Meet Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class Of 2021

Zoya Imam

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“Curious, passionate and determined; I refuse to take no for an answer.”

Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have never been able to successfully tell a joke. I just end up laughing too hard while it all plays out in my head.

Undergraduate School and Major: Warwick Business School (University of Warwick), BSc in Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: I launched an early-stage corporate VC (TPL e-Ventures) for a large conglomerate (TPL Corp) in Pakistan and served as its Investment Head.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My best professional asset is my ability to successfully manage a variety of different, complex projects simultaneously. One example of this is when I was juggling: a feasibility analysis on a $40 million dry port project associated with incoming CPEC traffic into Pakistan; building a business case on how to effectively introduce usage-based insurance into the Pakistani market; and negotiating a contract with the government and four other stakeholders to set up the National Incubation Center for tech startups in Karachi. These experiences have not only taught me a lot about time management and managing delicate stakeholder relationships, but they have substantially appeased my on-going intellectual curiosity.

That said, I do feel proud when I can tell people how I ran risk analytics on and optimized (advisory) $10 billion a month on average in portfolios across 13 sub-asset classes as a 24-year-old at Citi Private Bank.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? When they say that “‘Tuck students are nice,” they are not exaggerating. My fellow classmates are as humble and helpful as they are accomplished and I cannot wait to get to know them better and learn from them and their experiences.

From day one, I felt the magic of Tuck when a fellow classmate offered to come help me walk my four suitcases across town to my apartment. That magical feeling of belonging to this incredible community has only gotten stronger with time. Classmates have even talked me through the anxiety associated with moving across the world to a new country. Support, empathy, and the concept of giving back is embedded into Tuck’s culture.

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? It started for me when the head of admissions, Luke Anthony Peña, met with me and the three other candidates who came over to Tuck to interview one day in April. He asked about our application experience and genuinely cared about what we had to say. It continued with me cold-emailing a professor asking to meet him during my interview visit. Much to my surprise, he replied instantly and made time to meet me for coffee. We ended up discussing the global VC landscape. Then when I got accepted, I received an email from both Luke and the professor personally congratulating me and letting me know that they hope that I choose Tuck. This is not just any MBA program. The people that make up Tuck truly care about each individual they select to become part of this incredible community.

What aspect of the school’s culture or values resonates most with you and why? They are willing to listen to each person’s voice and that they value each person’s individuality.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? There are a number of activities I am very excited about. They include:

  • Consulting Club – This will help me develop the skills and toolkit I need for a career in consulting.
  • Private Equity and Venture Capital Club – This will help me keep me abreast of what is happening in the global VC ecosystem. I also hope to help my fellow classmates understand the global landscape and how VC works in emerging markets like Pakistan.
  • Tuck GIVES auction – I hope to help organizing this so all my classmates can pursue any internship that appeals to them whether it pays or not.
  • Cheesemongers Club – I mean who doesn’t love cheese?
  • Tuck Public Speaking Club – I have spoken publicly in the past. However, I feel like I am not yet a confident, engaging public speaker and this is a skill I would truly like to develop.
  • Women in Business – Gender equality is extremely important to me

In addition, I want to learn to ski and ride a bicycle. Some of my classmates have already volunteered to help me with both these activities

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Tuck’s admissions process did not allow you to shy away from the personal. Every question made you reflect deeply on your choices, not only as a leader but as a person. The school’s admissions team truly digs deep to try and understand what makes you uniquely you. One classmate of mine even jokes about how he feels exposed as they seem to know him so well through his application, but he is yet to meet all of the admissions staff.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  At 29, I became not only the first female but also the youngest individual to head investments for a VC fund in Pakistan. Although I had been investing and mentoring startups while advising on regulation in the VC and tech space, I felt that I needed an improved understanding of decision-making, leadership, negotiation, economics and operations in order to take the next step in my career, hence my decision to pursue an MBA.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, MIT Sloan, and Yale SOM.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I looked for schools which embodied an entrepreneurial culture and encouraged innovative thought processes. Then I further filtered for schools with strong values of giving back. I also looked for smaller class sizes.

  • Spoke to alumni of all the schools that I shortlisted.
  • Spoke to current students at each school.
  • Read articles on P&Q’s website while also going through their Insider Guides.
  • Asked for advice from various people in my professional network.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t know if I would call it a defining moment, per se. However, I can recognize a theme in my life: the need for independence, specifically financial independence. Hearing my mom say, “You will be independent,” is one of my earliest memories. This statement became a kind of mantra in my house and I only recently realized its importance in my life.

Pakistan is one of 32 countries where a woman needs her husband’s permission to apply for an identity. There are 155 countries in the world that have at least one law that limits women’s economic opportunities. When I learnt this, I vowed to help women enter the workforce and progress upwards whenever possible. Over the last couple of years, this has included volunteering at a women’s shelter that works with women running away from abusive households; mentoring younger women on how to navigate their careers in Pakistan; encouraging local businesses to hire more women with vocational training; and being an advisor for the ‘She Loves Tech’ competition which highlights female led tech startups across Pakistan and Asia.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I would like to be advising various emerging market governments on how to best lead and manage tech-based growth in their respective countries.

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