2018 MBAs To Watch: Anjana Agarwal, University of Chicago (Booth)

Anjana Agarwal

The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

I’m a lawyer-turned-MBA with a passion for sustainability and leveraging technology to develop good infrastructure.”

Age: 31

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a tea aficionado and have 5 or 6 different types of tea (black, white, green, rooibos) at my house at any given point!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

National Law School of India University – BA, LL.B (Honors) [JD Equivalent]

Harvard Law School – Masters in Law (LLM)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

World Resources Institute – I was a Senior Project Associate with the Energy and Governance teams

Planning Commission of India – Legal Consultant to PPP & Infrastructure team

Amarchand & Mangaldas – Attorney in Project Finance & Infrastructure practice

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017?

Allotrope Partners’ new Microgrid Investment Accelerator, Oakland CA

Where will you be working after graduation? TBD – something at the intersection of business, policy, and cleantech/urbantech

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

  • Co-chair, Chicago Women in Business
  • Co-chair, Booth Energy Group
  • Awarded 2-year Tobaccowala Merit-based Fellowship – Given to 1 Indian student each year
  • Semi-finalist at MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Networking Challenge)
  • Finalist at Ross Renewable Energy Case Competition
  • Selected to intern at a leading urban focused VC fund, through school’s PE/VC Lab
  • 1 of 27 people selected globally for a Global Governance Fellowship on Cities and Urbanization organized by Robert Bosch Foundation

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Securing a VC internship over the summer with no prior background in investing. This required me to hone up on my financial modelling skills and be able to effectively demonstrate this to interviewers, leverage all my past work – as a lawyer and as a policy analyst at a non-profit – and the strategic skills acquired at Booth, and leverage my network (both through Booth and my last workplace, the World Resources Institute).

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Designing and executing a household energy efficiency and conservation project in collaboration with a technical partner and the local utility in Bengaluru, India. Despite not having a background in engineering, I got up to speed with the technical nuances of energy efficiency and played a leadership role in this project. What really excited me about this about project was getting into the shoes of the consumer and devising creative methods to incentivize behavior change. We showed 17% savings’ potential through no-cost and low-cost measures – huge for cities with electricity shortage. I continued to track developments on this project even after coming to Booth and it’s now been scaled to one more city in India – I couldn’t be prouder!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor James Schraeger. In the first class, he told us he didn’t allow laptops and we had to take hand-written notes – the thought of sitting through 3 hours of afternoon class without being able to take a sneak peek at social media was terrifying. Little did I know how quickly his classes would go by! His classes gave me strong frameworks to evaluate new business ideas that I went on to apply in my VC internship. What I particularly admired about Prof. Schrager was his humility, openness to ideas, sense of humor, and ability to call out bullshit in the nicest possible way. Several alumni I’ve interacted with also speak very fondly of him and are still in touch with him.

What was your favorite MBA Course? International Corporate Finance by Prof. Rajan. As an Indian student, the chance to take Prof. Rajan’s course was a big selling point for Booth and this course more than exceeded by expectations. My three key takeaways from this course were: (1) the ability to see and make financial decisions in a larger, more strategic context; (2) the importance of considering every stakeholder in the decision-making process and considering their interests and motivations; and (3) the importance of considering social, political, and even public perception related impacts of international businesses.

Why did you choose this business school? First, for its academic rigor, amazing faculty (9 Nobel laureates – who can beat that?!), and strong reputation.

Second, at my last job at WRI, I used bottom up data to help feed the top down policy process – so Booth’s data driven, analytical approach to management education strongly resonated with me.

And third, two alumni from my law school in India also went to Booth and had great things to say!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself in the application process and visit the school before applying or joining (even if it means flying in from overseas)! Ultimately, fit with the school is very important – this will be your home and life for the next two years and your professional and personal network for much, much longer.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I’d heard a lot about the ‘pay it forward’ culture at Booth before coming here but didn’t think too much about it – it seemed like it was one of those things people just said. Little did I realize how true and real the pay it forward culture at Booth is. People at Booth (my classmates, second years, and alumni) have been exceptional. As a career changer especially, I’ve reached out to people for help and guidance innumerable times and every single time, the Booth community has been there to support me. Not just have people responded to my requests for help, they have gone out of their way to help me!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not working on my own or someone else’s entrepreneurial idea through New Venture Challenge / Social New Venture Challenge. Booth offers so many opportunities to explore entrepreneurial ideas. While I have started to explore new business ideas through lab classes, the chance to build out a business in a risk-free, classroom setting and benefit from regular constructive feedback from peers and judges is unparalleled.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire so many of my classmates! In particular, I really admire mothers at Booth – balancing academics, recruiting, and socializing while putting your child’s needs ahead of yours and still remaining sane must need superhu(wo)man effort!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Cliched as it sounds – my mother! She was one the first few Indian women to go to business school in the 1970s. She went on to join the top rungs of Indian government and really showed me how business education can enable you to effectively work in so many different spheres.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working at the policy team of a tech company.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Encourage MBA students to step out of the business school and draw upon the amazing resources offered at the rest of UChicago – this could be through classes, attending events, connecting with other grad students, or library (or even food truck) hopping!

What are the top two items on your bucket list? My life bucket list is very long! Two things on my Chicago bucket list are – a meal at the three Michelin-starred Alinea and overcoming my fear of heights to check out the tilting 360-degree John Hancock observatory

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who worked hard, showed humility, was there for them when they needed help, and provided a different perspective in class!

What is your favorite movie about business? I love Jerry Maguire – it taught me the importance of working hard, staying true to my principles, being patient, and cultivating strong and lasting relationships.

What would your theme song beCan’t call it my theme song but one song that I can never resist singing along to is ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina & the Waves.

Favorite vacation spot: Kraabi, Thailand – pristine beach + sunshine + amazing food

Hobbies?

  • Exploring new cities – I’m an urban creature and I love checking out new restaurants, bars, live music gigs.
  • Reading – business school hasn’t left me with much time for that though!
  • Increasingly, ogling at luxury shoe designs on Instagram.

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

“I’m so proud of Anjana. She is one of 27 fellows elected to the Global Governance Futures 2030 initiative that brings together exceptional young professionals to come up with better ways to address global challenges. She has been elected to the Cities in Global Governance subgroup, which falls in line with her previous work in infrastructure law and environmental non-profit. This is a great start to achieve her long-term goals of affecting infrastructure change in underdeveloped economies.”

Stacey Kole
Deputy Dean for Alumni, Corporate Relations and Full-Time MBA Program, Chicago Booth

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018