2021 MBAs To Watch: Khushi Vijayakumar, University of Rochester (Simon)

Khushi Vijayakumar

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

Young, scrappy and hungry. South Asian woman with the audacity to hope and break barriers.”

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun fact about yourself: I am lucky to be alive! I have escaped unscathed from four natural disasters (tsunami, typhoon, cyclone, earthquake) and three road accidents.

Undergraduate School and Degree: National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, Surathkal; B.Tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Nomura, Associate (Equity Structuring)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? William Blair, Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? William Blair, Investment Banking Associate in the Services & Industrials group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:  My vision at Simon was to leave behind a legacy that impacted every aspect of Simon – academic and extracurricular for prospective, incoming and current students.

  • Simon Coach – I was nominated by my peers and selected by Simon faculty to an applied leadership program where I serve as a mentor for a group of first year MBA students. The pandemic made new students feel siloed and I acted as the glue to help them navigate their moves from across the world to settle in Rochester and understand the cultural nuances of their new life.
  • Portfolio Manager, Simon School Venture Fund – I built partnerships across the University of Rochester to assist portfolio companies of the fund. It was especially curated to assist during the pandemic, but will be continued over the years due to the overwhelming benefits observed.
  • Admissions Ambassador – I conducted webinars and represented Simon at MBA admissions conferences to share my experience with prospective students and give them a better idea of what it means to get an MBA at Simon.
  • Director, Meliora Fund – Managed operations for a $2M student led investment fund.
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant – TA for three courses. Selected to assist Prof Ron Kaniel (Capital Budgeting), Prof Jim Brickley (Competitive Strategy) and Prof. Glenn Huels (Accounting).
  • Forte Fellowship – Merit based fellowship awarded to women exhibiting exemplary leadership.
  • Goldman Sachs Scholarship – Awarded to an outstanding MBA student who has demonstrated an interest and capacity for success in the area of finance.
  • Dean’s List – Awarded for academic excellence.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As the Portfolio Manager of the student run venture capital fund, Simon School Venture Fund, I led a follow-on investment in an energy company impacting climate change. This achievement was landmark to me for many reasons. First, I was able to leverage my classroom learning and apply it to the analysis of a real-world business. Second, I was able to convince an esteemed Board of Investors to invest in this company during a pandemic year in an uncertain economy.  Lastly, I was creating social impact by addressing the need of the hour – climate change, a topic dear to me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The day I received my investment banking internship offer from William Blair was the proudest moment of my professional career. I had moved to the United States to pursue an MBA less than 2 months prior to this day. I was dewy eyed and hopeful of the promises this land holds. While the recruitment for investment banking is one of the most challenging journeys in an MBA, I had the added pressure of adjusting to a new country, understanding the culture and the brand-new recruitment process.

I was elated when I got the internship offer as it was the first bank I had interviewed with. Additionally, I was the first in my class to land an internship offer as an international student and on the investment banking track. The risk I had taken to uproot my life, leave the comfort of my home country and a well-paying job, to invest in myself, felt worth it on that day.

Why did you choose this business school? Simon epitomized ‘poet and quant’ to me. Simon’s quantitative approach to leadership and business education appealed to me as I was a banker by day (and night!) and a theatre artist over the weekend. I think through numbers and am expressive with words. I wanted to elevate both these facets and bring my whole self to my post MBA career. There was no better option than Simon with its MBA being the first STEM designated MBA.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Urs Waelchli taught me both Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurial Finance in March 2020. His clarity of thought and simplification of concepts amazed me. He brought in ongoing real-world cases to explain complex concepts and drive thoughtful discussions. His depth of knowledge coupled with his lively demeanor, helped 8 hours of classes per week with the same professor go by in the blink of an eye.

He deserves a special mention because Prof. Urs took classes from Switzerland, his home country, at insanely odd hours as COVID had just struck the US and we were abruptly moved into the virtual world. His energy and enthusiasm during class never once showed that the hours of his delivery may have been exhausting for him.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Every year, Simon celebrates Diwali – an Indian festival well known as the festival of lights. While the festival is close to my heart, it gained a new meaning when I saw all my classmates from different countries, races, and ethnicities come together to sing, dance and relish the delicacies. This was the moment Simon became home and classmates became family.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would allow myself to be more vulnerable right from the start of my MBA experience. I came with my guard up, thinking I was being judged for who I was. I learned over the course of my time that the more vulnerable I am, the more I have to gain from the MBA experience. I was only being assessed to receive the appropriate tools I needed for my wholesome growth as a leader. The more I opened up about my strengths and weaknesses, the more I was appreciated and supported.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A myth about Simon is that it is a finance-focused school. While Simon has great many names high up on Wall Street, I believe the academics, career support and extra curriculars at Simon are well balanced. Whether one wants to pursue Real Estate or Product Management or Pricing, there are clubs catering to all the varied interests of students.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was the diversity of thought in the small class size. This tight knit community has the most diverse set of individuals across a breadth of cultures, countries, and backgrounds. No wonder they were named the #1 most diverse top 50 MBA Program by US News. When all these perspectives are brought under one roof or one Zoom link, the amalgamation creates a world view and leaders who appreciate diverse opinions on the table.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spoke to current and past students of Simon. I asked plenty of questions to obtain, what I now know are, honest answers. It helped me ascertain my fit and ensured I had a very good understanding of what I was signing up for.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Hawa Sultani – she embodies Boss Woman. As an Afghan – American woman, she promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a visionary leader and has a clarity of thought that I greatly admire. She was also named Simon’s Community Builder, an apt title as she strives to go above and beyond to empower those around her. She has been phenomenal in drawing out and recognizing my leadership strengths and capabilities. She is truly a force to reckon with. 

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The disruption was real but short-lived. I was displaced as I was traveling for spring break when lockdown was announced. I only had with me a small backpack with 3 pairs of clothes when I was supposed to start virtual school. My friends helped ship my essentials to me and school acted as a great support by constantly checking up on me. The transition beyond this hiccup was seamless. Faculty and staff were quick in adapting to the ‘new normal’ of remote learning, enabling us future leaders see a real example of leadership and agility.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My 22-year-old self, most influenced my decision to get an MBA. I fearlessly pivoted from the world of engineering to the world of finance at that young age with no knowledge of the ABCs of finance.

In the five years that followed, I learned all the tricks of the trade and was yearning to expand my horizons. I knew business school was an excellent way to challenge myself on a global stage and become a world leader. I was afraid to take the leap and redefine myself, while letting go of a life I’d just built.

Remembering my 22-year-old self, I was emboldened. After all, I had indeed navigated a challenging career move in the past. In the words of Paulo Coelho – “If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello”. With that in mind, I decided to take the plunge.

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

  1. I want to be interviewed on CNBC Squawk Box.
  2. I want to start a Venture capital fund. Hopefully have my own version of Shark Tank – ‘Ka-ching with Khushi!’

Not sure if it is the actor in me but I would love to be on TV and have big billboards talking about the change I am pioneering.

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

“Khushi has been an amazing addition to our MBA community over the past two years.  Her prior education in Materials Engineering and her pre-MBA work experience based in Mumbai, India at Nomura Structured Finance in their Asset and Equity Structuring – Global Markets team provided a unique and diverse background that added value to her classmate’s learning.

Khushi initially served as an analyst and now serves as a Portfolio Manager for the Simon School Venture Fund (SSVF). Through her leadership and involvement, the SSVF has forged new partnerships across the University of Rochester and pivoted the fund to include support for a portfolio of companies post-investment. The SSVF has also focused specifically on EDI, including partnering on pipeline initiatives that utilize MBA students to provide Entrepreneurship and Economics training to 5th and 6th grade students in the Rochester City School district, who are under-served. The SSVF is also working on a Shark Tank program with supporting curriculum and mentorship to encourage these younger students to meet their full potential.

Khushi has also served as an Admissions Ambassador, participating in recruiting events (in person and virtual) with prospective students during her time at Simon. She also regularly connects with prospective students through phone calls, email, and webinars to share the Simon value proposition and her unique experiences with MBA candidates.

Finally, Khushi has been involved in several internal and external case competitions including the Cornell Stock Pitch Challenge, the Simon Business School Thruway case competition, the Green India Innovation Challenge and the Meliora Fund Stock Pitch Challenge. While it is hard to believe Khushi has any additional free time, she has also worked as an analyst on the Meliora Fund – a student led fund that invests in public equity and she now serves on the board of the fund during her second year of the program.  Khushi has served as a Teaching Assistant for 3 courses, as well as a Business Communications second year coach to support student learning in our mandatory first year communications course.

During her MBA, Khushi worked at William Blair as an investment banking summer intern. After graduating from Simon, Khushi will return to William Blair.

As you can see, Khushi has worked tirelessly to create a legacy that will far out-live her MBA experience, and she has positively impacted the Simon Business School community. She is extremely well-liked by fellow classmates because she is among the first to volunteer her time to support their personal or professional endeavors.”

Rebekah Lewin, MBA 2002 
Sr. Assistant Dean of Admissions & Programs 



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