2018 MBAs To Watch: Riyaj Gilani, Michigan State (Broad)

Riyaj Gilani

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

“Ambitious & hardworking with eternal curiosity to learn new things, value experiences and community engagement.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Nagpur, India

Fun fact about yourself: I speak 6 languages and am still learning more.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelors in Technology, Mechanical Engineering from College of Engineering, University of Pune

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Prior to my MBA, I was working at Bharat Petroleum Corporation (India’s 2nd biggest petroleum company) for 5 years, managing and building network of gas stations.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I interned at GEP Worldwide (a procurement consulting firm) based out of Clark, New Jersey. I was part of a team, advising a $7B fashion retailer on sourcing strategy for indirect spend.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be joining McKinsey & Co. at Cleveland, OH as a Generalist-Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I have been involved in various leadership roles. In my first year I was part of Spartan Consulting Inc., a student-run consulting firm which aims to help Michigan based businesses owners in growing and transforming their business. I was nominated as a Director on the board of Spartan Consulting Inc. In the second year, I have continued my efforts with Spartan Consulting and currently am VP of business development.

I am also the president of Broad Consulting Club (BCC). MSU in not known for consulting and very few top-notch firms hire at MSU. At BCC, we are trying to change this by creating opportunities for Broad students by engaging with consulting firms and training students for case interviews.

AwardsI am fortunate to have been recognized by my peers and faculty as a recipient of “Broad Warrior” award 2017 and “Student Unity” award in my first year.

Beginning of 2nd year I was awarded “Hoagland & Metzler” fellowship for my academic achievements.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being able to give back to the MBA program by formally and informally mentoring first year students in multiple facets of their MBA experience. I have coached a large group of international students during their transition to US, helping them on their resumes and networking skills. I offered multiple one on one case interview prep sessions to student hoping to crack consulting interviews.

Now, I am communications coach for one of the first-year teams. I meet them every week to share what I have learned about business communications and help them improve their writing and presentation skills.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my five years with Bharat Petroleum, I achieved multiple sales and financial goals. However, my biggest achievement was the culture I was able to create amongst gas station owners and employees. Creating a collaborative culture was helpful in implementing multiple initiatives and forming relations which I still cherish.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Wangerin who taught us Financial Accounting in first year. Unlike corporate strategy or marketing, accounting is dry and difficult to teach. But Dr. Wangerin made it really interesting using his personal experiences and blending issues of ethical importance, going well beyond numbers.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite course was foundations of negotiations. Though I had engaged in formal negotiations in my prior work life, this course gave me a new perspective about negotiations in business world. Multiple case studies and role plays made the course very interesting. My biggest takeaway was that business in not always a zero-sum game. There is always a way to play fair and win big by increasing the size of the pie for all stakeholders.

Why did you choose this business school?I chose Michigan State University because of its reputation in supply chain, small class size of MBA program and emphasis on teamwork, and I am extremely happy that I made this decision.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would advise the applicant to visit the campus and shadow a current student if possible. I think it’s really important to understand MBA programs going beyond concentrations and recruitment statistics. You can truly understand the culture of a program and your fit by talking to current students and faculty. For international students who can’t visit, definitely talk to as many current students as possible.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about MSU is that it’s just about supply chain. MSU has amazing finance and accounting departments. The professors and courses they teach are arguably the best in the country.

What was your biggest regret in business school?My biggest regret will be not being able to engage in academic and extracurricular activities outside business school. I have a huge fear of missing out. Moreover, Michigan State campus is huge and vibrant and there are always ton of things happening around. But there is not much time left if you involve yourself in everything happening in business school itself.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire all my classmates. This by far is the most smart and talented set of people I have been around. But if I have to choose someone in particular, it would be Megan Justus. I admire her for her work ethics, ability to raise her voice for the causes she believes in and still be super humble in the best way possible.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My sister has been a big influence all my life and in my decision to pursue an MBA as well. She has motivated me to never settle for status quo and always aim higher in life. She is six years older than I am and works for a large multinational bank in its software division. She constantly shares her personal experiences with me, influencing my vision for the future.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still working at Bharat Petroleum, hopefully in a different division and in a more senior position.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would like to make the MBA class more diverse by encouraging students from wider set of backgrounds, cultures, and countries to be part of the MBA class.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Visiting South America
  2. Learning Spanish

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a friendly, helpful guy who believed in being ambitious, working hard but enjoyed life to its fullest.  

What is your favorite movie about business? The Godfather. Though the business connection may not be very apparent, the movie teaches you about the importance of building deep relationships, which I feel differentiates a great leader from good manager.

What would your theme song be? Unfortunately, I am not much into English music so my theme song would be from Bollywood: “Lakshya ko har haal me pana hai” (roughly translates to: ‘You have to achieve your goal, no matter what it takes.’)

Favorite vacation spot: Mountains in Colorado

Hobbies?Trekking, Cricket, Badminton and nowadays cooking Indian cuisine.

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

“Given that many MBA programs matriculate students from all over the globe, there are a plethora of opportunities for students to embrace many ways of thinking in their quest to become better business professionals and leaders. One of the continued opportunities for any top MBA program is to ensure all students in every class not only grow to understand business in multiple contexts, but to grow individually and as a group. For some students, these opportunities can contribute to tension and concern, particularly if students do not make connections to classmates or the institution they matriculate to. The transitions can be very hard for some students. Riyaj has made it his priority to help every single student in our program make that transition in a positive and proactive way.

Riyaj is a student that entrenches himself in his class to eliminate those tensions and promote harmony, enlightenment and a collegiality amongst his colleagues. He has been THE leader in developing connectivity between our international students and the institution, always available to mentor, produce programming, or lead our students to develop solutions that increase their acclimation and connection to the program. Furthermore, he spends countless hours doing this away from the public eye, as recognition for his contributions is not a priority for him. Riyaj seeks to help his fellow students mesh their backgrounds and experiences into the MBA culture, and the professional business cultures they seek to move into after their graduation.  His personality, values, and background make him an ideal ambassador to help individuals feel comfortable so far away from home. He accomplishes this with an exceptional temperament; in 21 months, I have never seen him without a smile on his face and a kind word for a colleague. He has an exceptionally bright future, not only because of his acknowledged professional success, but because he defines success in the ability to help others. We are proud to call him a Broad MBA.”

Wayne Hutchison

Director, MBA, Academic & Program Services





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