers last spring and chose Amazon because she knew it would challenge and stretch her the most. She successfully completed her internship and was offered the highly coveted role of Sr. Product Manager at Amazon where she is starting full time this summer.

Bina worked with our Career Center on several initiatives and greatly exceeded our expectations on all of them. To highlight one example, Bina created a suite of interview prep materials for both Tech Product Manager and Consulting roles including frameworks for case questions, behavioral questions/answers, and how best to prep for all of these scenarios.   She also held live prep sessions for first year students who had been selected to interview with Amazon for summer internships and was instrumental in two of our students landing offers for the Senior Product Manager Internship role this year.  Bina also specifically helped other International students navigate the internship and full time job searches by sharing her personal experiences, conducting mock interviews and providing feedback.  All of this was done above and beyond her studies, student club leadership commitments and her own job search.  Everything Bina does she does with eagerness, positivity and thoughtfulness and is so very deserving of this award.”

Stephanie Nelson
Associate Director, MBA Career Center
The Paul Merage School of Business.

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: THE STORIES OF 100 EXTRAORDINARY GRADUATES FROM THE CLASS OF 2017