2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Sahana Qaundinya, Duke University (Fuqua)

Sahana Qaundinya

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Organized, thoughtful, and engaged in the community. I also love a good Harry Potter themed party!”

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun fact about yourself: Due to a couple of broken scanners at the Istanbul airport, I spent a couple of hours in a Turkish prison.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Assistant Audit Manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Singapore

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Boston Consulting Group, Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Chicago

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: At Fuqua, I was the co-president of the MBA Association, which governs the student body for the Daytime MBA cohort. My responsibilities included setting budgets and calendaring for all the club activities and planning Fuqua Fridays. One of the best parts of being a co-president was that I got to know my peers better than I could have ever imagined. Fuqua is filled with amazing people and I have enjoyed getting to learn about their experiences and stories which span multiple countries and industries.

One of the challenges of this role was to listen to different points of view and be the person who could be thoughtful and come with innovative solutions for the challenges at hand. As an international student, I have been very passionate about issues involving diversity and inclusion of international students in business schools. My amazing team and I put together various events for Global Week, which showcased various cultures from around the world and encouraged the Fuqua community to openly talk about the challenges of being an international student. Throughout the year, I have worked closely with Fuqua’s Career Management Center to understand and work through some of the unique challenges that international students face through recruiting.

I am also extremely passionate about gender equity and am part of Fuqua’s Gender Equity Working Group. This group works with the aim of achieving equity in Fuqua and beyond regardless of one’s gender. One of the projects that I have been working on throughout the year is understanding the different parts of the MBA experience where implicit bias exists (admissions, recruiting, etc) and finding innovative solutions to tackle it. The team is launching an implicit bias training this coming term and I hope that within the next year, this training is made available to everyone (students, staff, and faculty) at Fuqua.

I have also been an active member of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, which governs the graduate student experience across all of Duke University. I have worked with the presidents of the other professional schools to reinforce the relationships between them and drive programming that is accessible for all graduate students, not just those at Fuqua.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my time spent as co-president of the MBA Association at Fuqua. At the beginning of the presidency, I promised myself that I would dedicate time to make the small things easier for my peers. One of the first things that I did was to build the First-Year and the Second-Year social schedules in a way that increases the interactions between the two classes.

There are amazing students in both classes and I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to get to know their stories and experiences. Fuqua is built around the idea that students grow and learn through overcoming challenges. Hence, the first couple of terms is a tough time to get assimilated at Fuqua. Having Second Years who understand this experience and help the First Years navigate these challenges was extremely inspiring. I worked together with my team to put together initiatives for recruiting which led to increased mentorship and coaching during the First-Year recruiting process, which was measured by the number of Second-Year students who participated in this process. I also worked on increasing the transparency of the budgeting and the treasury process of the MBAA and worked with the clubs on innovative designs to various constraints. I worked with a select group of First Years who represented their sections so that any First-Year concerns such as availability of team rooms or accessibility to career resources could be taken care of right away. Fuqua is a student-led community and I wanted my leadership to have an impact that could improve the daily lives of the students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The professional achievement that I am most proud of is when I was asked to lead a team of 20 at Deloitte Philippines. Only exceptional candidates were chosen to represent and I was thrilled that I got the opportunity to form and then lead a department at Deloitte Philippines. I had only worked in Singapore prior to this and took a giant leap of faith to choose to work in another country, but I am extremely glad that I did. This was a great leadership development opportunity for me and I was able to shape the culture of the team as I envisioned.

In addition to my work as an auditor, I taught the children of patients recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and provided remedial classes to recovering patients. One of my proudest moments was when all six of my students passed their diploma exams with flying colors. The journey wasn’t easy for the students nor was it easy for me. In order to be able to better guide the students to navigate what is an extremely challenging situation, I took a few courses at the center to help with the counseling. I personally think that the students would have managed to graduate on their own as they were dedicated and hard-working but I was honored to have been part of their journey. To this date, my students inspire me to be the best version of myself and I am proud of myself for showing up every week to teach the students.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Scott Dyreng. I took two courses (Managerial accounting and Taxes and Global Strategic Decision Making) with Scott, both of which were excellent. I love going to these classes as it is extremely clear from the first class that Scott is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the topics. He has a great way of engaging the entire classroom and makes us consider what our options as a future business leader could be. I particularly enjoyed a riveting discussion on how to better understand the actual mechanics behind some news articles about taxes or accounting. A bonus for attending Scott’s classes – you get to listen to some rad music!

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted to go to a business school that was student-led, collaborative and had a great student culture. When I started exploring which business school to go to, I realized that Fuqua had all this and so much more. Fuqua was a place where everyone believed that together they were stronger and better than they were individually. Fuqua is filled with smart, talented, ambitious people who want to make the world a better place and I wanted to be a part of this community because of that.

In addition to a great education and a strong brand, Fuqua was where I found my community. Team Fuqua is a real thing and I am privileged to be part of it. Moving to a new country where I knew no one was a tough decision to make, but I have been blessed to be part of a new family here at Fuqua. However, in retrospect,+ coming to Fuqua was the best thing that could have ever happened to me as I have made friends who both support me when I need help and who challenge my ideas and opinions to help me think through initiatives.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself. As cliched as that sounds, being yourself is the toughest thing that you can possibly be when going through the application process. The admissions department and the interviewers are trying to understand who you are and how you would fit into the dynamics of a classroom and beyond. This can only be possible if you bring who you truly are for this process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Fuqua is that It is a party school. We can throw some pretty awesome parties, but Fuqua is a lot more than that. Socializing at Fuqua can take various forms – trivia nights, dinner with strangers or just your regular C-Lead team dinner. The Triangle has a lot of places to explore and it has been great to do just that the last couple of years. I would say that Fuqua is a place for everyone and everyone finds their crew here!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are some rockstars in Fuqua. Every single person that I have gotten to know has been incredible. My C-Lead team, my section, my co-president, my MBAA cabinet, my thought partners, and the rest of Fuqua – all amazing! If I had to pick one person, I would say that Rachel Shapiro inspires me. I have gotten to know Rachel over the last year-and-the-half through our work with the Gender Equity Working Group and having spent our summers in Chicago together. Rachel is a COLE fellow and the co-president of AWiB (Association of Women in Business). Rachel has an incredible work ethic and I have learned a lot from her. Rachel is the perfect combination of IQ, EQ, and DQ. I have seen Rachel tirelessly fight for gender equity in all aspects of business school. Rachel has a wonderful ability to understand and empathize with everyone around her. Rachel also is someone who checks up on the people around her to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. The best part about Rachel – the amazing desserts she bakes!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? A partner at Deloitte, Lee Boon Teck, who hired me inspired me to apply to business school. He is my mentor and I worked with him on a few projects. He led with integrity and showed that it is important to show up every day. He is extremely smart and hard-working and led the teams with a sense of responsibility. He would be the first person in the office and the last person to leave and always made sure to check up on those around him. He motivated me to think about my future plans and pushed me when I doubted myself. I want to be him when I grow up and chose to come to business school to learn the skills that would help me get there.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Be a sponsor and a mentor to those around me.
  2. Lead a multi-national organization and pursue responsible strategic goals.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to think of me as someone who was a friend to all, somebody who was honest, thoughtful, and fair.

Hobbies? Swimming, playing chess, reading books, coloring within the lines, and finding cool underrated spots to hang out with friends.

What made Sahana such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“It would be impossible to summarize Sahana’s impact on the Fuqua Community in a single article. Sahana and her MBA Association Co-President George Jenkinson, have selflessly given their time, energy, intelligence, and most importantly their hearts, to improve the experience of their classmates. Our leadership team has been extraordinarily impressed by their (and their cabinet’s) leadership and dedication in helping make Fuqua a more connected, inclusive, and supportive community.

While it is tempting to list all the ways Sahana has individually contributed to the class of 2020 (and 2019 and 2021), the quality I most admire and am most thankful for, is that Sahana is the ultimate giver. She intentionally puts others first, always making time, and always supporting those who need support. Sahana not only has “open office hours” at Fuqua, it is also my understanding she keeps an open door at her apartment in Durham. Students come and go seeking advice, friendship, support, or some quality food!

While I am unsure if Sahana sleeps, I am certain that her classmates genuinely appreciate how she selflessly serves her peers at all hours of every day. This fall, it was common to hear Sahana spending 6-8 hours on a Saturday AND on a Sunday helping prepare her classmates, and first years at Fuqua, for internship interview questions. Moreover, Sahana continued to model the supportive, giving, and fun culture of her close-knit student section, the proud section 5!

I am incredibly grateful to have learned with, and from, Sahana during her time as a section representative, co-President, and member of the Gender Equity Working Group. Her remarkable intelligence, self-awareness, thoughtfulness, and generosity have helped make those around her better. Sahana does not shy away from the difficult or the challenging. She leans into these challenges with courage, conviction, and humility. When interactions or conversations become challenging, Sahana unleashes a much appreciated dry sense of humor to inject some perspective. Sahana inspires and motivates all to bring their best every day and models the servant, collaborative, and consequential leadership we all aspire to demonstrate at Fuqua and beyond.”

Steve Misuraca
Assistant Dean Daytime MBA and MMS Programs


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