2022 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Harini K. Kataria, Lehigh University

Harini K. Kataria

Lehigh University Flex MBA Program

“Creative problem solver at the intersection of design, business, and strategy, who seriously loves organizing!”

Age: 38

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Fun fact about yourself: My baby picture was on an infant medication bottle in India in the 80’s.

Undergraduate School and Degree:
Lehigh University, BS Molecular Biology

Cleveland Institute of Art, BFA Communication Design
Lehigh University, MBA

Where are you currently working?
Johnson and Johnson

Manager, Insights and Experience Strategy

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Accepting the role I’m currently in: I get to design systems and programs that improve patient experiences. It’s a role that marries my background in pharmaceutical research, visual design, and business strategy for a global organization with an authentic, meaningful mission. I didn’t think I’d be able to find a role that checked every box on my list, but the MBA is what made it possible.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Lehigh is my alma mater. I have incredibly fond memories of it, but it’s also a highly reputable institution with best-in-class instructors and curriculum. But above all, I chose the program because of its cumulative value: it’s one of the top-rated online MBA programs, affordable, and is structured to suit my needs and timeline. And, Lehigh has a robust alumni network that I knew would be an extremely valuable resource and community to be a part of.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? The flexibility! Many of the cohort members are working professionals well into their careers, with families and busy personal lives. The online aspect allowed accessibility and flexibility with respect to time and logistics. Your day is less stressful when you can have dinner with your family and then go upstairs to attend class, versus rushing out of work at a specific time to beat the traffic to make it to class on time.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The ability to develop meaningful relationships and friendships with classmates I’d never met in person.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I had my first baby during the program, so my needs and constraints with this online experience were drastically different than my in-class undergrad experience. I was able to move at my own pace, be available for my baby if and when needed, and control my environment so that I could focus and be present during class (such as attending class in from my bed in PJs from time to time!).

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? It’s easy to let yourself get distracted during online classes. So hold yourself accountable and ensure your environment and conditions – to the best of your ability – allow you to stay focused. Also, transfer all syllabus items to your calendar so you see them on the same schedule as work and personal commitments. This way an exam or major assignment won’t creep up on you and you can plan your days accordingly.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? Honestly not much, except for maybe the length and frequency of lectures. 1 night a week per course is great, but sitting through an online class for 3.5 hours at a time can be exhausting, especially when it’s in the evening after a full work day (which may have also consisted of many online meetings!).

How has your online education helped you in your current job? First, the subject matter has helped me bring a very unique perspective to the type of design strategy work I do. Not only does it differentiate me from my peers, but also allows me to help my colleagues to think differently about how we approach our work and engage with our clients. And the online aspect has been useful in learning how to engage with business partners, clients, and other stakeholders in a virtual environment in a manner that allows for meaningful connection and conversations.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? I was working for myself as an independent consultant when I started the program. Over the course of the program, I was hired for increasingly more complex and challenging roles, and now as I finish the program I’m in a higher managerial position than before.

Did you earn a raise during the online MBA program? Yes

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: Lectures were typically 3-3.5 hours, once a week per course. And outside of class, I would spend anywhere from 4-8 hours a week for assignments and group meetings, per course.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ultimately, I’d like to teach. At the heart of what I do, is figuring out ways to help people be better – how they take care of themselves, how they work, the experiences they have. My long-term professional goal is to lead my team and organization in designing innovative solutions to help people be their best selves, and transfer that knowledge and experience to others.

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