2018 Best MBAs: Thoshna Arasappa, U.C.-San Diego (Rady)

Thoshna Arasappa

Rady School of Management, UC-San Diego

“Professional athlete and published author turned digital crusader.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun fact about yourself: I went for a five day yoga camp where I had to practice the art of meditating, without any human interaction. (Yeah, I am not doing that again).

Undergraduate School and Degree: I have a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), India.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked as a Management Consultant at a boutique consulting firm, Zinnov Management Consulting (India), that specializes in strategy consulting in the engineering services space.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I interned at Cisco Systems in Milpitas, California. I currently work with them as a Program Manager Intern, in their IoT Business Solutions team.

Where will you be working after graduation? I have yet to decide on that. I am torn between working at Cisco and gaining the much-needed business exposure in the tech industry and travelling back home and helping with the family business, Urban Space Zone. (We are commercial real-estate developers, focused on building smart schools and colleges)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

I am a Merit Fellowship Student at the Rady School. A substantial part of my tuition fees is sponsored for displaying excellence and credibility in my academic and professional career.

I am involved with many initiatives at school. I serve as part of the Rady Student Board. I am the VP of Alumni Relations, where I act as a liaison for all alumni interactions with the business school.

I am also a Student Ambassador-Leader, working with the admissions office. It is a paid position, where I am responsible for scheduling and orchestrating all prospective student events on campus. These initiatives involve campus tours, class visits, preview day, open house, round tables and networking panels.

Apart from these roles, I also work as a Teaching Assistant, mentoring first-year part-time MBA students in Organizational Strategy.

I am involved in a wide range of social impact and collaboration projects spearheaded by the Net Impact club of Rady.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I think being a Rady Student Ambassador-Leader has been one of my greatest privileges as a student here. Serving as the face of the brand and influencing the quality of the incoming cohorts of our school is a great responsibility, and an empowering experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of my proudest achievements professionally, thus far, has been, getting to be a part of the sales and development team at Urban Space Zone (family-owned business). I helped acquire the client account for the pilot program we deployed across the first smart school campus in Bangalore. I had the opportunity to be part of a project that built LEED certified- sustainable and energy efficient buildings, enabled by smart card access, video surveillance and furnished with healthcare/sanitary kiosks for a 5,000 student campus.

Safety and sanitation is the fundamental right of every student. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of an initiative that gives parents and students the feeling that school is their “safe harbor.”

What was your favorite MBA Course?  My Favorite MBA course is Strategic Cost Management taught by Professor Jimmy Anklesaria.

Apart from being an extremely accomplished professional within the industry, Prof. Anlkesaria has the most hands-on curriculum in Cost Management. His 10-week course is an intense and immersive learning experience where you not only develop fundamental basics in supply market analysis, cost modelling, and the AIM & DRIVE process, but also get the opportunity to work with sponsor companies and implement your learnings. I learned a great deal on Price Discipline and Total Cost of Ownership from my projects, working alongside the executive sourcing team of a leading global food-services provider. I have been able to take these skills and recommend leapfrog offerings in my “Pricing Strategy” engagement at Cisco.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to do my MBA at Rady for a number of reasons.

  1. Location Advantage: Being on the West Coast and conveniently entrenched in the center of the world’s blue-green hub, every industry of interest to me is either a stone’s throw away or a quick drive.
  2. Young, startup school: With one of the smallest classes of 60 students, the Rady School has one of the most eclectic and tightly-knit student communities. Within 12 years, Rady has rolled out more than 283 active startups. This was a huge draw for me.
  3. World class faculty with great research experience and industry connections: Rady is home to Nobel Laureate Harry Markowitz among many other academic jewels.
  4. Rady is in the beautiful city of La Jolla: It comes with a view of the ocean and the best seafood delicacies. A complete package, it was too good a deal to turn down.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Rady is a school where “entrepreneurship” is the essence of its cultural fabric. This doesn’t mean you need to be an inventor, founder or a person with a great business idea to get into the school. However, you need to be a self-starter, wanting to create a path of your own. This could be accelerating your career, pivoting to a new industry or simply starting something new. If you can demonstrate your passion to accomplish the same, you will make for a great candidate.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the greatest myths about Rady is that, by virtue of being in such a fantastic location, it is a party school. Let me give you all a fair warning: this is not entirely true.

Yes, the school has a great social vibe to it, but people here don’t take their “business” lightly. Academics has the same competitive streak as the best b-schools and a focus on accelerating your career through startup initiatives or corporate projects is the common “social scene”.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I regret not being able to leverage Rady to gain international exposure through their cross-border immersion programs. I missed the China and Israel trip due to prior work engagements. If I had the opportunity, I would have loved to try them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of my most admired classmates is Tomoo Yuki, a Japanese student who was also my study group partner in quarter one. Tomoo is an engineer with 10 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. When we met in 2016, I realized Tomoo was an exceptionally bright candidate with the only barrier of communicating fluently in English. Today, 16 months later, Tomoo is part of the Toastmaster’s Club and an eloquent English speaker and presenter. He is a great example of “necessity being the mother of invention.” His strong will to learn and passion to succeed has helped him lead a San Diego based startup in the capacity of a CEO.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents and mentors at work had a great role to play in my decision to pursue business school. However, my role-model and beacon of guidance in the business world is my uncle, Munish Khetrapal. He is a Chicago Booth alumnus and a classic example of b-school transformation. Post his MBA degree, I saw first-hand how he rapidly scaled the rungs of the corporate ladder and became one of the most recognized names in the industry for Smart Cities. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of a million-dollar IoT startup. His constant guidance and encouragement towards the pursuit of a formal education in business is what eventually made me take the leap after 3.5 years of professional experience in investment banking and consulting.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…involved full-time with the family business, learning on the job. I would also further my passion for running and train for the Mumbai Marathon.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were the dean for a day, I would mandate that all the MBA cohorts – Full-Time and Part-Time – take one course together every quarter. I think the mingling between cohorts spanning diverse age demographics, industries and cultural experiences, would deeply broaden the class’s scope of learning and market accessibility.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Learn as many diverse and tangential skills as possible at Rady.
  2. Be well equipped to go back home and take on the reigns of the family business.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who always comes through.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite business movie would have to be Moneyball. It has everything “Thoshna” about it. It involves sports, predictive analytics and has a great storyline and screenplay. It is a beautiful adaptation of the book by Michael Lewis and exemplifies the thought that, “it doesn’t take the best people, to get the best results but the best team, to get the best results.

What would your theme song be? My theme song if I had one would be, “The Final Countdown” by Europe.

Favorite vacation spot: My favorite vacation spot is Paris, France. Whether it is the history, culture, food or fashion of the city, Paris has something for everyone. It is the closest I have come to living out of a portrait.

Hobbies? I enjoy running, writing, painting and, more recently, cooking.

What made Thoshna such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Over a year ago, my wife and I were invited to a luncheon with Dean Bob Sullivan and two of the MBA students at the Rady School of Management who were the recipients of the Anklesaria Scholarships. One of the students was Thoshna Arasappa.  Since that meeting I have had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know and follow the several successes of this amazing young lady.

In addition to becoming her mentor, I had the opportunity to assess Thoshna’s academic prowess as her professor in my Supply Chain Cost Management Strategy class during the Fall of 2017.  Ms. Arasappa secured the highest grade in a class of 33 students. More important than the grade, I have taught graduate courses for over 25 years and have encountered several brilliant and talented students at UCSD, The University of San Diego, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, The University of Southern California and the University of Chicago. It is without hesitation that I would rank Thoshna within the top 5 students that I have had the privilege of teaching over these years.

Thoshna’s strength lies in her personality.  She is an amazing human being.  Smart, talented, articulate, extremely hard working and diligent, a total team player, very respectful and reliable.  During my class, she headed a team that worked on a Supply Market Analysis and Cost Management Strategy for JLL. The feedback that I received from their Chief Procurement Officer was laudatory. He singled out Thoshna in that group for her brilliance and organized approach to the project. In the spring of 2017, I hosted the 17th Annual Supply Forum that brings together the worlds thought leaders in Supply Chain Management. During an evening reception that some students were invited to join, Thoshna stood out to the extent that several Supply Chain executives wanted to hire her as an intern for the summer of 2017. At the time of writing this recommendation, Thoshna is working with a team of students to help one of my companies launch a SmartID that will enhance campus security. Her valuable input, responsible behavior and professional approach to the project has won praise from my co-founder, Sabeer Bhatia, who founded Hotmail in the late 1990s.

These are but a few of the attributes that makes me proud to recommend Thoshna Arasappa on behalf of the Rady School of Management.”

Professor Jimmy Anklesaria

President & CEO of Anklesaria Group, Inc.

Lecturer in Supply Chain Management at the Rady School of Business, UCSD


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