Ammar H Khan
“An open-minded, globally engaged Pakistani-American techie nerd who takes initiative and loves to learn.”
Hometown: Faisalabad, Pakistan
Fun Fact About Yourself: During my freshman year, I was given the name “Nocturnal Lounger” for my tendency to stay up late while getting to know people in our dorm’s common areas. 8 a.m. classes at Darden are going to be interesting.
Undergraduate School and Major:
Bachelors – University of Minnesota – Electrical Engineering.
Masters – Columbia University – Electrical Engineering.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Hewlett Packard Enterprise – Specialist Engineer
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I feel particularly proud of being part of the Silicon Design Lab team at Hewlett Packard Enterprise that delivered a test-chip for ‘The Machine’ (HPE’s initiative to fundamentally change the current model for computing). The fate of our lab literally depended on us delivering the test-chip within 6 months; a task that usually is more suited for a year-long time frame!
This meant that a group that mostly consisted of fresh engineering grads ended up working peak investment banking hours for about six months (unfortunately without the IB salary!). The project thrust a lot of young engineers into situational leadership roles in terms of owning particular designs and leading other engineers to meet the strict deadline. Working such hours alongside other engineers really brought us close and I made some of my best friends along the way. During the first phase of this project, I was taking my CFA level-1 exam and during the final phases I was taking my CFA level-2 exam, so I had to push myself even more to successfully deliver on the project and pass the exams, which I fortunately was able to.
We were successfully able to deliver the test-chip which has been the basis of proprietary IP (intellectual property) that will be part of The Machine.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Extremely supportive!
Since classes haven’t started my interaction with my classmates has been somewhat limited. In spite of that, I have been able to experience the supportive and cooperative community that Darden is known to be.
For example, there is a Whatsapp group over which students interact regularly. From volunteering to drive other students to sharing resources for recruiting, the group shows how supportive everyone is! For example, a particular student offered his spare room to students’ whose leases hadn’t started yet and were coming to Charlottesville sooner!
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? As an engineer with a focused academic and professional path, I wanted my MBA experience to provide me a holistic understanding of the points of view of multiple stakeholders and Darden’s emphasis on the case-study method provided just that!
I believe the case-study method also appealed to me since it would be putting me in a setting that would most closely resemble the real world, by having me think on the spot and speak intelligently without necessarily being the guru. I found that particularly appealing since as an engineer, I didn’t get many opportunities to be in such positions (I was almost always contributing as an engineer on topics that I was well-versed in).
And as someone who is nerdy, I appreciated the academic rigor that the case-study at Darden brings along with it.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? In the past, I have had roommates from multiple countries and I loved learning about their culture, history and experience. At Darden, I am going to take advantage of the small community and will look forward to get to know and make a personal connection with as many of classmates as I can.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge to design circuits at HPE, but the engineering and technical work had diminishing marginal utility in terms of my long-term goals. I discussed this with my manager and mentors and got their opinion on my decision to get an MBA. After multiple such discussions I was sure that getting an MBA at this point would allow me to make the transitions that I wanted and the sooner I could get it the better it was!
How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I was thinking along the following dimensions in terms of investment: time and actual financial investment. Given that I certainly needed an MBA, it was easy to see how the time invested now (and the associated opportunity cost) would be worth it to make the transitions that I needed. The financial investment piece was defrayed due to a generous fellowship by Darden, which helped the most with the decision!
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I was fortunate enough to get into Booth, Kellogg, Tuck, Ross and Yale, while I was waitlisted at MIT.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? The best way to determine fit in my opinion is to visit schools of interest. I took a week off from work and visited a total of six schools. Even though a single day is a very small sample to decide upon, it can still provide with valuable insights! For example, the warmth that I received at Darden (a MBA 2nd year spent an hour and a half talking to me in person as we found out that we had similar interests) was a major factor in me applying to Darden. On the other hand, the visits also allowed me cut highly ranked schools out of my short list which didn’t feel like the right fit!
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Even though I am an only child, I grew up in a rather large family – my parents have nine siblings each and I have numerous first cousins! I grew up in Pakistan as part of this large extended family, observing the collaborative efforts of my father, the eldest among his brothers and sisters; he brought the family from the village to the city and supported everyone the best he could. For example, though he completed his PhD in the US, he gave up lucrative career opportunities to return to Pakistan, to family.
During my teens and college years, at least two of my uncles lived with my parents. My parents supported them deeply, providing financial and emotional support, especially in their educational efforts. I believe growing up in such a family allowed me to develop sharing, empathy and appreciate collaboration easily. This is one of the reasons that I instinctively decided on supporting one of my cousins as his pseudo-guardian for the years I was working at HPE.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? My long-term goal is to boost the tech industry in Pakistan by bringing in much needed investment and opening venues through public private partnerships. I thought the best immediate path towards that would be a product management job within the tech industry.
After having multiple discussions with alums who were familiar with my profile, I see that there are other paths that are also well suited in taking me towards my long-term goal. Hence, I would be exploring other options further in the coming weeks before finalizing on what I would be doing right after I graduate.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Depending on what industry I end up choosing, the trajectory would be different. But after having spent three years on the job post-MBA, I see myself in a leadership and mentorship role where I can build on the experiences that I would have gained by then and help and guide others, using those experiences.