Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Surina Shahani, Cornell University (Johnson)

Surina Shahani

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“The Introverted Twin; Process Improving Enthusiast; Number Puzzles Nerd; Chocolate Lover.”

Hometown: Dubai, UAE

Fun Fact About Yourself: My twin sister and I switched classes in high school. Our friends noticed, however the teachers did not.

Undergraduate School and Major: Mathematics at University of Waterloo and Business Administration at Wilfrid Laurier University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte, Senior Consultant

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The SSO Immersion. Since I knew I wanted to remain in supply chain after my MBA, a strong Operations program and alumni network was very important to me when selecting a business school. During my decision-making process, I was able to connect with Professor Vishal Gaur to understand how the immersion would complement my work experience and help me achieve my career goals.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Supportive. Before I arrived on campus for the Fall semester, my classmates offered to help with grocery shopping, the collection of delivery packages and airport pick-ups to help with the move to Ithaca with COVID-19 restrictions.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Canada Business Club because… Poutine!

What was your initial impression of Cornell Johnson? How did it evolve as the recruiting process continued? I visited Cornell Johnson in 2016 over graduation weekend and I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous campus and the tight-knit community. At that time I was adamant that I wouldn’t be applying as I wanted to forge my own path and not follow in my brother’s footsteps.

However, when the time came for me to apply to business schools, along every step of the process, the Johnson experience resonated with me. Not only were the students and alumni very engaged throughout the process, but so were the admissions committee and professors which really showcased Johnson’s tight-knit culture.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I revamped inventory management practices for a Canadian retailer to optimize product flow across their supply chain network. In the first year of implementation, not only did the initiative save $1.5M in operational costs, it also reduced the number of trucks on the road to the equivalence of planting 40,000 trees. As the first major project I led, this is one of my most rewarding process improvement initiatives where I was involved.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was bored with what I was doing! I knew an MBA would provide me with the challenge I was looking for and help accelerate my career.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg, Sloan and Fuqua

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why an MBA vs a master’s in supply chain?”

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Before I began exploring the schools, I determined my must-haves: a tight-knit community, a collaborative environment and a strong operations program. I relied heavily on online research, MBA information sessions and coffee chats with alumni to shortlist the schools. When it came time to ultimately select a school, I found the campus visit to be the most useful  exercise. Taking a campus tour, attending a lecture and meeting students are experiences that let me know it was thebest fit for my needs.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Prior to joining Deloitte, I spent five years at The Home Depot, where I was offered a role as the youngest manager on their supply chain. This was the opportunity I had been working towards since undergrad, but sitting in the office with the director of the team, I realized that I needed to take more risks and step out of my comfort zone for success in the long run. That moment led me to consulting and business school to expand my horizons and make an impact on a larger scale.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I loved working at The Home Depot and learned a lot from my time there – navigating the ever changing retail landscape, building a resilient a global supply chain, and empowering associates to drive great customer service. Having early visibility to upcoming Black Friday promotions was an added benefit!


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