2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Shikha Malhotra, National University of Singapore

Shikha Malhotra

National University of Singapore Business School

A full-time creative thinker, a part-time fitness enthusiast and a lifelong proponent of chasing dreams.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: Since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with FBI and CIA unsolved crime shows. As I believe that none of our interests should go unattended, I am working tirelessly on creating a web series of that genre and hope to submit it to Netflix very soon.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.Tech (Electronics and Communication) from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (New Delhi, India)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Associate Director, Digital Strategy at Redefine by Denmor Fashions, New Delhi, India

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? First Sight International Group, Singapore

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

President of Women in Business Club, NUS MBA Students’ Council AY2018-19: I left no stone unturned in promoting gender diversity and alleviating unconscious bias within the classroom and beyond. Highlights: Breast Cancer Awareness Events, Bubble of Bias (Bubble Soccer for equal opportunities in sports), Inaugural Women in Leadership Conclave #Balanceforbetter, representing NUS at the Singapore Chapter for Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society 2018.

Organiser and Panel Moderator – SAP x Stanford Women in Data Science Singapore Edition 2019 held at NUS. The objective was to encourage greater female representation in Data Science. The event was presided by the President of SAP Asia Pacific Japan and had guests from Airbnb, GIC (Singapore Government’s sovereign wealth fund), and more.

Founder – Inaugural NUS MBA Brand Challenge – Getting the CMO of one of the highest-funded start-ups in Singapore to provide a real-world case for students from the marketing specialisation to crack. The competition also opened job and internship roles for the winners.

NUS Ambassador at the Global Immersion Program to London 2019 where I organised student learning and networking sessions at Bloomberg, Twitter, and Deliveroo offices to understand the impact of Brexit.

Assistant Facilitator, The NUS MBA “Launch your Transformation” Boot Camp: A one week communication-focused camp for the incoming cohort 2019-20

Core Team Member, MBA Olympics 2019

Chief Organiser, HEC Paris x Facebook Luxury Industry Session by Morin Oluwole, Global Head of Luxury at Facebook during my time at HEC Paris for Fall Exchange (2019)

Which academic or extracurricular achievements are you most proud of during business school? Without a doubt, it has to be the Inaugural Women Leadership Conclave #Balanceforbetter that I founded and put together in January 2019, with unceasing support from the NUS Graduate Studies Office. The panelists, a mix of female and male leaders in Singapore, included the CMO of SK-II in P&G, Head of Diversity Recruiting at Bloomberg Asia Pacific, Global Head of Google Cloud Partner Platforms, Director of KPMG Global Energy Institute for Asia Pacific, and more. Through carefully-designed panels on mentorship, the role of ‘manbassadors’, and achieving success after struggling in male-dominated industries, we triggered real and bold conversations about fixing biases and gaps in business school students. This is so that they turn out to be the thoughtful leaders of tomorrow that the world really needs.

The inaugural edition of the Conclave has set a very strong precedent for the annual editions that are to follow in the years to come. In light of my endeavours as the gender diversity torch-bearer, I was conferred the Special Recognition Award for Responsible Leadership at the Graduate Business Conference (Paris, April 2019), chosen from hundreds of applicants from business schools around the world. I was also chosen as one of the top 100 MBA students from across the world for the MBA World Summit (Sydney, March 2019) for my contribution to the NUS community. As one of the few chosen to deliver a laboratory session to the other participants, I held a ‘World Without Words’ workshop to show the importance of using the ‘right words’ to eliminate diversity bias at the workplace.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have had the opportunity to work with great leaders and peers who have pushed me out of my comfort zone every now and then. After working for three years at a corporate job (Exponential Inc.) and becoming the youngest team lead to almost 15 extremely talented individuals, I shocked a lot of people around me by deciding to join a start-up. With the resolve to help small and medium businesses in their digital transformation, I spent every second of my time changing the order and course of a traditional brick and mortar retail group to drive the adoption of effective and impactful digital technologies. From changing the way they hire to improving the way they advertise, it was probably the most endearing milestone of my professional career because every morning I could see tangible results of what I had hoped to achieve across all levels of the organisation.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? MBA Olympics, hands down! Although held at another school in January every year, the MBA Olympics brings together sporting teams from all major B-schools in Singapore for one day of adrenaline-pumping moments. At NUS, we take the Olympics very seriously (winners for 3 years in a row 2017-19), so the tradition is to start the trials and preparations (led by The NUS MBA Sports Club) as soon as September, only one month after our official orientation! Despite tricky schedules marked with semester deliverables and internship hunting, The NUS MBA students step up, take ownership, and constantly motivate each other to team up and bring their A-game on the day. As a member of the core team, I have seen my fellow classmates struggle with pain on some days yet they never back down. So when you lift the trophy together, it’s an unparalleled sentiment. Unlike the real Olympics, it’s about 25+ nationalities playing together for one spirit – NUS. As a business school, this shows how NUS inculcates passion, persistence and partnerships in its students.

Why did you choose this business school? NUS Business School was at the intersection of my interest in the Asian business environment and my desire to share the room with people from different geographies, mindsets, and schools of thought. Having spoken to many alumni and hearing their stories from the classroom to the boardroom, I learned that at NUS, I’d be able to carve out a galaxy of my own, with the plethora of personal and professional opportunities around me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? To all the aspirants who asked me about NUS in the last couple of years and those who would in the future, I always suggest that each one be original, authentic, and true to their real selves. This is for their applications, interviews, and even post-admission. NUS Business School respects real journeys no matter how hard or challenging they might have been. Post-admission, students can expect their advisors to tailor the best career plan, taking into account different shades of their personality, strengths, areas of improvement, and of course, aspirations.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was told that by the end of the first few months at NUS, the pressure of assignments and activities will cause me to lose the ‘awe and buzz’ of coming into a top business school. However, evidently, I still feel the ‘awe and buzz’ because if you are ready to make the best of what NUS has to offer (which is a LOT) and are able to self-manage your time and choices, the journey is impeccably fascinating.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I am extremely satisfied with how my MBA experience has turned out. I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey or the choices I have made. It has been truly fulfilling. If given a chance, I’d probably do it all over again.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Dr. Shalini Arunalandam. She is the Chief Medical Officer at the Singapore Civil Defence Force, an ENT surgeon working at the Singapore General Hospital for 1.5 days a week, and a doting mother to three beautiful kids. Since she is a part-time MBA candidate, we often meet during evening or weekend classes. Although she has to juggle numerous tough duties, you would never know it from interacting with her. Even if she has had a tiring day in the operating theatre performing a complicated cancer surgery, she remains ever attentive and contributes with her ideas and life lessons. She is passionate about getting the best of the MBA and always ready to listen and learn from her younger peers.  

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? If I have to be honest, I give full credit, at least for planting the seed, to my young school-going niece Lara and nephew Dev who stay in Arlington, Virginia. During my US trip in 2015, we would sit down to play Legos and both of them, having seen their parents do demanding jobs, would create Lego ‘offices’. They would try and sell lemonade, pencils, gingerbread, masks, and whatnot. Every morning, they would create imaginary businesses, sell great products, innovate, and have a lot of fictitious people around them. That’s when I had the ‘aha’ moment of wanting to pursue a business degree in college.

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

  1. Making it to 40 under 40 (now that it’s slightly little late for 30 under 30) in recognition of my efforts in building a sustainable, diversity-respecting future for a business.
  2. As my Academic Director, Professor Nitin Pangarkar often tells me, ‘Stay around. Stay involved. We could totally use your resolve and commitment to the business school’. Since I truly believe in giving back to the community, I would definitely want to serve on the board of NUS Business School or any other business school for that matter. I want to contribute, both personally and professionally, in the decision-making process that impacts the leaders of tomorrow.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Shikha – The one who championed thoughtful leadership and made it easy to talk about things others won’t normally address.

Hobbies? Active yoga, Calligraphy, Bilingual Poetry and Indian folk dance (Gidda)

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

“Shikha was an exceptional student, an active contributor to our case discussions, and a clear opinion leader among her peers. Shikha would always bring her “A-game” to the classroom, and constantly elevate our discussions, which, in turn, helped to spur the classroom towards more effective and meaningful conversations about our cases.

Beyond her academic performance, Shikha’s tireless work in student leadership set apart from her class. She has long had a clear passion for fighting against gender discrimination in the workplace and used her well-deserved role as the President of the Women in Business Club to advance this important cause. In her role, she organized a number of high-profile events that brought together industry speakers who spoke about their efforts in promoting inclusion. This allowed the MBA class to hear the experiences of successful women leaders who had broken through the glass ceiling in their respective workplaces.

The MBA class of 2020 at NUS would not be as vibrant, nor would their experience be as transformative, had Shikha not been a part of this class. She is truly one of our best and brightest.”

Joel Goh
President’s Assistant Professor, NUS Business School
Associate Director, NUS Global Asia Institute


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