Puja Patel Iyengar
Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Curious, thoughtful, lover of economics, world traveler.
Hometown: Scaggsville, Maryland
Fun Fact About Yourself: Once while on a family vacation, my glasses were stolen by a wild monkey. We managed to get them back unscathed by offering snacks as a fair trade. And that was my first lesson in business negotiation.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Maryland, College Park – Economics
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation (in chronological order):
US Peace Corps, Small Enterprise Development Volunteer
Training Resources Group, Inc., Business Development Associate for a boutique consulting firm
US Census Bureau, International Trade Analyst
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest personal and professional accomplishment is successfully completing two years of Peace Corps service! I worked as a Small Enterprise Development agent in an African village without running water or electricity. It was surprisingly easy to adapt to these physical challenges; the most difficult part was making genuine connections and becoming an integral part of the local community. It was a challenging role, and I am proud to say that I successfully met each obstacle, reached my performance metrics every year, and gained valuable perspective and insight. I believe this accomplishment opened many doors for me when I returned to the United States.
Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? There are many resources for aspiring business school students, so I will keep my advice brief: Know thyself. Before choosing schools or beginning the application process, think honestly and critically about your professional goals and most importantly – what will make you happy. When assessing schools, ask yourself if you would enjoy spending two years in that location with the students you have met, and if the program will bring your closer to your goals. By thinking through these topics ahead of time, you will be laying a strong foundation for your essays.
On a less philosophical and more practical note, I encourage applicants to research, research, and research! Look into the companies and industries that recruit at each school. Browse the course catalog to see which electives are offered and if they align with your interests. Use LinkedIn to see where alumni have landed, or conversely, see where a company recruits. Most importantly, talk with current students and recent alumni about their experiences. I recommend chatting in an informal setting whenever possible so that you gather a better sense of the student culture. As you do more research, you will be able to ask more informed questions and gather more details.
What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I initially decided to apply to Tepper because of the academically rigorous curriculum. I was intrigued by the dual focus on leadership and data analytics. Coming from the Census Bureau, I already knew the importance of strong quantitative skills from observing my supervisors, so I was glad Tepper would be able to build on my existing skill set and enhance my career in the short-term with those hard skills. I was doubly pleased by Tepper’s approach to leadership, which I believe will build the soft skills important to my career in the long-term. When researching schools, the Accelerate Leadership Center at Tepper stood out as a differentiating factor due to the practical leadership coaching available to all students.
When decision-time rolled around, I ultimately decided to attend Tepper because I came away impressed by the current students and faculty that I met. The students were interesting and driven, yet very down-to-earth. They made me feel comfortable, even when I was jittery before interviews. More than that, they demonstrated a sense of community at Tepper. For example, when I mentioned that I was interested in a data visualizations, the student I was talking to immediately introduced me to a member of the data analytics club. The connections and sentiment seemed genuine.
What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? On a professional level, success would be a challenging, analytical role in a data-rich environment with intelligent and interesting colleagues within an impactful company based in DC. (Is that vague enough for you?) On a personal level, success would be creating a community for myself and my family, maintaining relationships with a wide circle of peers, and finding time to travel internationally.