2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Naveen Kler, London Business School

Naveen Kler

London Business School

“A strong British Indian woman with lots of gumption, passion and energy to have impact.”

Hometown: Leicester, United Kingdom

Fun fact about yourself: I am an avid Bollywood dancer and have performed at some of London’s best venues including the Hammersmith Apollo and Lyceum Theatre.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelors of Law (LLB), London School of Economics and Political Science

Legal Practice Course, BPP Law School, London

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (London Office).

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation is the world’s largest foundation (USD 6Bn endowment) focusing specifically on improving the lives of children. I had a particular focus on growing the impact investing and commercial solutions practices to solve problems relating to (i) the sexual health empowerment of adolescent women in East Africa, and (ii) the education and training of women in India. I also was a key contributor to the foundation’s board level strategy “Girl Capital”, which sets out the strategy and the investment required to change the realities and harsh truths (i.e. child marriage, trafficking, teenage pregnancies and poverty) for girls and women aged 5-25 years old in India.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? McKinsey & Company (London Office)

Where will you be working after graduation? Associate (Generalist), McKinsey & Company (London Office)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

One of the first recipients of the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Scholarship funded by the Laidlaw Foundation

Chief of Staff of the Women in Business Club (2020/2021)

Chief of Staff of the Social Impact Conference (2020/2021)

Co-President of the Women in Business Club (2021/2022)

London Business School Diversity Committee Member (2020/2021 and 2021/2022)

Women’s Rugby Club – Diversity Lead (2021/2022)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest achievement has been enhancing the ambitions, opportunities and safe spaces for women at this school through my leadership roles in the Women in Business Club (WiB) and the School’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee (DIB).

In my first year, I quickly became passionate about developing more robust systems to enable women and other minority groups to join and thrive at our school. In 2021, I launched new recruiting tools enabling dialogue between women prospects and our club to encourage more women to go to business school. Frankly, I believe if we can get more women into business school, this will lead to game-changing representation in the highest echelons of business.

With DIB, I began work on new anti-bullying and harassment policies for the School as well as our first ever safe reporting tool – a safer and more inclusive environment on and off campus was high on my agenda. These launched in January 2022 and WiB is now leading on the school’s inaugural anti-bullying and harassment week – ‘Speak Out LBS’.

In my second year, I was elected Co-President of the Women in Business Club and currently lead a 75-person student committee. This year, I wanted to push the club to do bigger and bolder initiatives, especially given the pandemic’s negative impact on gender equality. I set about this with three key strategies: (i) creating a safer space and cultural shift at LBS that allows women to thrive and allies to be more vocal; (ii) bringing back in-person events with more high profile women to inspire our future leaders (in the first six months of the academic year alone, the club has welcomed in person Indra Nooyi [former CEO of Pepsi-Co and first Fortune 50 woman of colour CEO], Milena Mondini [FTSE 100 CEO], Ann Cairns [Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard] and Dame Kate Bingham [Chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce]); and (iii) securing more funding for women’s scholarships at LBS for future generations. As a club, we have been really successful on all three fronts. I take a huge amount of pride knowing my work will lead to more women rising to the top. In the immediate, I definitely feel the women of my year have become more energised and ambitious as a result of their experiences through the club.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest moment was leading on negotiations with the UK government to launch the world’s first development impact bond in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The bond funded access to safe contraception and sexual health services for 300,000 girls and women in Kenya. The programme, designed in collaboration with its users, specifically allows girls and women to access services through their mobile phone or a membership card.

Not only do I see this as an achievement because development impact bonds could redefine the relationship between the private sector and the impact world, but this bond was signed in May 2020 and kept services open for those young women in the height of the pandemic. As we reached final negotiations in early 2020, which had protracted over a year, the pandemic threw the majority of UK Aid’s programmes into disarray. This caused the UK government to halt on new programmes, including our bond. In response, I directed my team on a plan to readjust our delivery mechanisms to demonstrate the programme could work in lockdowns and made the case that this bond was more important than ever (we have seen higher rates of teenage pregnancies in national lockdowns as a result of reduced access to health services and schools). Eventually, we convinced the UK government on our adjusted plan and the bond was signed as planned. It has already helped tens of thousands of women.

Why did you choose this business school? Personally, I wanted to go to a European business school as I wanted to pursue a career in Europe or Asia after my MBA. LBS was the stand-out school for me due to its reputation, location, and diversity. However, the real critical factor was LBS’s flexible exit points at 15, 18 and 21 months. As I was entering my MBA in the midst of the pandemic, I felt I needed a longer programme to ensure I had an in-person experience as well as the time to explore multiple career paths.

Many of my peers have used this flexibility to exit at 15 months when they have secured their dream jobs early on or extend to the full 21 months to try new paths. The average age of a MBA at LBS is 29 years old – this is also a significant age for women who are considering career progression alongside their fertility pressures. Having secured my post-MBA job in my first year, I am using the 18-month exit point to start my career and get promoted before starting a family.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have loved learning from Professor David Myatt. Having only studied law prior to the MBA, I was excited to learn more about economics, but was daunted by the prospect. In our first year economics classes, Professor Myatt broke down concepts tangibly and made being in the classroom an enjoyable experience. I have taken all his elective classes too!

Moreover, I think huge kudos should be given to Professor Myatt for his energies and dedication to working on and implementing hybrid learning at the school to ensure we were back on campus as soon as possible. He trailblazed with new techniques on how to make the class fun for the ‘roomies’ and ‘zoomies’ and I never found his classes dull (even after hours of Zoom!). I would also highly recommend ‘Diversity Science for Leaders’ by Associate Professor Aneeta Rattan and ‘Paths to Power’ by Assistant Professor Eliot Sherman.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One myth that I think is quite wrong is that everyone who goes to LBS wants to do finance or consulting. I have been in awe about the variety of career paths people are pursuing at the school and the rising focus on social impact, tech and media, retail and luxury goods and entrepreneurship. In fact, the student clubs that represent these interests are some of our best and most popular on campus.

What surprised you the most about business school? Before joining LBS, I had mixed feelings about whether the MBA was worth the time and money. I internally feared that I was making a mistake and it would have been better staying where I was and climbing that ladder.

I am glad to say I had completely underestimated its value – I am surprised about the transformation and reigniting my ambition that LBS has provided me. My peers and learnings have pushed me to review my own capabilities and hunger at a critical juncture of my career. I view my future far more brightly now than I did pre-MBA.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think my interview was a really strong element of my application. The LBS interview is conducted by an alumnus who has a similar background to you – my interviewer was an ex-lawyer who had moved into impact investing (very spot on!). I think I shone in my interview because I had a crisp strategy on how to execute my post-MBA journey and I demonstrated very clearly that I had researched that path in detail. I could speak to the companies I wanted to work for and the specific departments and the projects that I thought were particularly interesting. I could also relay why my skill set and network pre-MBA would aid me in this journey. Furthermore, I stayed very relaxed throughout and definitely made the interview into a conversation where I was exchanging ideas and thoughts with my interviewer.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I hugely admire William Byron Henry for many reasons. Byron has taken on multiple positions in our school clubs – in his second year alone, he is Co-President of the Snow Club, Head Rugby Captain for the Men’s Rugby Team, and Co-Head of the Women in Business Club’s Allyship Team. I have chosen Byron because I think he has positively impacted every single one of his classmates’ experiences through his abundant energy, kind and caring nature, and inclusivity. Given the size of our class, this is a formidable task.

Furthermore, on a more personal level, he has helped me navigate my goal on how to make allyship more prominent on campus and educating people to be allies. Byron has helped numerous women in our class who have found themselves in tough or awkward situations and he is a silent hero who should be recognised and praised.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It is so hard to choose one person as I believe my journey is as a result of many influential forces. I know a turning point was meeting my partner, Rishi. When I met Rishi, I was blown away by his thirst for his career – he could eat and breathe real estate. I knew I had to find a career which ignited me in the same way. My current trajectory was not it so I needed to make a change.

Moreover, Rishi was one of the most progressive men I had met. He had always been my biggest supporter when I first started considering the very expensive MBA and always reassured me that it was a risk worth taking for my longer-term career happiness. Rishi has continued with his unwavering support throughout my business school journey and has embraced my friends and my transformation with open arms.

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

1. Leading Senior Executive Trailblazing for Women of Colour: I am not entirely clear on what my post-MBA journey will look like. but I know McKinsey & Company will be a good foundation to my next chapter. Post-McKinsey, I am passionate about finding a company whose mission excites me and where I could rise as a senior executive with my own product or business line. The FTSE 100 has never had a woman of colour CEO and women of colour are represented minimally in the FTSE 250 executive board roles – I want to be part of the changing tide on this.

2. Raising a Generation: My desire to progress women and minorities to the top of business will be inextricable from my professional goals. I will continue my work through a board seat on a not-for-profit and working with women’s networks. I think this is a duty that we should all consider as our own and I hope to be a leading example on this.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic hasn’t really changed my view of my career. However, I do believe my graduating class will benefit from the cultural and mobility shifts resulting from the pandemic i.e. more chances to work from home and international flexible working.

I consider myself very lucky to have chosen to accept my offer for the Class of 2022, rather than deferring. I believe my class is a unique one because we all chose to start a MBA in the height of the pandemic and that indicates something about our tenacity and positivity. I am continuously impressed by my classmates’ ability to think out of the box and form meaningful relationships in one of the scariest times our generation has seen.

What made Naveen Kler such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Naveen is a standout student in the class of MBA2022. It is not an exaggeration to say that the class as a whole would have been weaker without her. The energy and commitment that Nav has brought is inspiring. From my first meeting with her, her enthusiasm has been infectious. Particularly in her role as Co-President of the Women in Business club, she is focused, knowledgeable and engaging. She brings you along on the journey, and makes you want to be a part of it.

Having commitment and belief in something is often not enough on its own. Nav also has the ability to listen and observe, skills that are so important in raising awareness of causes. While she remains driven, I admire her ability to hear others’ views and to take these onboard.

The challenges the class of MBA2022 have had to face have been many, and yet Nav’s appetite to continue to push for change has not been impacted. If anything, it seems to have driven her on even more.”

Helen Foley
MBA Programme Director
London Business School

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