2021 MBAs To Watch: Priya Gupta, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Priya Gupta

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Passionate about building ethical/equitable technology, helping communities thrive, and cooking soups of all types.”

Hometown: Syracuse, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I got an award at my last job for “Most concerts attended on a work night.”

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Southern California – BA International Relations (Global Business)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Intentional Futures, a boutique consulting firm where I was a Senior Strategist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Google’s gUP team, where I was a Product Support Manager Intern for Google Pay

Where will you be working after graduation? Google, back with gUP

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Student Government – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Chair
  • Business & Technology Club – Advisory Board Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This is ongoing, but I am proud to be collaborating with Tepper administration, classmates, and alumni on improving the school’s commitment to racial equity and DEI more broadly. I care deeply about creating an equitable experience for Tepper MBAs that also trains its students to be inclusive leaders, and am working to ensure that the work continues on once I’ve graduated.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Creating a framework in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s education team to guide their grantmaking strategy. It was the first project in which I played a more leading role. I had to facilitate conversations with 18 Foundation program officers and directors who were subject matter experts in their field for 10+ years. It was daunting, challenging, and inspiring. I learned not only about how to develop a unifying framework and how to facilitate change management, but also about deep challenges that students can face in pursuing an education. I take all of this knowledge into my work, as I seek to build products and services that bring us all up, not just a select few.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Tepper because I wanted to be at a school that represented the intersection of my three primary interests: technology innovation, business, and policy. Given Tepper’s place in CMU’s innovative ecosystem, technically knowledgeable professors, and close relationship with the Heinz School of Public Policy, I knew it would be a natural fit for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Taya Cohen did an amazing job teaching my Negotiations class. Beyond presenting insightful content in an engaging way, she also creates an environment that is inclusive and respectful of everyone’s preferred participation style. Her demeanor—a combination of professionalism, directness, and friendliness—went a long way in facilitating active engagement from each of my classmates. I greatly appreciated her perspective on important negotiations I was facilitating and plan to stay in touch with her.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Tepper Reads is a book club program run by our Accelerate Leadership Center (ALC). Business school is usually oriented around creating strategies, creating financial models, and developing your leadership skills. Tepper Reads is a very welcome focus on human nature and human stories; after all, we create products and services for people. The ALC intentionally picks books that are meant to expose us to important narratives, particularly those that have been historically marginalized. In spring 2020, we read Exit West and had the opportunity to speak with author Mohsin Hamid. Fall 2020 brought Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys and my classmates and I discussed the history behind Whitehead’s heartrending story. This spring, we are reading The Vanishing Half and I am very excited to hear from Brit Bennett herself at the end of the semester!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I might try one or two more case competitions. They are a great opportunity to learn how to think quickly and creatively, bond with classmates early on in the program, and meet students from other schools.

What surprised you the most about business school? Going in, I knew the MBA experience would be student-driven, but it was still amazing to live and breathe that with my classmates. You have a lot of control over how you want to challenge yourself, whether it’s in the classroom, club leadership, or student advocacy. The best part is that you can take risks that you might not otherwise take. Business school is truly the safest place to experiment, make mistakes or fail, and learn.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? In my application, I didn’t go after a role or an industry; I went after a mission. My long-term goal is to work in the field of AI and ethics. From that mission, I mapped out what I wanted to achieve in business school and the steps—academic and extracurricular—that would set me up for success. I’ll also give a quick plug for doing a dual degree. I’m pursuing an MBA and MSPPM (public policy). I am a firm believer that pursuing interdisciplinary study will naturally bring a unique and more holistic perspective to the MBA program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Melissa Bizzari is one of the most driven, empathetic, and thoughtful people I know. I remember being immediately impressed by her creative spirit when we participated in a weekend-long entrepreneurship hackathon. That was early on in our MBA program, and my admiration for her has only grown. Being in student government together—her as President, me as DEI Chair—we have both learned a great deal, particularly as we sought to help our classmates navigate COVID and participate in important conversations around racial injustice. Throughout that experience, she was consistently self-reflective on her leadership performance and—when necessary—would pivot her approach to become a better leader. Last but certainly not least, she is a big proponent of self-care. She always makes time to enjoy life and cultivate friendships. One of my favorite MBA memories is when she last-minute asked me if I would attend a concert for one of her favorite artists and we had an incredible time. During COVID, we take care of each other by sharing baked goods and sending each other funny videos on Instagram.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? From a logistical standpoint, COVID was not incredibly disruptive. I was impressed by how fast the Tepper faculty turned everything virtual. However, the shift certainly took an emotional toll. Focusing in class sometimes felt impossible, and the sense of community floundered a bit as we struggled with what the future of our MBA experience would be. However, we made the best of it, turning to Netflix watch parties, online games, and eventually physically distanced walks through Pittsburgh neighborhoods. In the fall, things felt easier as masking was normalized and clubs figured out how to host fun virtual events, like our program’s annual talent show.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom has always been a big proponent of education; she not only has her MD but also pursued an MPA and MPH part-time while working full-time and raising two children. It is from her that I gained my desire to always keep learning, whether formally or informally. When I found a more specific career path I was interested in pursuing, she and I had countless conversations around what skills and knowledge would serve me best. We collectively established that business school would equip me with the leadership and strategic skills for my career path, while policy school would help me refine a socio-political lens with which to approach my work.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top of my bucket list is to implement responsible and community-first innovation practices across a company. The second item is to lead a mentorship program to advance the next generation of innovative and inclusive leaders.

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

“Priya’s active engagement and commitment to inclusive excellence has made her an invaluable member of the Tepper School of Business. In her role as the GBA officer for diversity, equity and inclusion, Priya set a framework for creating an inclusive culture by providing support to affinity communities impacted by the various events of 2020. Her leadership in facilitating discussions on anti-Asian sentiment, uplifting the need for dialogue on police brutality and African American history, and leading the affinity club council, provided an opportunity to educate and empower her MBA peers as well as her campus colleagues.

Academically, Priya’s curiosity in how technology can serve people in an ethical and equitable manner led her to pursue a dual degree in public policy. This collaboration of technology and policy has provided her the tools to think holistically about how people’s lives can be impacted by innovation and policy development. Priya is a mentor and a leader amongst her peers and her extraordinary poise and professionalism draws the very best from those who have the pleasure to work with her.”

Colleen McMullen
Executive Director of Community and Inclusion
Tepper School of Business


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