2021 MBAs To Watch: Sachin Suresh Pai, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Sachin Suresh Pai

Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

“Proactive analytical thinker who likes to break down complex problems into simple parts.”

Hometown: Mangalore, Karnataka

Fun fact about yourself: I cycled 14 miles in Mumbai without any kind of practice. My muscles ache even when I think about it today.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Technology, Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Calicut

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked at Larsen and Toubro Limited (L&T) in the defense manufacturing business unit. As an assistant manager with the project management group. I handled both deliverable projects for clients and internal R&D projects. As a project manager, I was actively responsible for managing project timelines, being the liaison with the customer, and implementing new methods of manufacturing.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? I interned with Amazon as a Pathways intern. The internship was supposed to in San Marcos, Texas, but it was remote due to COVID-19. The Pathways internship program is one of the few leadership programs at Amazon, where interns are given an opportunity to work on complex business challenges faced by the operations team at Amazon. These projects could be related to the fulfillment centers, air gateways, sort centers, delivery stations, or even strategic goals for Amazon. As a Pathways intern, I had an opportunity to work on projects that would help improve process efficiency. Of the projects I handled, my personal favorite was the one where we had to understand how COVID-19 impacted the performance of sort centers within the Amazon network and how we could recoup lost processing capacity and ensure that packages could be delivered on time.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working at McKinsey & Co. as an associate. At McKinsey & Co., I will be working with the strategy team. McKinsey & Co. works on critical projects for clients across the globe. The clientele list for McKinsey includes governments, NGOs, private-equity investors, companies in distress, and companies which seek to improve their profitability. As an associate, I will be working on fast-track projects which create value for the client.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: The Class of 2021 elected me to be the vice president of finance for the Graduate Business Council (GBC), a student body which works towards the advancement of student interests and enhancement of the student experience in the MBA program. The emergence of COVID-19 brought a new set of challenges for me within this role. Some of our regular funding had to be cut, which meant that I would have to preside over a significantly lower budget than my predecessors. The other challenge was to ensure that our classmates had the same MBA experience even though they could not meet each other in any kind of group setting. These challenges meant that we had to draw up new innovative ways of spending our limited funds as judiciously as possible and ensure that every penny was spent wisely. The entire team within the GBC worked together along with members from various committees on campus to come up innovative ideas such as Airbnb events, digital trivia nights, and international cooking classes to provide the best possible experience in a safe manner. Despite all the challenges, I will be closing the year with a small surplus that will be transferred to my successor.

In my second year, I was selected to be an MBA student ambassador. I had the unique opportunity to talk to enthusiastic prospective MBA students. As an international student, I could easily relate to most of the questions that prospective international MBA candidates had. It gave me an opportunity to share my story and ensure that they did not commit the mistakes I had committed during the application process.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of winning first place at the TCU Supply Chain Case Competition in 2020. The TCU Supply Chain Case Competition is one of the most intense case competitions in the United States. It happens over a weekend when you and your teammates are given the case prompt on a Friday morning and you must present your recommendations by Saturday afternoon. I was lucky to be working with three of my classmates who are exceptionally talented. The challenge was to quickly identify each other’s strengths, work through the night, and make concrete recommendations to a panel of supply chain experts in the industry. It was the first time Georgia Tech was extended an opportunity to participate in the case competition and we ended up winning first place.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? If I were to look back, the one moment that I am extremely proud of is representing Larsen and Toubro, the firm I worked at prior to my MBA, at DefExpo 2018. DefExpo is a four day defense exhibition of weapons and military hardware. DefExpo 2018 had 670 firms from around the globe showcasing their capabilities. Attendees for the event include active-duty military officers, high-ranking government officials and industry executives from countries around the globe, and senior bureaucrats within the government. Throughout the event, I got an opportunity to interact with and to learn from business analysts, technical experts, and C-suite executives.

Why did you choose this business school? Since I had background in mechanical engineering, I wanted to pursue my MBA at a school which had a very strong focus on operations management. The curriculum at Scheller lays a very strong emphasis on experiential learning. Students are given the opportunity to test principles taught in class through real life business challenges. Through the Pro-Bono Practicum, I got an opportunity to work with the Goodwill Stores of North Georgia, which was an eye-opener in terms of the impact created by businesses on communities.

The cohort at Scheller isn’t as large as most other schools and allows you an opportunity to form strong meaningful bonds with everyone in class. By the end of two years, it is highly likely that you would have worked with almost everyone as part of a class activity or extra-curricular activity.

The faculty at Scheller are amongst the best in the country and have made significant achievements in their field of work. Scheller has one of the best ROIs in the country for the MBA program. Add to this a scholarship and a Graduate Research Assistantship, I did not have to think twice.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Manpreet Hora is my favorite professor at Scheller. His course on Service Operations is a one of kind course. He explains concepts using real-life examples, brings industry experts to class to demonstrate how principles taught in class are applied in the real world, and uses a real-time simulation to test your decision-making skills. His class encompasses the complete learning experience.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The first semester of getting your MBA is always hard for most students since you are transitioning back from the corporate world to the world of academia. The transition period is longer if you are an international student since you are also getting acclimatized to a new culture. The additional transition time means that you cannot attend as many events as you would like to. Given the opportunity to pursue my MBA again, I would like to attend a few more socials with students from the Class of 2020. I always feel like that I never got a chance to know some of them as well as I could have.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I had a lot of friends who had pursued their Master’s in Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and everyone had told me that it is one of the most competitive schools in the United States. However, within the first week of starting school, I realized how different the entire cohort in the business school was. Everyone was willing to collaborate and learn from each other. People who have expertise in certain topics would help bring others up to speed and a conscious effort is made to ensure that no one gets left behind. In my own core team, each person had an expertise in a particular area. Ryan Peters was exceptionally good in finance and Gabriela Solis was the in-house guru for marketing. For all things related to information sciences like SQL and Tableau, the team would turn to Denzel McCollum. Whenever we faced challenges with concepts taught in class, we could easily rely on each other.

What surprised you the most about business school? The one thing that surprised me the most was how diverse the Class of 2021 was. We had MD-MBAs, lawyers, engineers, graphic designers, entrepreneurs, and more. The beauty of the diversity would be seen during intense discussion sessions in class. Each person would have a different take on the same issue and suddenly you would realize that the person across the classroom has an approach which you would have never thought of and the impact of that approach could be very significant.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The key thing in the application process is to conduct research about the schools that interest you. This extends beyond a basic Google or Wikipedia search. I reached out to students who were at Scheller at the time and alumni who had graduated from Scheller. Each conversation I had was extremely informative and gave me an additional insight. I also listened to podcast by Dr. Katie Lloyd, associate dean for the Full-time and Evening MBA programs, on YouTube.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The one classmate I admire more than anyone else in class is Abigail Brenller. She worked with the Peace Corps in Panama prior to joining Scheller. She has an outstanding business acumen and is always willing to go out of her way to help her classmates in academics, mock interviews, or even organizing small get-togethers. Her latent talent is baking, and she makes one heck of a carrot cake. Amidst all this, she takes time out to help those in need within the community. She is a multi-talented person to say the least!

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? When COVID-19 hit, we were about to start spring break. Everyone in class was concerned whether classes would ever be conducted in person again and what would happen to the MBA experience. To everyone’s surprise, Georgia Tech made the transition to a hybrid model smooth and seamless. Classes are now held both in person as well as online using BlueJeans. For in-person classes, the seating capacity has been reduced to maintain social distancing and it is mandatory to wear mask, but every effort is made to ensure that the learning experience remains unaffected.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents have been the biggest influence in my life. After my undergraduate degree, I was working with L&T, one of India’s largest engineering conglomerate. Walking away from a job with India’s best engineering company in defense manufacturing was a very tough choice; I was very skeptical at the time for pursuing a master’s degree. Even after I had my admit, I was unsure whether I would be able to return to the world of academia and what challenges I would have to encounter outside of academia as I would be relocating to another country. As with any other person, parents are always the voice of reason. Both of them were instrumental in ensuring that I was well aware of what opportunities MBAs had. My dad would always tell me about the value an MBA would add to my career and how the careers of his colleagues who completed their MBAs had progressed. Eventually, their nudge proved to be reason why I decided to pursue my MBA.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The first item on my bucket list is to work on a social impact project. Working on a social impact project gives me an opportunity to give back to the society and community at large. The second item on my list would be to participate in an IPO roadshow. An IPO roadshow is a pitch to potential investors. As part of the roadshow, a series of presentations are made and with the hopes that these potential investors see value in the company. At the end of all this effort, the final thrill comes on the day of listing, when you hope that all the effort you have put in bears fruit. The entire process is no less than a rollercoaster ride and is something that I would like to experience firsthand.

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

“I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and learning from the students in the 2020 Service Operations elective class. Amid the pandemic and teaching via an evolving hybrid modality, Sachin Pai was an integral part of that learning. Not only was Sachin a model student being prepared for class and engaged in class discussion, but he also showed intellectual curiosity in two ways. First, he provided his insights into extending the applicability of concepts and frameworks we covered in class. Second, he was also equally direct in challenging them. His views combined with other students help us extend the classroom learnings beyond what was expected. He also provided feedback to me to improve the class as I was using a combination of teaching modalities. My interactions with Sachin were not limited only to class times. During ad-hoc conversations, we discussed current business topics and then found a way of weaving them into what we had covered in class. It was a joy to have Sachin in class.”

Manpreet Hora
Associate Professor, Operations Management


“There are several characteristics that come to mind quickly to describe Sachin. First, he is constantly seeking to improve himself AND to help others. He had the drive to inquire for the benefit of all, not just for himself, which works well at Scheller! He also conducted a case interview-heavy consulting job search and was always willing to give feedback on the different case prep resources our team provides to students as well as other resources he discovered on his own. His hard work and persistence not only paid off with an excellent internship at a top tech company, but also positioned him to secure a full-time position with a top consulting firm. Sachin is his sincere desire and willingness to help others.  I frequently hear about Sachin practicing case interviews with others, sharing job search advice, or doing things to help the Scheller community. Sachin volunteered for the Graduate Busines Council (GBC) leadership team and was elected as the vice president of finance. He took the initiative to pursue grants through Georgia Tech for career programming and brought GT funding opportunities for individual career development activities to our attention.  Sachin has been a pleasure to serve and to partner with as a student leader.”

Dave Deiters
Executive Director, Jones MBA Career Center



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