2018 MBAs To Watch: Niti Shukla, U.C.-Irvine (Merage)

Niti Shukla

University of California-Irvine, Merage School of Business

A technologist, theatre artist, sports enthusiast, social worker – I am a proficient juggler!”

Age: 28

Hometown: Gujarat, India

Fun fact about yourself: I have binge watched Netflix with no sleep for more than 24 hours! And this has happened more than once!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Sardar Patel University, Bachelors of Computer Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Technology Consultant

I was a Technology Consultant in TCS. I extensively worked with 4 global clients (Fortune 500 companies) and senior management on high stake projects to analyze and solve problems for SAP and SuccessFactors through Business Process Consulting and end to end implementations. I also gained expertise in Market Research and Product Market releases of Rapid Deployment Systems.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Salesforce, San Francisco

During my internship at Salesforce, I worked as a Sales Operations and Planning Associate for Customer Success Group. My projects included working on Business Value and on Competitive analysis. By analyzing 20+ customers and their competitive landscape, I defined the alignment of Salesforce products and services to the customers’ business goals and quantified clients’ investments in Salesforce products and services, thereby providing recommendations on sales strategy development.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am exploring more opportunities on the digital strategy and marketing front.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  1. Recipient of Merage Fellowship Award – It is the highest distinction and scholarship awarded to an incoming student at Merage. Admissions Committee carries out a detailed evaluation based holistically on candidate’s academic performance, business experience and leadership potential.
  2. President of Business and Technology Association – Elected by members of the association to lead this premier club of the school that is focused on digital innovation. Through speaker series, interview preparation sessions, and networking events to company site visits, I have led the association to help the students who aspire to be in technology industry or in tech related business roles.
  3. Vice President of Global Business Association – With global management as one of the strong pillars of Merage, I was glad to be a part of this association and help it to further the understanding of emerging markets globally, global workplaces and aspects of organizational culture through panel discussions, company site visits, team building and recreational events.
  4. Mentor in UCI Rising Leadership Program – Responsible to discuss and guide the mentees to achieve their academic and career goals
  5. Served in Seed Consulting Group – Consultant at Seed Consulting OC that provides pro-bono services to Non-Profit Organizations.
  6. Community work in Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics Southern California.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being a Merage fellow, the most esteemed fellowship here, comes with certain responsibilities and expectations. I take complete interest and pride in working towards school and community to give back to my level best. A few ways I have done this are through participating in mentorship programs to mentor undergraduates and 1st year students as well as through holding leadership roles and working relentlessly towards common goals through the most premier club – Business and Technology Association – and most prolific club – Global Business Association – of the school.

Also, I have always been enthusiastic to represent school in events such as Open Houses and Admits Weekends held by Admissions office and school Ambassadors, as well as be a part of the student panels. I was honored to be among the very few selected by Dean’s office to represent UCI Merage School FTMBA student experience for AACSB Peer Review Team (PRT) for the re-accreditation of the School. I am proud of representing the school at various such events and being a part of its growth.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I was a technology consultant, I worked on global client solutions that required traveling. On one such urgent project that required a niche skillset of ERP cloud solutions, I needed to travel to client’s location in UAE. Being the youngest in the team of 15 and with least years of experience, it was a challenge for me to establish myself professionally as a consultant with the technology knowhow. In the past, I had partnered with SAP for their Rapid Deployment System releases for Middle Eastern geography and hence was well versed with all policies, statutory requirements, and hybrid solution’s best practices. Traversing through the challenge and successfully implementing modules such as performance management, payroll accruals, and postings for a retail giant, I soon established myself as a trusted consultant and could win the confidence of all counterparts. I received great feedbacks from client’s c-suite, acknowledgement from TCS higher management followed by perfect performance rating and a promotion! It was one of the greatest confidence boost up for me early on in professional life and paved way for many more accomplishments.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Leonard Lane taught Competitive Intelligence. An excellent instructor, Prof. Lane made his class very engaging and created an environment of open class discussion. He regularly sought feedback from students about the curriculum and organized very effective focus groups to revamp the course structure to align it with digitally driven businesses – my area of focus in B school. All the case studies, projects, and definitely the Business War Game were few of the highlights of his course. In spite of being busy shuttling between two countries, The United States and China, he gave time to students and was very responsive.

I have utmost admiration for Prof. Lane for the deep understanding and interest he developed in students for the courses he taught.

What was your favorite MBA Course?

  1. Competitive intelligence – A part of Strategic Management, Competitive Intelligence, it taught me some great frameworks and helped me get a strong grasp of structured approach to analyze competitive landscapes.
  2. Digital Strategies and Markets – It was the first elective of my B school and such a good choice I made! This course provided phenomenal insights into mobile commerce, platform, data analytics strategies and omni-channel digital targeting.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Merage for its focus on digital transformation, innovation and its community. Being an engineer, having previous experience as a technologist, and now aiming to be in Technology industry, I found that Merage’s focus and curriculum closely aligned with my goals. The school’s efforts to revamp its syllabus for a digitally driven business world have been remarkable and I have gained a lot of value from them.

One of the most striking aspects for me in choosing the school was its community. With a small yet globally and professionally diverse group of students that Merage takes pride in, I was certain that I will get to know my peers closely. Also, I knew that a smaller professor to student ratio will give me personalized attention and more accessibility to professors’ time. Thus, I felt Merage will give me many opportunities to form quality relationships with my peers and staff. And I am not disappointed one bit!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

UCI Merage has a unique culture. It is a very close knit smaller community and collaboration is fostered more than competition here. Also, the school’s location gives a lot of scope to explore and network in the corporate world. My advice to an applicant will be to research about the school and talk to ambassadors, admissions committee, students as well as alums. It is very important for an applicant’s aspirations to align with the focus and culture of the school. School’s curriculum and teaching staff’s profiles are also very important factors to consider. Also, for International students, I will say that Merage is a beautiful home away from home!

What is the biggest myth about your school? My school is situated near the tech coast in Southern California and often there are word going rounds that for internships and jobs, students from this school generally end up only in Southern California, primarily Orange County. I have had a really different experience about the aforementioned. While the focus and strength of presence is SoCal, I have also seen a lot of students moving to the Bay Area, outside the State, as well as to the East Coast to pursue opportunities of their choice.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I was very much looking forward to be a part of The Executive Committee (TEC) on campus program. I had heard amazing things about it. Being an international student and having an urgent need to fly back home, I was going to miss TEC’s first meeting and an absence in any of the meetings was unacceptable. Hence, I had to drop out from applying for TEC on campus and it is by far my biggest regret in the business school.

P.S: The Executive Committee (TEC) is a worldwide organization with over 10,000 CEOs who use TEC as their personal ‘Board of Directors.’ Membership is by invitation only. TEC brings top-level executives together on a monthly basis to help each other solve business challenges through the collective experience of the group. TEC On Campus is an extension of this program which is specifically designed for future leaders

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate Arturo San Vicente for inspiring me through his failures and successes. From a failed Start-up experience to now being the CEO of HyperSight – a startup transforming the automotive shopping experience through AI and AR – Arturo exemplifies determination and grit. From winning competitions to giving back to students through school’s Center of Innovation and Center for Digital Transformation, Arturo continues to motivate budding entrepreneurs and students. All this success has still kept him very modest and humble. I am privileged to share my learning experience at the Business School with him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My sister and she is my mentor! I am younger of the two siblings and look up to her for suggestions, help, and everything else! While she attended Business School, I saw her learn and grow personally and professionally. When I was a consultant, I would often reach out to her to understand certain business terms, transactions, and mannerisms. Seeing my interest in the business field and willingness to learn, but also my ignorance to a certain level, she motivated me to pursue Business in College.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a subject matter expert in my field of Technology Consulting, but lacking an overall development from business standpoint and awareness needed for accelerating my career growth and options.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?

  1. Foster Alumni Relations: Ours is a young school. Hence, ensuring far-reaching alumni engagement programs to further strengthen the alumni network will be one very important aspect that I will work on.
  2. Strong Marketing for Digital Studies: The school’s focus is primarily on digitally-driven business world. Our entire course structure has been revamped and large scale events such as Road to Reinvention are held to cater this focus. I would encourage extensive digital marketing of our efforts and events to create a good and positive buzz.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Visit Stade Roland Garros: I have played tennis since childhood, have laurels in the sport to my name, and have been a huge tennis fanatic – all thanks to my father’s patronage and my devotion for Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf. I would love to be at Stade Roland Garros to watch French Open Grand Slam!
  2. African Safari: Again, all credit to my father, who ensured that the family traveled far and wide, and the kids learned to appreciate nature. The reverence for diverse experiences and cultures is now a matter of personal intrigue, and a must vacation to Africa!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I am a little “Smurfblossom” – spirited, joyful and enthusiastic – from the Smurfs and that is how I would like my peers to remember me!

What is your favorite movie about business? Pirates of the Silicon Valley: Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) in one of his dialogues says that “Success is a menace. It fools smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” At the time when I saw the movie, I could strongly relate to it. Success, bad decisions, and a failure were what I had recently experienced then. Hence, I learnt to be discreet and humble throughout and not let success fool me!

Just to quote one of the many intriguing conversations between Steve Jobs (Noah Wyle) and Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) that shows navigating in business standpoint and the brilliance of the movie:

Steve Jobs: We are better than you are. We have better stuff!

Bill Gates: You don’t get it, Steve. That doesn’t matter!

And the argument on which, still goes on!

What would your theme song be? “Happy” by Pharrell Williams: Its infectious optimism and the bouncy melody very much defines how I see life and try to make of it.

Favorite vacation spot: Sun and Sand for me! Mauritius and UAE

Hobbies? Reading is a ritual and playing tennis is love (A big shout-out to Rafael Nadal, “The King of Clay” for being the best on my favorite tennis surface) and performing arts/dramatics is more of a sporadic indulgence!

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

“I had the pleasure of interviewing Niti back in 2016 and I immediately knew if she came to Merage she would be a leader in the community. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she is able to bring people together from different backgrounds. She made the most of her time at UCI Merage and truly embraced the MBA experience.

During her first year in the MBA program, Niti became a regional finalist for the Hult Case Competition; her work focused on building a sustainable, scalable social enterprise that restores the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022. Additionally, she was voted in as President of the Business and Technology Association, where she led interview prep sessions, technical workshops and company site visits to Microsoft and IBM. Niti is also a student volunteer for our Center of Digital Transformation and supports the annual Road to Reinvention conference. On top of getting her MBA, acting as president for the Business and Technology Associate, being a student volunteer, and successfully competing in the Hult Case Competition, Niti works part-time for a pro bono consulting group called Seed Consulting that focuses on helping non-profits and sustainability initiatives.

Niti is not only a great student and leader in the Merage community, but she’s also going to be incredibly successful in her career. Prior to attending UCI Merage, she worked as a technology consultant with Tata Consultancy Services and for her MBA summer internship, she interned at Salesforce. Most likely she will receive a full-time offer from Salesforce but she’s also exploring opportunities with Microsoft and LinkedIn. Niti’s strong technical background combined with her dynamic communication skills are going to continuously open doors for her. She has the drive and work ethic to make the most of any opportunity. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to accomplish!”

Taylor Martini

Associate Director, Recruitment and Admissions, Full-Time MBA Program

UCI Paul Merage School of Business





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