Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Taleha Aftab, Stanford GSB

Taleha Aftab

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“A curious soul with an unbreakable spirit, passionate about supporting women, traveling and creating impact through technology.”

Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was featured in a very popular commercial as a child!

Undergraduate School and Major: Institute of Business Administration, Pakistan – Economics and Mathematics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Investor, Riverwood Capital (a technology-focused growth equity fund)

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The GSB’s unique focus on introspection, both in professional and personal life, was a key factor in my decision to choose Stanford. From the admissions essay of “What matters most to you and why?” to classes such as “Touchy Feely,” we are forced to think about what kind of leaders we want to be and what values we care most about.  It was important for me to be part of a program that would not only allow me to explore my professional interests, but would also provide avenues of personal development and the GSB has not disappointed on that front.

Also, the GSB’s location in Silicon Valley and focus on innovation has provided the perfect ecosystem for me to explore my interest in technology and the various ways it can impact our lives. Whether through classes, clubs or guest/alum engagement, I am always surrounded by incredible ideas, interesting conversations and thoughtful questions.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about Stanford GSB so far? I knew that everyone at the GSB would be smart and incredibly accomplished, but I have also been positively surprised by how eager most of my classmates are to help each other. I truly understood the power of network after coming to the GSB. Whether you need help in getting connected to your dream company, understanding a niche topic, procuring a COVID-19 test after all those social events, or finding people to place a large enough Magnolia bakery order to make the cross-country delivery fee feasible, someone at the GSB will always have your back.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Humble. My classmates have come from remarkable backgrounds and have achieved so much in life – yet they are incredibly humble and down-to-earth. I have friends who have brokered peace agreements, have won Olympic medals, led military squadrons and built organizations from the ground up. Yet, they are always willing to share their knowledge and have an inspiring level of intellectual curiosity to learn from others.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Coming from a conservative culture, I broke through several barriers to become the first full-time working woman in my family. I rose through the ranks in a predominantly male-dominated corporate environment to become the youngest and the first female Chief of Staff to the CEO at the largest publicly traded conglomerate in the country.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? A highlight of my time here at the GSB so far has been giving my TALK, which is a long-held weekly tradition where two classmates share their own personal stories in front of the entire class. For me, this meant being courageous and embracing the discomfort of being vulnerable in front of both friends and strangers alike – I was blown away by the amount of support I received from my classmates.

I am also leading an organization called Stanford Women on Boards, which aims to increase the representation of Stanford-affiliated leaders, specifically women, on public and private company boards. I am excited about playing a role in making boardrooms more diverse and high-performing.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School, Wharton, Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? One of my biggest realizations so far has been that vulnerability is not equal to weakness. I think I was trained to think that sharing your vulnerabilities and struggles with others is a sign of weakness. However, the vulnerability culture at the GSB has made me realize that there are so many ways we can all relate to each other and our challenges by just sharing with each other. I have been inspired by so many of my classmates after listening to their personal stories and have built deeper relationships as a result of that. This is a lesson I want to hold on to for the rest of my life.

What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2024? Don’t over-obsesses on finding the perfect/right way to tell your story –I don’t think there is one. Your story is unique and you are the best person to tell it, so just focus on that and trust the process.

When you come to the GSB, come with an open mind, but also use the admissions process to reflect on what it is that you broadly want out of this experience. Given the incredible buffet of things you can do at the GSB, it can be easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed by everything you can possibly do. So, I think it will serve you well if you spend some time thinking about what your broad priorities are and allocate your energies accordingly while keeping room for new experiences.


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