2017 MBAs To Watch: Prerana Manvi, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Prerana Manvi

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“A passionate idealist seeking to push the boundaries of creativity and pragmatism.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Fun fact about yourself: I was a singer and drummer in my college band and performed more than 30 shows across India.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BITS-Pilani, dual-degree of MSc. in economics and bachelors in chemical engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was a consultant in a sustainability advisory startup in Bangalore, India.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Amazon HQ, Seattle

Where will you be working after graduation? Retail Leadership Development Program at Amazon HQ, Seattle

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

2016-17: President, Net Impact Club

2016-17: Vice President, Consulting Club

2016-17: Consultant, Business Communication Center

2015-16: Leadership Fellow, Center for Sustainable Enterprise

2015-16: B Corp MBA Associate, B Lab

2016-17: Teaching Assistant – Marketing, Consulting Skills & Frameworks

2015-17: Contributor, UNC Kenan-Flagler Blog

2015-16: First Runner-up, Annual First-Year Case-Off

2015-16: Careers in Sustainability Liaison, Net Impact Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my contribution to the UNC Kenan-Flagler community as a consultant at the Business Communication Center. I coached more than 150 MBAs and Undergraduate Business students, and helped them hone their writing, interviewing and presentation skills. To date, I’ve spent more than 200 hours interacting with some of the brightest students with fascinating backgrounds, enabling them to better showcase their talents and stories. It has been particularly satisfying to work with non-native English-speaking students. Being an international student myself, I helped them ease into the American workplace and way of communication by sharing tips from my own experiences, and witnessed their confidence grow with every session.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my role as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant prior to business school, I contributed towards the conception and implementation of a law that made India the world’s first country to mandate CSR expenditure by companies. I was part of a closed team designated to propose recommendations to the bill before it became a law, and played a key role in onboarding some of India’s largest companies to abide by it. In doing so, I allocated more than $500K of developmental capital, and helped design and implement strategic projects that generate value both for the company and the community. I am most proud of the impact these projects have created over the years, including enabling water access to 400 rural Indian households.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dave Roberts, who taught Sales, was my favorite professor. The energy he brought to the classroom was unparalleled, and infectious. I thoroughly enjoyed contributing to the discussions he fostered in class, and felt at ease while selling – something I’d never thought I could do well. He’s one of those teachers one would go back to for advice, to thank for contributing to a success, and even to share a joke with.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Negotiations ranked among my favorite courses. I’ve realized that the application of skills I learned in this class were unending. To me, the biggest draw towards negotiations lies in being able to gauge the value that two or more parties bring to the table, and coming up with mutually agreeable solutions that create win-win situations. The course also made me realize that negotiating is one of those few business processes that would be very hard to automate, thus making it an extremely valuable skillset to possess.

Why did you choose this business school? Geeky as it may sound, I created a decision matrix of the top 20 business schools before I started applying. Apart from usual factors of ranking and placements, I considered aspects that particularly mattered to me, including focus on sustainability, alumni engagement and smaller class size. As I reached out to know more, I found UNC Kenan-Flagler’s alumni to be amazingly helpful and strongly bonded to the school. The sense of community at Chapel Hill reminded me a lot of the collegiate, close-knit atmosphere that I loved about my undergraduate school.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Having re-transitioned into a classroom from the grind of the industry, and the tough world of a startup, I truly enjoyed utilizing the wealth of knowledge, resources and friendships that business school provided me with – to learn and grow. Making friends with some of the world’s brightest people and leveraging the safe space of business school to conceive and try out unconventional ideas have been among my most enjoyable experiences.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Prior to my MBA, I’d read and heard a lot about what life in business school looked like. And yet, I was amazed at the tremendous range of opportunities it opens up. There are countless avenues, inside and outside the classroom, for MBAs to try their hand at new challenges, as well as to showcase their areas of expertise – all this while collaborating with diverse teams. I could not have dreamt that, if not for my MBA, I would be answering a question from Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario while presenting recommendations to the company’s C-suite on how they could better manage their environmental footprint.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I answer a lot of emails and calls from prospective students looking to apply to UNC Kenan-Flagler. My biggest piece of advice for applicants is to not underestimate the importance the school places on its core values. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, it is expected that leadership, teamwork, integrity, community and excellence are ingrained in every decision one makes and every action one takes. Hence, I would urge applicants to reflect upon their strengths and experiences, and find how they can exemplify these values.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Just before I joined business school, there was a list of “party schools” doing rounds on the internet and UNC Kenan-Flagler was on the list. Many of us felt it was a myth because we were working far too hard to be at a party school, but UNC’s parties, especially during basketball season, do light up Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street like nothing else I’ve seen. Also, the fierce rivalry with Duke is as far as it can be from being a myth!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Undoubtedly, my biggest regret in business school is not being able to make time for my music. I was lucky to have some talented musicians in my class, but could never get down to jamming with them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My class has some incredible people whom I admire for a variety of reasons. One classmate I’m particularly inspired by, for her sheer drive and passion for leadership, is Melanee Swanson. Apart from being friends, Melanee and I have worked together on many teams, and most closely as president and vice president of the Consulting Club. She does a great job of infusing a sense of discipline into each of her tasks, has tremendous abilities to effectively multitask, and never says no to those that seek her help.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…as a young consultant, I began engaging in intellectually stimulating discussions with leaders of large companies. I had the ideas and passion, and realized an MBA could help me gain the business skills I required to become a more well-rounded professional.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…playing concerts around the world to raise awareness and funding for climate change issues.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I believe that the most successful businesses of the future would be those that can effectively balance the tension between preserving resources and making profits.

If I were dean for a day, I would institute an innovation fund for every incoming MBA class to incentivize students to create projects that can simultaneously achieve economic and social return on investment. I strongly believe that most of my learning in MBA was from real-world experiences outside the classroom. UNC Kenan-Flagler provides some incredible opportunities to engage in consulting and community development projects. I would introduce more such immersive experiences.

 What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To establish and grow my own social enterprise in India.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents have undoubtedly been the fire that has fueled all of my passion, hard work and success. I grew up idolizing my mother for her courage, diligence, perseverance and will to succeed. She taught me that women could (and must) dream big. My father always reminded me to have fun doing whatever I did, the importance of which I have come to increasingly realize. Both of them consistently pushed me to pursue my interests, regardless of the sacrifices it entailed on their end.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who was always willing to try, and most often managed to create a lasting difference

Favorite book: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Favorite movie or television show: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Favorite musical performer: Yanni

Favorite vacation spot: Sri Lanka

Hobbies? Recording music, painting, puppetry

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

“The word “resolute” comes to mind when thinking about Prerana’s approach to life and work. She has perfected the balance between determination and grace for incredible impact during the two years she has been pursuing her MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

She has excelled in the following leadership roles: President of the Net Impact Club, Leadership Associate with the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and a VP for International Experience with the Consulting Club.

She demonstrated her resolute nature early in her MBA career as the Leadership Associate with the Center for Sustainable Enterprise. When a club leadership role was unexpectedly vacated, Prerana jumped in, quickly assessed the situation, pulled in needed resources, and helped successfully deliver an ongoing program to more than 100 students, alumni and leaders in the sustainable enterprise field.

In addition to her leadership roles, Prerana is a Senior Sustainability Columnist for Impakter and a Consultant for the Business Communication Center at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

In the four months she worked with the Business Communication Center, Prerana developed a case competition and presentation skills workshop for a Master of Accounting mentorship class; helped conduct mock interviews with more than 300 incoming undergraduate business students; and spent more than 125 hours with 100 unique clients (students) on case and interview preparation. Of the students she worked with, 92 percent rated their sessions as excellent (the highest rating); 8 percent rated their session as very good (second highest rating).

Post-MBA, Prerana is looking forward to playing the drums more and connecting with fellow fans of the Indian Cricket Team.”

Tracy Triggs-Matthews

Associate Director

Center for Sustainable Enterprise,

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School



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