Poets&Quants’ Favorite MBAs Of 2021

Junaid Lughmani, an MBA student at UC-Berkeley Haas, is a veteran of the Afghanistan war. Photo © Tipping Point Photography.

A Berkeley Haas MBA Vows To Keep His Wartime Promise

On August 15, as the Taliban encircled Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in the pre-dawn hours, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, allowing the militant group to seize power without resistance. Suddenly, tens of thousands were driven to the country’s borders, trying to escape the impending violence; they also swarmed the airport in Kabul, trying to get on a plane to evacuate with foreign nationals and fellow Afghans who were Western allies.

Thousands were evacuated in subsequent days. Then, on August 26, a suicide attack at the Kabul airport killed 180, including 13 American troops.

Four days later, the U.S. military departed the country for good after 20 years of occupation in Afghanistan.

Junaid Lughmani — former civilian Pashto interpreter, U.S. Army infantry officer, and veteran of the war — is among many in the U.S. distraught by the war’s unsettling end.

“We played a critical role in helping Afghanistan take a step forward,” Lughmani, now a 2023 MBA candidate at University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business, tells Poets&Quants. “We tried, earnestly, to help break this perpetual cycle of violence that Afghanistan has been caught in since 1979. And for it to end the way that it did …” he pauses, looking down at his shaky hands. Tears well in his eyes.

“I hate war for this. Afghans deserved better. What were the last 20 years for?”


“The horrifying events at the airport in Kabul in August will haunt me forever,” Lughmani continues. “I had been to that airport so many times. It’s been over 100 days since the fall of Kabul, and this nightmare won’t end. But we can’t stop, there are too many people who were left behind.”

Lughmani says that he and other veterans have not forgotten their commitment to the people of Afghanistan.

“We’re going to try to keep our promise to our Afghan allies,” he says. “If I have to sacrifice my business school experience for the mission in Afghanistan, then so be it. At least I will have a clear conscience in my later years.”

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Student-Founders: ‘Retail Nerd’ Explains Why An MBA Was The Right Decision For Her Startup

Jessica Landzberg (at right), Stanford MBA ’23, poses with Pareto co-founder Olivia Bordson.

It was just a coincidence that Jessica Landzberg’s last day at McKinsey & Company was the day everyone went home to work remotely. She’d already told McKinsey she was leaving, went out with her team on one of the last nights restaurants were open, and then set out to build her startup at the beginning of a global pandemic.

“It was a very interesting time to transition away from a more traditional full-time job to entrepreneurship, and to do that while the world was changing,” Landzberg told Poets&Quants.

Landzberg co-founded Pareto, a farm-to-closet women’s apparel brand, with Olivia Bordson, a fellow McKinsey alum, in August 2020. The company aims to challenge the fashion industry’s focus on more product, more often with a more sustainable model that emphasizes fewer but more purposeful pieces.

“All of this is possible due to our fully domestic, traceable farm-to-closet supply chain. We partner directly with every hand that touches our pieces – from the organic cotton farmer in Texas all the way to the seamstresses in California and Illinois. It is the only way we can make the best product decisions at every stage,” Landzberg says.

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