2021 MBAs To Watch: Alina Dattagupta, University of Texas (McCombs)

Alina Dattagupta

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Fun-loving and energetic, I’m inspired by my loved ones and passionate about empowering others.”

Hometown: College Station, TX

Fun fact about yourself:

  1. I am a group fitness fanatic – I started taking a cardio kickboxing class called Body Combat when I was 15 years old and now I’m an instructor!
  2. In my past role as an engineer, my products were the structural adhesives that held airplane parts together.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rice University, B.S. Chemical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? 3M, Advanced Manufacturing Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Johnson & Johnson, Vision Care Marketing MBA Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Johnson & Johnson, Associate Brand Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-President, Graduate Women in Business (GWIB)
  • VP of Recruitment, Marketing Fellows
  • VP of Marketing Conference, Graduate Marketing Network (GMN)
  • Marketing Career Fellow
  • Marketing MBA Intern, Kibo Foods
  • BodyCombat Group Fitness Instructor, Gold’s Gym

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest extracurricular achievement was as GWIB Co-President. My Co-President and I were able to build upon the work of previous boards and create more intimate conversations through the initiation of our Women’s Health Series. We leveraged members of our McCombs and Austin community to present on topics such as “Racial Inequality in Maternal Health,” “Mental Health,” and “Egg Freezing and Fertility”. These conversations made us feel even closer together as a community since we were able to learn about more personal experiences. We also rebranded our Allyship program from Male Engagement so that all were welcome to join in the conversations we had at GWIB, and we leveraged our close partnerships with other affinity groups, especially eQual MBAs (McCombs LGBTQ+ organization) and Consortium, to increase diversity in our programming.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement was seeing my personal and professional growth as the only woman manufacturing engineer in my department at 3M’s plant in Springfield, MO. I learned how to build the trust of my machine operators who were much more experienced than me and felt apprehensive after seeing so many engineers come and go. While gaining their trust and proving myself was not easy at first, I would go out to the floor every day and spend time working the lines with them, asking them for their feedback and improvement ideas, and getting to know them personally. Eventually they became like my family and they took me under their wings to train me to be the engineer I am proud to be today. We worked together to make improvements on my machines and products that had not been made before! In this role I was able to learn first-hand about the importance of building trust with your teammates and allyship, and I became passionate about empowering women in STEM fields.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose McCombs, as cliché as it sounds, for the people. McCombs has the reputation of being extremely collaborative and supportive. I wanted to ensure that I had an environment in school where it felt like a family, especially after being in the workforce and coming back to school for this new phase of life. McCombs has not disappointed. The class size of 260 along with the specialized McCombs experiences allow you to find your people who want to take the MBA at the same pace as you!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Professor Steve Brister. Professor Brister teaches Strategic Branding and Marketing Fellows and he really challenges you to bring in both your perspectives from outside the classroom and to share them with each other so that you can learn from diverse experiences. He uses relevant cases and real-life examples to enhance your learning and apply them through a semester long project. Aside from class, Professor Brister gets to know each student on a personal level and provides honest feedback to mentor you on how you can improve and become a better marketer; that advice has been invaluable to me throughout my internship and beyond.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event is Marketing Camp, typically on the first Friday of the school year. Marketing Camp is organized by the Marketing Fellows program. At the camp, there are industry professionals, current 2nd year students, and a mock case competition all to introduce 1st years to marketing at McCombs. The programming is always on point and does a great job making you feel welcome in the community. It is also a great way to make friends during your first week of school and meet new people! My friends that I made during Marketing Camp are still on my MBA journey with me today and we always bond over that first case competition!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and   why? I would have made the most of the events that took place outside of the classroom my first year! Because of exams, I often would say, “Oh, I’ll go to ACL next year” or “Oh, I’ll go to the Texas versus OU game next year.” However, I should have just seized the day and gone because during my 2nd year both events were not the same due to COVID. Overall, I learned a much bigger lesson on the importance of living in the moment! On the flip side, I also learned that it’s okay to say no. During your MBA, there is always so much going on between organization events, company events, social events, and just getting to know everyone. As a result, it’s easy to feel like you are missing out especially at the beginning if you say no. But I learned the importance of choosing with intention — trading the no for a yes down the line and ensuring that I’m going to things I want to go to, not because I feel like I have to go!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about McCombs is that the jobs are limited to Texas after your MBA. I would say that there are so many out-of-state opportunities if you’d like them, but people end up falling in love with the city of Austin and choosing to stay!

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised by how business school filled in the gaps from my work life and just how important past experiences were in shaping the in-classroom experience. In my professional life as an engineer, I worked so much on the granular details and projects focusing on day-to-day process improvements, not knowing the “why” behind every metric. Business school helped me understand a business at a wider lens and in a holistic manner that helped fill in the gaps of the “why”. A big part of that was learning about past experiences of my classmates as well as sharing my own so that we could understand these concepts in different industries and roles as well.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think applicants tend to get caught up in the names and rankings of schools, but then miss out on the big opportunity to think introspectively and look at the bigger picture. Just like a job, the best way to get to know a school is through the interview and talking to people who go there about what they really like about it because every school has its own culture, and every person is different. So what gave me an edge is the fact that I really thought about where I was in my career and then what I wanted an MBA to do to enhance my career. I saw all that McCombs with its experiential learning experiences such as Marketing Fellows, its Austin ecosystem that allows you to try and fail at new things, and its small class sizes where you can truly learn from each-others experiences gave me clear reasons why I wanted to be here

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is such a tough one because I admire so many of my classmates for teaching me so much throughout this journey. If I had to pick one, it would be Sarah Thomson. Sarah was my Graduate Women in Business Co-President and I am also so lucky to call her one of my best friends. When we first became Co-Presidents, we were just two women who had a shared platform. Over the year as we got closer, we became two women passionate about breaking barriers and I owe that all to her. She is someone that I look up to in so many ways. She has a passion that is contagious because she is always willing to challenge the status-quo. She also possesses the patience to teach me new concepts about life and the world, and the love to make anyone feel empowered to do anything. Sarah never judges and is always willing to listen, process, and then take a stand. I am constantly in awe by her grace and hard work. My MBA experience would not have been as transformative and I would not have grown as much if it hadn’t been for her.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The shift to online after COVID hit was extremely disruptive. I’m a very social person and am motivated by those around me so at first it was definitely isolating but what helped was the fact that everyone was going through the same shift. When we all eventually found a stride, we were able to balance staying in touch to maintain personal and professional relationships, organize virtual events, and understand our Zoom fatigue thresholds. One positive from this was the flexibility to attend school from anywhere, so I had the opportunity to spend additional time living with my family in my hometown — an opportunity I never thought I’d get in my adult life!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents definitely influenced my decision to pursue business school. They saw that I had become comfortable in my work life, but that I strived to make a larger impact. While it was scary to take the leap to leave behind the life I had worked so hard to create, they supported me through the transition and encouraged me to continue to challenge myself so that I could reach my future career goals. They will always be my role models because they instilled in me the importance of self-growth and constant learning. I’m grateful that they influenced my decision to come back and complement my engineering background with business acumen.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? As a corporate leader I’d like to continue to mentor and recruit women in STEM roles to help them feel a part of a larger community.

I’d like to bridge the gap between engineers and the business team at a company. I think often there is a disconnect between them due to lack of goal congruence and visibility. I’d like to help highlight that to ensure the teams are aligned and understand each other through encouraging manufacturing plant visits, joint team meetings, and informal feedback sessions because bridging this gap presents a great learning opportunity for both sides.

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

“With a welcoming smile and a magnetic personality, Alina embodies the “famously friendly” culture that we are known for at McCombs. Her pandemic superpower is a personality that lights up the Zoom. While students who build bridges and forge connections are a foundational element to our culture in a normal year, this was of immeasurable value this year when it involved intentionality, effort, and creativity. Alina’s ability to draw in her peers helped fortify the social ecosystem of the program.

Alina carried this strategic art of connecting into all of her leadership roles in the school. As co-president of the Graduate Women in Business student organization, Alina drove initiatives of inclusivity and intersectionality to create programing that actively engaged students. As VP of Recruitment for Marketing Fellows and VP of the Marketing Conference, Alina created opportunities for her peers to engage with local businesses. As a Career Fellow and mentor to 1YR students, you could count on her to treat classmates with kindness, while also providing actionable feedback.

Marketing Professor Steve Brister says: “Alina is one of the brightest students I’ve ever worked with, both in intelligence and in positive energy. Her presence lights up the classroom – and Zoom room – with enthusiasm and with support for her fellow students.” 

According to one of her classmates, “Alina is the most humble and caring person that I know.  Ask anyone at McCombs, and they’ll tell you that she goes above and beyond to make us all feel like we are a community- she offers guidance and support. I can honestly say that learning alongside Alina has really enhanced my McCombs experience. She’s taught me how to be a better leader and a better person.”

Alina will be a strong business leader because talent will be drawn to her wherever she goes, and she will create inclusive and inspired culture that builds world-class teams.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean and Program Director, Full-time MBA Program
The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


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