2018 Best MBAs: Sairah Mahmud, Boston College (Carroll)

Sairah Mahmud

Boston College, Carroll School of Management

An energetic, caring person who strives for a life and career that will improve lives.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Duxbury, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I danced with the Boston Ballet for many years and still love to dance in my free time.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Tufts University, B.A. in Classical Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a Project Manager in the Breast Oncology Group. I worked on a program called EMBRACE (Ending Metastatic Breast Cancer for Everyone) which focuses on patients diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I interned at Pfizer in New York City. I was a Finance MBA Summer Associate in Global Pricing.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working at Pfizer in New York City as a Finance Rotational Senior Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Net Impact, Board Fellow with Big Sister Association of Greater Boston
  • Admissions Fellow
  • BC Ambassador
  • Dean’s Scholarship Recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my work with the admissions office during business school. It is a position that I have very much enjoyed both first and second year. I was one of the main people to get students from my section involved in first year admission events, which also happened to be a great way to get to know my fellow classmates more quickly. This year my role includes interviewing prospective students interested in The Carroll School of Management. I was in their shoes not long ago and I think speaking with a current student is one of the best ways to get to know a school. I really enjoy speaking with prospective students and hearing their individual stories; and while they are the ones who are nervous I often learn something from them! I take my work very seriously because the BC community, including our amazing alumni network, is an integral part of the culture. And, I must admit, it makes me very excited when students I have interviewed tell me they have picked BC!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement that I’m most proud of in my professional career is my work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with the EMBRACE program. The EMBRACE program started as a research study with only about two hundred patients. During my time at DFCI, this study grew to not only a clinical research database with over 1,000 patients, but to a clinical program with outreach, educational programs, and coordinated care. I helped manage the creation of this program, our database, and the training of new hires. This program also gave me the ability to work closely with researchers at the Broad Institute at MIT. This was a program I felt passionately about because I met patients with metastatic breast cancer every day and would hear their heartbreaking requests for more comprehensive support and care. This is still a growing and meaningful program at DFCI and I’m very proud it has made such an impact.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Boston College because of the strong alumni network, the curriculum, and the companies that recruited at BC. But the deciding factor for me was the warmth of the people and the sense of community I felt when I went to the Accepted Students Day. As corny as it sounds, I have not once regretted my decision. I trusted my gut when deciding to choose BC.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Do your research! When I interview prospective students, I always push them on the “Why BC?” question. I want to know that you have looked at the classes BC offers and spoken to a current student or visited campus. It shows that you are truly interested in attending BC. It also is helpful as a prospective student to know if BC is a good fit for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about BC is that there is a lack of diversity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The MBA class is made up of students from all over the world and everyone has such unique experiences and backgrounds. It makes class discussion extremely interesting and lively. It has been one of the most valuable parts of my MBA experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school is not doing a better job of getting to know everyone in my class. Our class is full of interesting and knowledgeable people each with his or her own unique story.  I thought that I would have time to get to know all my fellow classmates well over two years, but the time goes by very quickly.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lillian Wan. Lillian was in my section first year and I have always admired her. Lillian is originally from China, but lives in Massachusetts now with her husband and two children. Even though English is her second language, she is never afraid to speak in class or ask questions. I know I have gained a lot from her contributions in class and group work. I always see her in a study room preparing for hours before class. I have no idea how she does it all with two children! I know Lillian will be very successful after business school due to her determination, kindness, and hard work.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad was my biggest influence to pursue business. He came to the U.S. from Pakistan for college with no money and actually had to live in a kitchen his first year of school. He eventually got his MBA and worked at multiple banks before starting his own business. I have always admired his drive and intelligence. He is the reason I had the courage to even apply to business school. I was coming from a liberal arts education with a healthcare background and the process felt extremely daunting, but he believed in my ability and supported me every step of the way. I’m very thankful for him because I wouldn’t be here without his support.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in medical school.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean for a day I would have more social events outside of school in the beginning of the MBA program. BC is a small community, which has many positives but it can lead to groups of friends forming very quickly. There is such a small period of time in the beginning of the program when most people haven’t started their internship searches and everyone is full of energy to get to know each other in social settings. I think bonding activities outside of school can help form unexpected friendships with classmates.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? My top bucket list item is to travel to the towns where my grandparents grew up in India and Pakistan and the second is to take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a classmate who will always be there to help or support any of my classmates regardless of how well we knew each other.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie about business is Steve Jobs. While this isn’t a typical movie about business, but more a biography, I think is has important business lessons. The greatest lesson I took from the movie is that success doesn’t happen overnight, regardless if it is the creation of a business or your own career. I think that is so important to remember that it takes time and a lot of hard work to become successful in business.

What would your theme song be? “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Favorite vacation spot: Rome, Italy

Hobbies: Dancing, squash, skiing, traveling, and reading

What made Aairah such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2018?

“One of Sairah’s greatest attributes is the holistic and thoughtful way she has approached her academic as well as social experience here at BC. She is open-minded, thoughtful, and deliberate and her professional focus on contributing to an industry that helps others (in this case, Pfizer) is just another example of Sairah’s commitment to making the world better.

Sairah’s other activities here at BC, including working in admissions and participating in events that promote BC and the program, while always looking out for the good of her classmates, is exemplary. If we sent this same P&Q survey out to the class, my guess is that “Sairah” would be the response to the “Which MBA Classmate Do You Admire Most?” question for many of her classmates. She embodies the spirit of service that is such a part of Boston College.”

Marilyn Eckelman

Associate Dean, Graduate Programs

Carroll School of Management at Boston College


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.