2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Sandhya Ramula, Warwick Business School

Sandhya Ramula

Warwick Business School

A driven and ambitious professional with entrepreneurial vision and committed to purposeful leadership.”

Hometown: Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Fun fact about yourself: Weirdly obsessed about human exploration of outer space and celestial studies – particularly nebulae.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Higher Secondary (Commerce), Kendriya Vidyalaya Fort William

B Com (Hons), Calcutta University

Post Graduate Diploma in Project Management, Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Consulting firm EY, as an Assistant Director within Assurance Service Line. Although the role was based in Bangalore, as India head for Assurance ASA function (along with Bangalore), I was responsible for the Gurugram and Chennai teams. This entailed frequent travel and the ability to virtually manage.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I did not intern during 2018 as I was still working with EY on a full-time basis. However, on weekends, I volunteered my time by providing private tuitions (for Mathematics, Social Science and English Literature) to children in need at the local residential community in Bengaluru.

Where will you be working after graduation? Although there are a few avenues to explore, a role that has been of interest to me is to work for the strategic vision of an international organisation contributing towards global efforts on ‘Education and Women’ and ‘Child Welfare’.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: As a FTMBA representative of the Student and Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC), I work closely with WBS management including Ashley Roberts (Assistant Dean and Internationalisation Director), Sue Thorne (Director MBA), MBA Programs team, Corporate Relations, and CareersPlus teams. I have had the opportunity to work on various matters at the MBA. This includes addressing student feedback, driving initiatives to showcase WBS MBA students across the UK, and participating in various forums and discussions to improve the MBA experience. Being elected by the student body as an SSLC representative was indeed a privilege. However, I immediately recognised that I needed to be the voice of my cohort and play the bridge between student and staff members to make the WBS MBA experience truly exceptional.

I am also a part of the group ‘Warwick Volunteers’ and often participate in fundraising events. This also gives me the opportunity of working with other Masters and Undergraduate students.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I can think of the following two:

As a curious learner, I often participate in university-level initiatives through which I’ve had the opportunity to interact and work with other masters students at the university. During these interactions, I have been approached by some students to provide coaching support on career paths. As a result over the last few months, I have been working with three students to provide mentoring support and industry awareness as a volunteering activity. I strongly believe in community work. In my opinion, it doesn’t have to be a formal initiative; a community effort can be informal and voluntary. As a personal mantra, I believe in the statement that ‘with every single step to create a positive influence on another, a community is strengthened’ and I make attempts to practice it whenever I can.

Additionally, I was recently invited by the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) to participate as a panelist and judge in an innovation and entrepreneurship workshop. I provided feedback on business pitches from student groups. Evaluating business ideas and sharing perspectives on entrepreneurship was an interesting experience and equally nerve-wracking given the sheer enthusiasm and amount of preparation by the young talent. It filled me with pride to be associated with a university that nurtures such rich talent and prepares future leaders across various sectors and industries. This experience was also a reflection of how well various parts of the university work collaboratively.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I was head-hunted by EY, I didn’t know much of what to expect of the role. Given the nature of the business at that time for the given function, I was expected to ‘hit the ground running’, to manage a small team of over 20 people in Bangalore. Everything was so new to me and little did I know of the responsibilities I was entrusted with completing. In about a week, I was able to assimilate the various dynamics of the role. It had a bit of people management, project management, stakeholder management, operations, resourcing, budget and planning, performance management, business development, and strategy. Within a span of 18 months, I was able to drive the business growth by 300% (over 60 FTEs) through various business development strategies. Soon, I started getting recognised by clients and internal teams as ASA leader. This entrepreneurial approach to business management created evolution and governance. Shortly after, I was given the responsibility of heading ASA functions for India spanning over 400 FTEs across three cities. The organic growth achieved in a significantly short span of three years was a journey filled with thoughtful strategic initiatives and required immense work. Looking back at the end result, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment of how the function evolved.

What was your favourite MBA Course? Managing in a New World. This module is a blend of Economics and Business Strategies also fondly known as ‘Stratenomics.’ This is taught not in a traditional way of economic teachings, but more as a business economics course coupled with industry relevant case studies of countries, economies and organisations. I learned about the inter-dependencies of economies and organisations and how running a successful business not only means making a profit but also having a social and economic responsibility. This is an important lesson for MBAs as they go to industry to lead organisations, the mindset shift of a larger economic impact will help leaders with decision-making.

Why did you choose this business school? As a project manager and strategist, it’s an occupational hazard to assess most of the investments in life in the following parameters:

ROI – Brand reputation is a crucial assessment criterion. WBS is globally recognised and well-positioned in the business world. Being associated with this brand is also a sense of pride.

Cost – The WBS MBA is more economically friendly than some of its competitors and given its ranking, overall it was a great opportunity.

Time – A one-year MBA fits well with an experienced professional like me. There is significant opportunity cost otherwise in a longer duration and also workaholics like me can’t wait to get back to work.

These factors helped my decision making.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Plan early and come with an open mind. Like all life experiences, there are only a few aspects you can plan. For others, you need to go with an open mind to explore and take it as it is. An MBA will test you emotionally, financially, and socially and push you to be forward-thinking. But very soon you will realise that at the end of it, you will emerge stronger than before.

What is the biggest myth about your school? After a long time as a working professional, getting back to school was exciting but initially worrisome. I feared having to sit in lectures all day and grasping concepts and theories and constantly worried about my attention span and learnings. Although it isn’t a myth associated solely with WBS, it is a general perception of any classroom training. However, this myth was immediately de-bunked when I experienced first-hand what it was like to be a student at WBS. The lectures are well integrated with industry and hence the discussions never feel secluded in academia alone. Almost all modules use case studies and group discussions as part of the learning experience. And almost all faculty members hold significant industry experience, which adds to the student’s learning experience in the form of examples and best-practice sharing.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Time moves faster than we think!

The one-year MBA at WBS is intensive and requires a whole lot of dedication and personal commitment. It’s best to plan as early and as much as possible to not only fit the MBA in your life but also to fit your life around your MBA.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? It is transformative for sure. I learned a lot about human behaviour on this journey. Interestingly, most of the students are here on their own, away from their loved ones. This can be difficult emotionally, but it’s easier to relate to one another since most of the students were in the same boat. Often, students come together to celebrate, gather or just connect. Sharing bus rides, walking the streets to brain-storming in meetings, and eating together, there are many memories that are built in the MBA. And I learn equally from my peers in this journey as well.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I had the opportunity to work closely with some of the smartest individuals in this MBA who have inspired me on many occasions. However, one person whom I truly admire is a fellow student Hind Benarba, a successful portfolio manager in the insurance sector from Morocco. She beautifully multi-tasks between the demands of the MBA program and having an infant back home in Morocco. Although she has the support of her family who helps her navigate through this phase, her commitment to the MBA program and self-development inspire me. I cannot imagine the emotional strain she must be going through as a young mother, being distanced from her child, but the resilience and strength she has demonstrated set an example for young women everywhere. She is cheerful, always supportive, volunteers for activities, and is one of kindest people to talk to. As a woman with a headscarf, she has had her own challenges navigating in the business world. In today’s world, women are a significant part of businesses. They are leading large global firms and constitute the largest pool of women CEOs ever witnessed,]. Still, we observe a constant battle of diversity and inclusion at the workplace. Women such as Hind are leading by example professionally and personally to showcase that resilience and commitment can help achieve any result.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? As a child of immigrant parents, I understand first-hand the challenges and efforts to upgrade your life and the strength of determination and focus. My parents have taught me the most valuable lessons in life, around endurance, commitment and doing the right thing.

For them, the most important agenda in life was to ensure their children got the best education possible, even if it meant they had to work a lot harder. Growing up, we were kept focused on studies and always encouraged to be curious to learn both intellectually and creatively. As a young student, I was enrolled in debate classes, dance classes, and creative arts. I was also encouraged to participate in elocutions, community service, and sports. Our lives revolved only around our education and learning as we grew up.

My mom says ‘Education is the only tool that guarantees self-actualisation, independence, and power’.

It is therefore no surprise that I grew up with the bug of wanting to pursue higher education as soon as I could. My decision to go to business school started with a teenage desire to get an MBA. As soon as I started working, I started learning so much and enjoyed it too. I, therefore, planned to do my MBA-only after gaining significant work experience so that I could make the most of my business understanding. Soon, I started working on my plan for an MBA and my parents stood by my decisions throughout, giving me the encouragement and support that I feel truly blessed to have.

My mom and dad are the two most intellectual and kind people I have ever known and their relentless focus, efforts, and belief in the future of themselves and their children is an inspiration and a benchmark that I strive to achieve.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? The MBA journey is full of acronyms (MBA itself being one!)

The acronym that I find very interesting is STM (Syndicate Team Meeting) also known as ‘Syndicating’; a term used to define the collective action when a pack of MBA wolves gather in a designated location (locations may range from syndicate meeting rooms to the Varsity Bar, depending on the state of mind) to either collectively perform case study diagnostics, pour hearts out post-examinations, or more generally celebrate the MBA journey!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… planning to go to one! An MBA was the most natural next step for me in my career path. Both to take a pause and reflect upon my journey and to deepen my business knowledge and network. I would have been preparing for an MBA if not already in one.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I have learnt that one cannot attach a dollar value to the most real experiences in life, be it job satisfaction, career journey, OR learning.

The WBS MBA gives exposure and opportunity at 2 levels:

1) With self – to pause, reflect, assess where you are heading in life and hence have the opportunity to do course correction or accelerate on the same path.

2) To network – build a connection with the outside world, in the form of peers, career coaches, mentors, industry leaders etc.

Each of the students has come to the MBA because they reached a point in their lives where they wanted something more, different and enriching. This desire is nurtured from a sense of re-evaluation of self and an urge to take charge of our circumstances to bring about change. An MBA gives you that tool and the value of this cannot be immediately measured but worth a lot more.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

1) Skydive in Dubai from above the palm.

2) Drive across the Grand Canyon in a classic car.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A purposeful individual, passionate and driven, who is a friend you can count on.

Hobbies? I find cooking very therapeutic and often indulge in it as a hobby to de-stress and let my creative side flourish.

What made Sandhya such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Sandhya is an extremely impressive young lady. She is so strong and ambitious that I can see she will make a great business leader in the future. She has already done a great deal in her short career. At such a young age, she has been entrusted by EY to lead three teams across India, amounting to more than 400 people and successfully delivering projects totaling more than $8.5 million. For this, she has to speak three different languages, Hindi, Telugu, and Bengali to coordinate a team across such a vast area. That takes some doing and she is fluent in English as well!

For a woman to do this in India takes a huge amount of skill and courage. Her quiet self-assurance has already been noted by her cohort and she has quickly become a popular MBA participant. Her skills in six sigma have also been invaluable to her cohort.

Despite establishing herself as an Assistant Director at EY, Sandhya has decided to embark on an MBA, which really demonstrates her hunger to learn and build her knowledge base before moving onto the next step of her career. I know it wasn’t an easy decision, but with her strategic skills already evident I am sure Sandhya will take full advantage of the opportunities on offer here and become an even stronger business leader.

Despite her busy schedule, she has managed to fit in volunteering work at home in India, and she is doing the same here, helping others to progress and better themselves with mentoring. Her belief in education, and its ability to change lives, improve people and forge a better world really comes across, she has such a passion to learn and help others learn, I think that is her greatest strength.”

Monica Garcia-Romero
Careers Manager

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