Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Vineetha Athrey, Duke University (Fuqua)

Vineetha Athrey

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Passionate, curious, highly optimistic and driven to improve the lives of those who don’t have the opportunities that I do!”

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: My book was rejected by 13 publishers because they found the title Sexy Successful Spiritual’ too bold and shocking for the conservative Indian mindset! Most of them warned me that if I aspire to ever marry an Indian man, I should not publish a book with the word ‘sex’ in its title!

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science), Visvesvaraya Technological University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Founder & CEO, Vineetha Athrey Consultants – Content Advisory Leadership

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? It is very hard to pick just one paired principle, but Impactful Stewardship speaks to my heart! I believe that the core purpose of education lies in our awareness and commitment to use our intellect and talent for impacting the lives of others. As a person, I strive to engage deeply with the communities I am part of – learning from the lives, hopes and dreams of its people in order to serve them meaningfully. Being a Keller Scholar at Fuqua gives me a truly exciting opportunity to form authentic connections within the Fuqua community, support my classmates as they bring forth their highest potential, and harness our collective talents to move the needle for something that will go beyond our individual lives!.

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?

Values: Fuqua is really distinctive! There was a striking match in the values I shared with the school; values of absolute respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, while striving together to accomplish key common goals. “Team Fuqua” is not just a nice catchphrase but something that lives in the lifeblood of the school.

True leadership: The program is geared to amplify not only our IQ and EQ, but also DQ – Decency Quotient. Fuqua prioritizes developing leaders who are not only smart, but also have the inner will to do right by their teams, companies, and communities. This sealed the decision for me! It reflects in a novel and industry-leading curriculum, where, in the very first month, we dive deep into leadership, entrepreneurial thinking, and technological fluency – setting an important foundation for becoming leaders of consequence.

Authentic connections: When I was researching schools, Fuqua students and alumni were among the nicest! They had long conversations with me and were truly invested in my success. I knew they were the kind of people I would be friends with, regardless of which school I eventually chose to attend. The fact that Fuqua prioritizes choosing students who exhibit these values of authenticity, deep engagement and care seemed like a perfect setting to learn and stretch myself while building strong relationships.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? The one quality that jumps out is their natural inclination to support and collaborate! My classmates are truly invested in each other’s success. Given our unique pre-MBA experience this year due to Covid-19, even routine things like immunization became challenging as access to hospitals was restricted.

Having highly supportive classmates who eagerly shared their experiences and learnings in every step of this process helped tremendously! Case in point, when I had to take an early morning flight for my visa interview, two of my classmates promptly called me at 4 a.m. just to ensure that I didn’t miss it. That’s how REAL the Team Fuqua spirit is! They have my back and it gives me wings to fly. And in turn, I do the same for them! It’s in the ethos of the school.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m particularly excited about joining the Association of Women in Business and contributing to the Women’s Leadership Conference! I am passionate about supporting fellow women and have, over the last 10 years, mentored 100+ young women on their journey to becoming who they aspire to be. I see myself getting deeply involved with AWIB as a continuation of my commitment to this cause.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It is so difficult to pick just one! Tracking a $3-billion illegal mining scam in India as a financial journalist for CNBC-TV18 was definitely challenging. It was considered a dangerous sector to track, especially for a woman journalist, as it meant taking on some very powerful people. It was a test of my courage, perseverance, and my personal spirit of justice! Initially, I was scared. But I pushed on despite death threats, building a solid network of sources across the industry and bureaucracy. I managed to break a majority of the stories of this scam over 18 months, cementing CNBC’s leadership position in the coverage of the scam and also winning prestigious awards. This experience drove home a key lesson in harnessing the power of networks and teams for tackling insurmountable challenges – a lesson that will no doubt be useful at Fuqua and beyond!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After 7 years in the media industry as a financial journalist for CNBC (and an author), I started a boutique consulting company where I offered content-based solutions and leadership development for brands. It was exhilarating to go from being a journalist who reported on business to sinking my teeth into actively helping companies! I found that I loved solving problems and building strong relationships with clients. Having done this in a niche domain, I wanted to expand the scope of my work even further. I felt the need to bolster my experiences and skills with foundational business knowledge and a diverse, international network through an MBA. Based on my goals and personal values, I found Fuqua to be a perfect fit.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Columbia, UCLA, and Ross

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? If I spoke to your former bosses, what would they say are your key strengths and how do these qualities line up against those you believe are critical to strong leaders?

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school?  Starting this new phase is very exciting! In order to prepare myself for a successful MBA experience, I wanted to learn from the thinking and decision-making of successful business leaders directly. I tapped into my network and interviewed CXOs to learn from their experiences. It was a fascinating summer!

I am an avid reader, and caught up on the biographies of people I admire such as Bob Iger (The Ride of a Lifetime) and Katherine Graham (Personal History). It was a great way to reflect on the mindset for winning big bets while doing right by all stakeholders.

I also spent some time expanding my cooking skills in the hopes that this will come in handy when I host socially distanced dinners for friends and classmates in Durham!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? When my father suffered a massive heart attack in November of 2015, not having health insurance bled our family finances. I sought to correct this anomaly by getting him insured, but was rejected by 30 insurance providers, citing his advanced age. I refused to give up and employed my market-research and analysis skills (that I had built up as a financial journalist), to do an in-depth analysis of the insurance industry in India. I built a decision-making framework and negotiated with a hostile group of underwriters to eventually get him insured! The best part is, impressed by its usefulness, several insurance brokers across South India have since embraced this framework for advising senior clients.

This was a defining moment for me, as it made me recognize my own ability to solve big, overarching problems. Solving this problem successfully for my father, and subsequently for others like him, made a light bulb go off in my head! I realized that in order to serve others effectively and make the most of my potential, I must go back to school and bolster my experiences with core business and managerial skills.

DON’T MISS: Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class of 2022