2021 MBAs To Watch: Deepal Singh Chhabra, Michigan State (Broad)

Deepal Singh Chhabra

Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

“Spiritual seeker, meticulous professional, and a high-spirited individual.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India; Currently living in East Lansing, MI (US)

Fun fact about yourself: I am an active practitioner of the Sikh concept ‘Saint Soldier’ in that I love to meditate as well as train in martial art form ‘Jeet Kune Do’. While these activities seem contrasting to each other, they help me achieve same objective, i.e., increased level of awareness and discipline.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

School: Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India

Degree: Bachelor of Technology (Computer Science)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

Company: EY

Role: Senior Consultant

Location: Gurugram, India and Detroit, Michigan (US)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?

Company: Lam Research Corporation

Role: Supply Chain Intern

Location: Fremont, CA

Industry: Semiconductor

Where will you be working after graduation?

Company: o9 Solutions

Role: Business Operations Specialist

Location: Dallas, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Multicultural MBA Association (a key DE&I student resource group)
  • Vice President, Graduate Supply Chain Management Association
  • Graduate Assistant, Broad MBA Admissions
  • Broad Warrior Award (which recognizes the top 5% of Broad first-year MBA students)
  • Broad Bro Award (recognizing friendliest Broad first-year MBA students)
  • Active member of Broad Net Impact Club (a student resource group dedicated to the mission of social and environmental sustainability)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  One of the defining moments during my MBA was securing first position in the annual International Case Competition held at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. The competition was sponsored by Honeywell and related to a real supply chain problem it was facing. Representing the school on a global competition amidst the top-ranked business schools (more than 40) was a proud achievement for me. The experience wasn’t just special because of the quality of the participants and the depth of the analysis expected by the judges. It was also because it helped our team (5 MBAs from C/o 2021) put into use all supply chain concepts that we had learned through the course of our MBA. Working on the implementation part of our recommendation and tackling questions from the judges was the most fulfilling for me as it validated my primary reason of coming to Broad MBA – learning about the nuances of the modern supply chains and ways to make them more robust.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Consulting clients on their complex business problems was the key element of my professional career and one that provided me with a sense of fulfillment. However, the achievement I am most proud of is a project for which I was seconded to Michigan. Based on my experience, I was chosen to lead the project team (EY Detroit office) in demystifying the cybersecurity challenges that the State of Michigan was facing at the time. This 6-month long project tested me at various levels, including deconstructing the problem, mentoring the team, persuading key stakeholders to drive requisite process changes, and finally implementing the solution, Navigating the challenges that it brought along, we solved the problem and got the entire State of Michigan departments and systems compliant to the latest cybersecurity framework. The reason I was proud of this project is the impact and the sense of ownership I experienced. From appointment to execution, I was responsible not only for understanding client’s problem and addressing it, but also for mentoring the team to empower them for future projects of such kind and scale.

Why did you choose this business school? Broad College of Business (or Michigan State University as a whole) was a great culture fit for me in terms of the welcoming vibe, the small yet diverse cohort, and the team-focus. What really inspired me about the school was its proven track record of providing world-class quality of supply chain education. Be it the ranking of the program, the placement history, or the professional accolades of the faculty, everything about MSU Supply Chain was unparalleled. I found a true overlap of technology and business in the MBA curriculum during my research, and it was strong enough a reason for me to choose Broad.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The first mega event that I was a part of has been the best so far for me – Diwali. Diwali is an Indian festival that signifies the victory of light over darkness or knowledge over ignorance and was celebrated by the diverse MBA body (more than 11 nationalities) with great pomp and show. I was amazed at how the students who were not from Indian descent participated whole-heartedly and were curious to learn more about the event. This reflected the vibe of the school – welcoming, warm and celebrating diversity in cultures. Inspired by the event, I ran for the executive position in the sponsoring student resource group – Multicultural MBA Association, and am so fortunate to lead the group as its president.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The MBA has taught me how to manage my time, priorities and relationships well. This realization came along the way and I wish I knew two things before I came for my MBA – The power of Networking and the importance of being prepared. If I were to go back in time, I would start my networking even before I start my MBA and then accelerate the same during the program. Talking to current students and alumni, especially for an international candidate, gives you a unique perspective of what could go wrong and what could you do to make the most of your MBA experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? My research about Broad College of Business informed of its superior quality of supply chain curriculum and I was under the impression that it is one of the best schools for supply chain management. While my understanding was correct, it was not complete. When I came to the school, I realized that the quality of its Human Resource Strategy is equally superior. MBAs are expected to be great at managing people and I am glad I got an opportunity to study those subjects from the distinguished faculty – Dr. Hollenbeck and Dr. Wagner.

What surprised you the most about business school? I grew up in an environment where getting into an MBA program was more of a competition than a purpose. I always assumed a business school would mean sleepless nights, fierce competition, and a race to find the best employment. What surprised me about the school was the collaborative spirit, and a sense of empowering each other to find their dream jobs. The support from the MBA office, peers, professors, and alumni was exceptional. Surprisingly enough, I got better sleep scores (on my Fitbit) during my MBA than before.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One of the things I did during my application process was to highlight the alignment of my values and career aspirations with the Broad values. My familiarity with and love for Michigan (based on my work visit prior to MBA) trickled through my application as well as my interview with the Admissions office. What really helped me was John Byrne’s video interview with Associate Dean at Broad College of Business (Cheri DeClercq), where Cheri spoke about the welcoming culture at Broad and the unique problem-solving driven innovation. I gathered experiences from my professional journey that resonated with how Broad operates and weaved them into my application. I researched profiles of key leaders in my preferred industry and function, and read anecdotes of those who made a similar career switch after MBA. This helped me tailor the curriculum to my needs and eventually helped me secure a job that is a unique blend of supply chain consulting with a focus on Technology industry.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA would not have been the same without this member of my MBA core team – Chelsi Riordan. Not only is she a dear friend, but also an inspiration to me and to the entire class of 2021. Apart from her academic brilliance, she is a live wire of the MBA program. She is a peer coach, a student mentor, a leader at various student resource groups, the most sought-after candidate for student panels, a participant at every in-person and virtual event, and the chosen one for any moderator role during any mega event. Besides those interesting assignments, team presentations, and enjoyable gatherings outside of classroom, she helped me with my interview preparation and was one of the key reasons I secured such an exciting internship opportunity. She is the perfect example of ‘You Only Live Once’.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?  At first, everything came to a near standstill with internships being rescinded and instruction mode going online. However, the new normal brought with itself certain blessings. The networking with the recruiters, the guest speakers, and the tech treks – everything was now just a click away. The business school authorities were very robust and agile in making the transition to new instruction mode as seamless as possible. Professors were ready with their online course content and adjusted evaluation criteria; the MBA office was willing to offer financial provisions for those in need; the MBA student community offered little to no resistance in accepting the changes; and recruiters were ready to host virtual sessions to engage. In essence, the shift, though upsetting because of its nature, was made seamless through the cooperation of MBA office and student community.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My decision to pursue an MBA was largely influenced by my father who did his MBA (Finance) at the age of 45. His dedication to constant learning, the vast business knowledge he amassed, and the advice he gave to me when I was still in the early stages of my career, were the softer motivation drivers for me to pursue an MBA. He firmly believed in challenging one’s self to spring out of one’s comfort zone and advised me that investing in education is one of the greatest ways to accomplish such challenge.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The two things on my professional bucket list are the following:

1) Work in Africa to complete the World Loop: Prior to MBA, the consulting journey blessed me with an opportunity to work in 4 of 5 continents, helping clients from different industries. I would like to work on a consulting assignment in Africa to cover the 5th continent and close the loop.

2) Be a Diversity Leader: My exposure to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives at school and the recent global events helped me realize the importance of diversity at workplace. Coming from a minority group (Sikh) myself, I aspire to grow into a leader in DE&I space and help foster a culture of empowerment and opportunity.

What made Deepal such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021

“Deepal has worked tirelessly to support the student community through his leadership roles as the President, MBA Multicultural Association, and as a graduate assistant on the admissions team. Through a number of professional transitions, Deepal’s efforts helped the admission team continue their outreach mission, meeting several admissions targets.  In his time @ Broad, Deepal has led his student organization to create more engagement opportunities to not only educate colleagues through developing educational content, but he has also led the Multicultural Association towards two new foci:  an enhanced presence in onboarding incoming international students as well as a direct interface with the program office on the processing of visas/CPT/OPT requirements.

In addition to his exceptional academic record, Deepal was part of the competition team that won the Tepper SCM competition for the Broad MBA program; the best showing in a competition in over nine years. In a traditional year, these achievements would be seen as superlative. For Deepal to make the most of these experiences, with this level of success, is simply exceptional. We celebrate his achievements and are excited to see his next steps!”

Wayne R. Hutchison, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Full-Time MBA


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