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Meet the Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2020

 Shivani Gupta

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

From steel toes to stilettos: a field engineer turned corporate, sports and travel enthusiast.”

Hometown: Chandigarh, India

Fun Fact about Yourself: I absolutely love momos (a South Asian dumpling) and have tasted almost 20 different vegetarian varieties that include mango and tandoori as well. I eat momos almost 5 days a week.

Undergraduate School and Major: Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Biotechnology (Bangalore, India)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Flipkart.com Senior Manager (Head of planning, merchandising and marketing for Televisions category)

Koramangala, India

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As the head of planning, merchandising and marketing for Televisions category, I had a team of eight members to manage. One particular individual, who was considered an off-role employee, was able to perform at a level equivalent to a permanent employee. So within 8 months of my joining the team, I pushed her case with my manager to move her to a full-time Flipkart employee. During her interviews, although she had the required professional skills, her scalability to the next level was a point of contention amongst the panelists. Post rejection from the hiring committee, I took it upon myself to work on her scalability over the next 12 months. I gave her diverse projects that involved multiple stakeholders and also asked her to manage two other off-roll employees. Before I left Flipkart in July, she was interviewed again and was able to convince the committee so thoroughly that the discussion to promote her was just 10 minutes long.

As a young leader, this is the biggest accomplishment for me. Honing your professional skills is one part of the job, but being involved with the growth and development of your team members defines your long-term success as an effective manager and an emerging leader.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  They are all very meticulous. Whether it is an application, assignment or planning a trip, they pay great attention to details, gather sufficient knowledge and information, and then take the next step. In the process, I have benefitted a lot from these discussions and I believe this is what makes the culture at Ross so unique.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? During my research phase, Ross came across as one of the few schools that was rated amongst the top in all academic programs. While this caught my attention, it was the interaction with students and alumni that sealed the deal for me. I would generally reach out to three or four people from a certain club or organization hoping that at least one of them would respond. But to my surprise, not just one, but all of them replied back trying to help me better understand the school, the club, and the culture. Once I received the invite to interview with the school, a student ambassador (with a similar profile as mine) reached out to me to help me with the interview process. Even the alumni I interviewed with reached out to check if I had got admitted to the school or not. The way you are made a part of the community even before you are admitted to the school is something very unique to Ross. Coming from a start-up culture, I truly value this in any organization and hence chose Ross as the best fit for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am really thrilled about MAP – the Multidisciplinary Action Project. The seven-week-long project towards the end of first year that includes learning how businesses apply and integrate multiple functions. It also helps you gain an appreciation for the value of teamwork, through an intense hands-on project. The experiential learning at Ross is an aspect I have heard about a lot and I think MAP is the best example of this. Also, during a recent interaction with an MBA 2, I learned that there are certain projects that span across two or three countries, giving you an idea of how global organizations work across the globe. This is super exciting!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? During four years at Flipkart, I was part of a team that sold 100,000 smartphones in 10 seconds, successfully launched multiple brands, and delivered 50 percent of the company’s revenue. Having launched various new and established brands and witnessing their rise and fall, I developed a keen interest in understanding how each brand is able to position and market itself differently and yet cater to such a disparate consumer base. I need an MBA to enhance my marketing skills and supplement my knowledge in other functions.

In order to do so, the knowledge that I gain during my MBA and the experiences that I am exposed to during projects, internships, and then recruiting will help me grow as a global marketer and a strategist.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? At a personal level, I was sure that I needed an MBA to help me with the required skill set to grow into a global marketer. In terms of finances, looking at the schools I was applying to, I was sure that I would be able to pay the loan in 5 years.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Northwestern University (Kellogg)

How did you determine your fit at various schools?

Tools: I started with Poets and Quants’ Insider Guides for the top 15 U.S. schools and once I shortlisted schools based on that, I went through the respective school websites and got in touch with their current students and alumni.

Factors in selecting a school: I was always sure that I would not apply to more than three schools and hence I wanted to be certain about the schools I applied to. The factors that I considered while choosing a school were: academic specializations and recruitment focus of the school, culture at the school, and the alumni base of the school. All these factors play a major role in grooming you at the school and helping you find the right job.

How did you research culture? Since I did not have the opportunity to visit schools, the best way to research culture for me was to speak with a lot of students and alumni. I still remember one of the anecdotes by an MBA2 where two students from Ross helped each other out during their internship at the same organization and eventually were both offered a PPO (pre-placement offer). That was different than what I heard from students at other schools who would compete with each other.

How did you know it fit your career goals? As mentioned above, Ross is one of the few schools that is rated amongst the top in all academic programs like general management, marketing, consulting etc. With a focus on marketing as my career path, I researched the robust courses offered by Ross and the award-winning faculty. Most of the courses focused on experiential learning and really interested me. The Marketing Club and the Marketing Symposium organized over the last few years also bolstered the fact that Ross was the best place to help me hone my marketing skills and provide me the international exposure I wanted. Finally, the companies with which students recruited and the roles that they were offered were in line with what I saw as the career trajectory for myself.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? During my undergrad, I received a PPO from Schlumberger after a summer internship. I always wanted to be part of a global organization like Schlumberger, but I realized my role wasn’t as challenging as I wanted. So I quit Schlumberger and moved into a startup that was based in India. The challenges I faced here have made me a well-rounded professional who always endeavors for excellence. To be able to take risks in life and course correct during your journey is of utmost importance.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan on taking a month-long vacation before I enter the job life again. At the professional front, I plan to work for a global tech organization in the field of product marketing or product management.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself solving a substantial customer problem and bringing about a change that impacts people across the globe.