Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sonam Agrawal

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Driven by self-improvement, and dedicated to creating a positive impact on the people and communities around me.”

Hometown: Born in Kathmandu, Nepal. Grew up across Nepal, India, and US

Fun Fact About Yourself: I attended 11 different schools between grades 1-12. There is a different story for each move (no I didn’t grow up in an army family)!

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Business Studies, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (Delhi University)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Associate Consultant, The Bridgespan Group

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most marginalized populations through my work at Bridgespan. During one of my most memorable projects, I led a module for my philanthropic client on designing the program strategy for strengthening tribal identity and culture in India. Initially, I was initially intimidated to be tasked with putting structure and tangible metrics to a relatively ambiguous and complex topic I knew little about. However, it became an extremely enriching experience. I developed a deeper understanding of the challenges facing tribal communities by traveling to remote areas and conducting in-depth interviews with them. This was a transformative experience, and my new-found knowledge helped me translate their challenges into structured strategy frameworks to create tangible impact. It was humbling to hear deep appreciation for the work I had done and its potential impact on the tribal communities.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I have been amazed by how curious everyone in the Wharton community is in learning about you, and how invested they are in helping each other succeed.

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? While there were several factors that drew me towards Wharton, its team-based approach to learning and consistent focus on leadership development stuck out the most. As we go on to take greater roles and responsibilities in our careers, it is critical to invest in our soft skills as much as our hard skills. I believe that an investment in these skills creates an environment that is conducive to not only one’s personal success, but also the success of those working with you.

Talk to us about the team-based project you completed during the application process. What did you do that helped you stand out during it? It was a great experience and peek into the way things are done at Wharton. It also allowed me to meet some of my future classmates! I think what helped me stand out was genuinely listening to my teammates and trying to understand their perspectives. This helped me find ways to combine the different viewpoints in the room and synthesize our discussion – which is very important to drive towards a consensus as a team.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Leadership Ventures – I can’t wait to go for either the Antarctica trekking expedition or the Quantico military simulation!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why MBA?” Such a simple question on the face of it, but I think it is extremely challenging to answer as it forces you to go deep within yourself, unearth the rationale behind your decision and to then communicate it in an effective manner.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I had reached a point in my career where I was ready to transition to greater managerial/leadership roles and create a greater impact through my work. An MBA provides unparalleled resources – in terms of academics, network, and personal and professional development – to be able to make this transition.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? INSEAD, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Culture was of the utmost importance to me because I think exceptional academic and non-academic resources are a given in many of these top schools. A global network, alumni base and brand recognition was also important to me since I hope to have a global career. I found speaking to current students and alumni to be the best way to help me gauge my fit with the different schools I was considering. They were incredibly helpful and responsive and provided a wealth of information from personal experiences that helped me evaluate how the school would fit with my personal and professional goals.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? One of my life’s most pivotal moments was when I moved to India from US during 10th grade (onset of critical career qualifying exams in India). It was an incredibly challenging period for me, as it was both a cultural and academic shock. However, persevering through it taught me integral life skills and shaped some of my most defining characteristics – the biggest being my ability to adapt to various situations and environment, which has really helped me through my various pursuits over the years.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I am still exploring my career goals and figuring out exactly where I want to be in ten years (and that is okay!) – but I hope to be true to myself and be content with whatever it is I end up doing.

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