Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Khushi Vijayakumar 

Simon Business School at the University of Rochester

“Khushi meaning happiness is the mantra of my life. Striving to spread and derive joy in all things I do.”

Hometown: I was brought up in Bangalore, but I am currently located and malleableized in Mumbai.

Fun Fact About Yourself: Drama Queen. My first theatre performance was as Gretel (from Hansel and Gretel) at the age of 7 and I have dabbled in theatre ever since.

Undergraduate School and Major: National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, Surathkal; B.Tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nomura, Associate (Equity Structuring)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I spearheaded the execution of several trades in a new region. I was a first-year associate tasked with a massive responsibility with many moving parts. I had to work on understanding the needs of new clients, constructing new equity derivative structures, adapting needs to existing frameworks, and collaborating across cross-regional and cross-functional teams. I had to come up with innovative solutions and produce quick, accurate and competitive prices for these new structures. It was a steep learning curve, which required me to go out of my comfort zone and engage several stakeholders simultaneously. It was a slow and long process that successfully transitioned into a well-oiled machine generating a constant revenue stream while leading way to niche business opportunities.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Meliora – Ever Better. Every classmate I have met is driven to be better every day. There is a palpable gusto, which is contagious. This is the type of environment I always envisioned for my MBA experience. Moving countries to pursue an intense course and job search is a daunting decision, but having classmates who want to grow and help you grow along with them is a huge bonus and I am lucky to be in this collaborative community.

Rochester Simon is known for being “unabashedly analytical.” Why does the program’s focus on quantitative analysis and decision-making appeal to you? How do you intend to leverage this approach as a student and professional? In all its trueness, I am both a Poet and a Quant. I worked as a banker by day (and night) and wrote poetry and pursued theatre by weekends. Simon’s “unabashedly analytical” MBA program was the best fit for my personality. While computers seem to be taking over the world, reasoning the outputs that these computers produce and giving a human touch to business decisions is the key role of future business leaders. I believe Simon has captured this feature in its curriculum and it will give a competitive edge in the investment banking field which values this mashup.

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? The STEM designation was a differentiating factor that Simon offered. It was the first and only business school in the US to offer STEM designation for all its specializations. This meant two things for me: First, the economics and analytics-based approach to business appealed to me as I was looking to pursue the Finance specialization.  Second, as an international student I could leverage the 36 months OPT period to gain exposure to corporate life in the US. Many more doors would open for me and enable a truly global experience.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Simon School Venture Fund – which is a $2 million early-stage seed fund.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The interview process was conducted in-person, as the admissions team flew down to India to meet with every prospective student. It was a personal touch that I greatly valued. I was a nervous wreck going in, but the interviewer made the conversation comfortable. It was a two-way process of getting to know each other. However, through the chat, the one question that caught me a little off guard was this: “How do you handle stress?” I was juggling a great many things in life at that point and the question made me realize then-and-there that I was actually stressing through that phase of life. I was overwhelmed by that emotion. However, the interviewer gave me the chance to talk my way through the answer, which made me arrive at a brilliant personalized solution on the spot.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I had spent five years as an equity structurer, where I was piecing together financial instruments to suit clients’ return and risk requirements. I was collaborating across cross-regional and cross-functional teams. I was suggesting innovative solutions and taking initiatives to carry the business forward. I was mentoring teammates and learning a great deal from my managers and mentors. It all seemed comfortable, but I wanted to get uncomfortable. I started looking for the next pit stop in this “Amazing Race,” but everywhere I looked I felt I was falling short in some aspect or another. When I pieced together those aspects, they encompassed all the traits an MBA would instill in me. It was the perfect segue way into the next chapter. I leaned in and placed a bet on myself.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UNC Kenan Flagler, University of Connecticut

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I had three factors playing on my mind when I was picking schools.

1. Cultural fit with diversity at its core

2. Career search support for my field of interest

3. Curricular rigor

I connected with both current students and alumni at the school using my personal contacts as well as LinkedIn. The messaging was consistent throughout and resonated with me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I was nine when I placed second in a spelling bee competition because I could not spell the word ‘familiar’. I had fallen short of the prize because I just passed on the word. When I heard the right answer, I knew if I had tried I would have arrived at the same answer. I learned that day to never to pass up an opportunity because I was afraid to try. Sheryl Sandberg asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I would try.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  Becoming – CFO

I believe life cannot and should not be planned to the T and I want to ride the waves as they come my way. But I do plan on making “banker mom” a buzzword.

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