Meet NYU Stern’s MBA Class Of 2021

Riya Dhanania

New York University, Stern School of Business

“In the distribution of life, I strive to be +3 standard deviations from the mean.”

Hometown: Calcutta, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: During a work trip to Australia, I was walking towards the client office, situated in the middle of a jungle (literally!). Right beside me, just two feet away, was a wallaby, walking nonchalantly. Having never seen or read much about a wallaby, I figured they were friendly creatures (mistake #1) since they were moving out in the open and no other human seemed to bother. As soon as I took a step towards the wallaby (mistake #2), my colleague stopped and informed me that the said wallaby punched a worker just recently. From that day I assumed no animals are friendly!

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Science in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: McKinsey & Company, Knowledge Analyst

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Quite early into my career, there was a client requirement for Power BI skills. Since most of our work was done in Tableau, there was almost no Power BI expertise back then. I taught myself the tool, went onsite to complete a two-month long project, coached the client, and then started getting requests from all over the firm. From that time, I’ve coached and mentored several peers on visualization and Power BI. Now, my former team is the one-stop-shop for all Power BI related work.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Curiosity. Every “Sternie” I’ve met wants to learn something new and utilize the plethora of resources that are offered to us. Moreover, this curiosity is not just academic. Sternies are constantly getting out of their comfort zones and reinventing themselves, through platforms such as ‘Stern Speaks’, the bare-all student speaker series.

What is the best part of coming to New York City to earn your MBA? The answer is in the question! Hailing from a laidback city such as Calcutta, NYC is a breath of fresh air. The business opportunities, the global cohort and the always-beating heart of this city make it unparalleled in terms of the opportunities and experiences I’m about to gather.

Aside from your classmates and location, 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? Along with its academic rigor, Stern focuses on emotional intelligence (EQ). While researching schools, Stern was the only one that stood out for its focus on developing impact-oriented individuals who would become the agents of change. Along with quants and econometrics, students learn empathy and self-awareness. Hence, this place seems like the perfect whetstone for me to hone myself and achieve my goal of combining the synergies between business and social enterprises.

And did someone say heavenly desserts?

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am eagerly looking forward to working with the Stern Women in Business (SWiB). Currently, in India, the work most women do is not even considered in the GDP of the country. I hope to interact and learn from inspirational women in business through SWiB and take this learning back to India to inspire more women to join the workforce, fight for recognition and become financially independent.

Also, I hope to start an animated movie club while at Stern. Everyone can use some light-hearted humor once in a while!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Not really challenging, but the question that got me thinking the most was, ‘How do you define leadership?’ Such concepts are used casually these days and no one really stops to think what it really means to them. My interviewer was kind enough to give me time to introspect and revisit the question at the end.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Two reasons. First, simply put, it’s the right time in my developmental path. Although quantitatively I am the lower end of the experience pool, I’ve had a steep learning curve during my time at McKinsey & Company. Second, I now strongly feel the need to expand my knowledge in business strategy and sustainability as up until now I have focused mainly on operations and analytics.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Cornell Johnson, Yale SOM, ISB, Chicago Booth

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I primarily used two methods: research and interviews. Research helped me get an insight into the culture, values, and the course structure. For me, having a close-knit community was important since I am traveling so far away from home. Second, interviewing and hearing from the individuals who went through the entire Stern experience gave me the confidence that I would thrive in the Stern environment. Of course, once I visited the campus, I felt at ease so there was no turning back from there.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? This happened way back in high school when I used to teach a group of underprivileged children in slums in India. The children came from extremely humble backgrounds. For the occasion of ‘Teachers Day,’ all of them had saved up for weeks and gifted me a simple pen. That selflessness is fresh in my memory after all these years. It inspires me to continuously learn and be the best version of myself. That moment has shaped my goal of conducting socially conscious and sustainable business.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself as a partner in an international social/CSR consulting firm, successfully infusing the efficiencies of the for-profits into non-profits.

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