Master’s in Supply Chain Management: David Avasthi, Penn State (Smeal)

One of the best parts of the program is the sharing of experiences between classmates. As an applicant hoping to get into the program at Penn State, I recommend candidates plan to spend time throughout the program getting to know their classmates, learning and sharing both professional and personal experiences.”

Student Name: David Avasthi

Graduate Business School: Penn State Smeal College of Business, delivered online through Penn State World Campus

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Air Force Veteran, Husband, Dad, lifelong learner, and a striving corporate athlete.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2019.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Maryland at College Park, Criminal Justice.

Current Employer and Job Title: Johnson & Johnson, Director of Trade Operations.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being able to pivot after leaving the Active Duty Air Force and reinvent my personal brand for opportunities in the private sector was a significant challenge that never truly ends, but I view it as a substantial accomplishment. A relentless pursuit of increasing knowledge, exposure, and experience helped me succeed. One big achievement has been taking a leading role in Johnson & Johnson’s first gene therapy launch has been tremendously rewarding.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: While a grad student, I became a father, got a new job with a promotion, relocated from the D.C. area to New Jersey, and earned my CSCP certificate from APICS. The online approach to the program was essential for me to balance all those activities as a grad student.  I found balancing life, work, and school to be a substantial challenge and accomplishment, but it would have been nearly impossible without the online format. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Penn State Smeal College of Business is consistently ranked for its supply chain program. Penn State has several alumni who are global supply chain leaders. I looked to invest my time in a well-respected program in the industry where I would learn advanced supply chain concepts. Additionally, the electives’ flexibility and course schedule were perfect for what I was looking to accomplish.  

What led you to choose a Master’s in Supply Chain Management over an MBA? I wanted to spend my time learning about all aspects of the supply chain. I was certain I wanted to build my supply chain expertise and pursue a career in supply chain. The more I learned about supply chain, the more I realized that it is an essential part of business, and it has significant impacts on many of the other business functions. I believe that supply chain is a knowledge base that will continue to grow in importance in the coming years, and expertise in it will be highly valued.

What has been your favorite course, and how has it helped you in your career? Global Manufacturing and Service Operations. This fantastic class blended concepts from industrial engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain to use a quantitative approach to maximize output and efficiency. This class helped me establish a mindset on breaking down a complex process into individual pieces and looking at the entire flow to determine how to improve the overall. The case studies were challenging, the content was exciting, and it felt that it gave me a new set of tools to look at process challenges in everyday life and business. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Johnson & Johnson has a strong relationship with Penn State. Alumni networking, networking with classmates, and the career fairs were all opportunities that I leveraged to land a job there. Having classmates employed by so many different companies gave me a lot of opportunities to learn about people’s jobs, industries, and careers. Penn State helped me network, build credibility on my resume and master the interview process for one of the strongest supply chains in the Pharmaceutical industry. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? I learned a lot from my classmates and the unique supply chains of their organizations. My classmates were from all industries, from agriculture to healthcare and non-profits. Staying with my cohort enabled me to personally get to know each of them, which made team projects and assignments more fun and interesting. 

Who was your favorite faculty member, and how did this person enrich your learning? Penn State Smeal faculty member Saurabh Bansal taught Supply Chain Optimization, and it was a thought-provoking class. Saurabh’s experience working with the semiconductor industry and the case studies we completed throughout the course included several examples from the agriculture industry. These case studies not only taught me about an industry I was unfamiliar with but allowed me to work hands-on with the data and develop recommendations for a theoretical client. The engaging classroom environment that Saurabh facilitated was a wonderful experience that left me energized for completing the second year of the program. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? One of the best parts of the program is the sharing of experiences between classmates. As an applicant hoping to get into the program at Penn State, I recommend candidates plan to spend time throughout the program getting to know their classmates, learning and sharing both professional and personal experiences. I tremendously enjoyed a lot of the group work, simulations and assignments and the more you can engage, the more you will take from the program. 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? My best memory was the collective time spent in-residence in the classroom with classmates. Up to that point, I had been learning with my peers virtually for the first half of the program.  During the in-residence portion of the program, there were several interesting projects, assignments, and peer interactions. The opportunity to spend some in-person time with each other was gratifying.


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