2021 MBAs To Watch: Prateek Sinha, University of Virginia (Darden)

Prateek Sinha   

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Committed to making the world better through compassion and curiosity.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: When I was younger, the Jurassic Park movies inspired me to want to grow up to be a dinosaur (I still wish I could be a T-Rex).

Undergraduate School and Degree: National University of Singapore – Bachelor of Engineering Hons. (Mechanical Engineering)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cummins Inc. – Regional Sales Specialist (South-East Asia)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Danaher (Hach) – Loveland, Colorado

Where will you be working after graduation? I shall be returning to Danaher (Hach) as part of their General Management Development Program.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP-Events for the General Management and Operations Club
  • VP-Events for the Technology Club
  • Board member of the Humans of Darden
  • Member of the MBA Program Advisory Council
  • Member of the Darden Student Experience Committee
  • Recipient of the Ernest & Patricia Wuliger Merit Scholarship
  • Recipient of the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I love organizing large scale events. One of my main goals prior to coming to Darden was to utilize my experience to help all students build connections with alumni and professionals. Through my VP-Events roles with the General Management and Operations (GMO) Club and the Technology Club, I got to work with a team of fabulous peers to put together three major events: MGMT (Marketing, General Management, and Technology) conference, Tech Week and GMO Week. Taking full advantage of the virtual platforms, we engaged over fifty alumni and senior leaders from over twenty companies and a majority of the Darden community. What was most satisfying was to see how these events helped me and my peers build new connections and leverage them to secure jobs and internships over subsequent months.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the impact I had on our Myanmar sales team during my time at Cummins. I played a key role in helping establish and grow our sales team and their capabilities. Spending up to three weeks a month in Myanmar for one year helped me build strong relationships with the team, understand their motivations, and work with them to secure new clients. The role gave me a glimpse into what qualities would help senior leaders succeed – getting up to speed rapidly, working with new cultures and languages, navigating interpersonal and team dynamics, and managing multiple stakeholders across functions in a matrix organization. The fact that the team continues to use my improvements and has grown from strength to strength since I left, gives me immense pride. I leaned heavily on this experience to put my MBA coursework into context.

Why did you choose this business school? When people talk about fit, it can seem a very nebulous concept. Darden proved how carefully thinking about fit can make a world of difference to one’s MBA experience. As I was introspecting during the applications phase, I realized I do better in a more active form of learning like projects and case studies, put my best self forward in small and close-knit communities, and what I wanted most out of my MBA was to rapidly expand my knowledge. Darden checked all the boxes emphatically. My experience thus far has vindicated my decision.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is hard to pick just one professor, but if I had to, I’d say Professor Lalin Anik is my favorite. I say this because Lalin is not just a fantastic professor, but she went out of her way to get to know her students at a personal level. Marketing is one of the first courses we do in our sections during Darden’s core curriculum. Lalin’s classes were a performance where she brought out the best in all of us, even as we were unsure and figuring out business school. She held open office hours for students to drop by and chat about anything, which we all enthusiastically did. Lalin’s questions always made us stop and introspect, and think about ourselves and our experiences deeply. At the end of the course, every one of us got a hand-written note from her (that I still have). Even now, she continues to look out for students. She asked us, the second years, to reach out to those first years who could not make it to Charlottesville and invite them into the Darden community. Her genuine interest in all students makes her stand out.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? COVID-19 has left a lot of my MBA ambitions unfulfilled. A major impact was not having enough time to network with second years when I was a first year. The plan was to take the first six months of B-school to focus on academics and recruitment and, after securing the internship, reach out and get to know second years. That plan fell by the wayside as COVID-19 moved us to the unfamiliar virtual format. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have prioritized getting to know my seniors right from day one.

What is the biggest myth about your school?  The biggest myth I feel is that Darden, especially the first-year core curriculum, is too hard and not applicable to all career tracks. While it is hard, the support structures in place – professors, learning teams, section peers – make the learning process fun and manageable. The core curriculum helped me build a solid foundation across subjects that I had never been exposed to like accounting. I saw later how the cross-disciplinary exposure was instrumental in succeeding during my internship.

What surprised you the most about business school? While I was prepared to learn a lot, I was surprised by the extreme pace of exposure and development that came with business school. I never expected it to help me become comfortable with failures and rejections. A favorite example of mine is networking during recruiting. I was terrible at it and my initial efforts yielded poor results. But as I was exposed to new ideas and learned from my peers and the community, I was able to get the results I wanted. Business school throws you into the deep end, but at Darden you are not alone. Your peers, faculty, and staff are always willing to take time out to help you on your journey.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I tend to interview well and wanted to leverage that strength. Knowing that Darden was a perfect fit for what I wanted out of an MBA experience, I took full advantage of the early admission round. The early admission round helped me schedule an interview that enabled me to showcase my best self and complement my application.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I had to pick one from my amazing MBA classmates, I’ll give a shout out to Nikita Sachan. In what has been an incredibly hectic and fast-paced two years, which was also impacted by Covid-19, Nikita constantly reminds me and our peers to appreciate the small moments and enjoy the experience of life. Her resilience shone through as she successfully navigated rescinded offers, and never once stopped in her efforts to bring the community closer. She frequently creates opportunities for community engagement through events and impromptu activities like dinners and hikes. She also inspired me to foster kittens from the local SPCA last winter. I admire her for being true to herself and being the positive light the Darden community can count on.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The shift after COVID was quite disruptive. It changed all my plans and how I envisioned the rest of my MBA coming out of three quarters of core curriculum. Our class felt the decline in personal interactions and limited opportunities to meet new people, as we tried to figure out how to navigate remote learning. From an academic perspective, the shift was surprisingly straightforward. The faculty and staff at Darden did a great job adapting and delivering content across virtual and hybrid formats, far exceeding expectations. The community also banded together to create new opportunities for social and recruitment interactions. As we became familiar with the format, you could notice the increase in opportunities for engaging with the community. For me, the hybrid format was a game-changer, returning some semblance of normalcy and familiarity to the MBA experience in my second year.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father inspired me to pursue an MBA. I saw him leverage his knowledge and the network of one of India’s top b-schools to grow into leadership positions. When I realized I wanted to take up leadership roles, I saw the need for broad business exposure and people management skills an MBA imparts, similar to what my father had. My experience at Darden has proven my father right that my engineering background is well complemented by business education.

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

  • Lead a truly global team with members from every continent
  • Leverage my network and my expertise to launch a Greentech startup helping companies achieve their sustainability goals

What made Prateek such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Prateek has a unique combination of traits that make him a joy in the classroom and will inevitably make him an impressive leader in the future. He has the courage to say what he truly feels in a way that welcomes dialogue, and he is receptive to the insights of others. When you combine that with his agile mind, sharp insights, strong character and incredible work ethic it makes for quite a combination. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Prateek!”

Sean Martin
Darden Professor



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