2022 MBA To Watch: Pua Higginson, Babson College (Olin)

Pua Higginson

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

“Empathetic, adaptable, and obsessively inquisitive.”

Hometown: Boston, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I absolutely love weightlifting and prior to business school, I competed in Crossfit.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northeastern University, Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Marketing Associate at Tribal Vision.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Biogen. I mostly worked from home but was able to visit their Weston, MA offices.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working for Biogen again as an MBA Rotational Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Presidential Scholar
  • Co-President of Babson’s Out Network
  • Member of planning committees for this year’s Grad Weekend and Lavender Graduation

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In my New Venture Creation course led by Prof. Andrew Zacharakis, I was selected as a finalist to pitch my business idea for a Samoan-inspired skincare line to a panel of VCs. After my presentation, I received incredible feedback from the VCs and will continue pursuing this business venture post-graduation. I also feel honored to have been selected by my peers and professor, and grateful that this opportunity was the vehicle for sharing part of my heritage with others.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the work I did as a marketing manager at Green Energy Consumers Alliance, which is a non-profit organization focused on harnessing the power of energy consumers to speed the transition to a low-carbon future. My responsibilities involved empowering climate-friendly energy choices and policy in Massachusetts, and collaborating with local environmental organizations to switch Massachusetts residents to local renewable energy. The work was fulfilling and I was proud to come to work every day.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Babson because of its tight-knit community, diversity, and emphasis on entrepreneurialism and the global marketplace. I also knew that a smaller institution would allow closer collaboration with peers and professors. What I didn’t know was just how well Babson was going to be at adapting to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. I’m so grateful for this school and feel confident that I made the right decision.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Anirudh Dhebar. I was introduced to Prof. Dhebar in his Marketing High-Tech Products class. He is enthusiastic and engaging, and challenges students to think beyond the typical frameworks of marketing that MBA students are often exposed to. It’s clear he wants to be a catalyst for students’ overall success and the genuine extent to which he cares is what sets him apart. The depth and vastness of his knowledge in not just marketing but also in life is truly something I am grateful to have experienced in my time as a student at Babson. He inspires me to be a better human being and if I got nothing else out of my time at Babson, my three classes with him made the entire experience of getting my MBA worthwhile.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Started a business. In my first year, I dedicated a lot of classwork to a potential business venture. However, after landing an internship at Biogen, I directed my entire focus on preparing for the experience. I started taking electives that would better prepare me for a role in biotech, and even today I continue to spend my time keeping up with relevant industry news and trends. While I don’t regret the time I’ve put into this preparation and research, I wish I maintained the momentum I had built on starting a business. I would have been able to take greater advantage of the time and resources that Babson has to offer which would have positioned me well to launch my business post-graduation.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: Anyone that attends Babson plans to start a business.

Reality: Far from it! While it’s true that some students aim to start new ventures, many use Babson’s entrepreneurial thought & action methodology to embrace uncertainty and create value across practices of all kinds and at different stages of their lives. For some students, that could mean at a large corporation, a small non-profit organization, or in an existing family business. Whatever the case, entrepreneurial thinking can be applied to any business environment.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was especially surprised by the diversity of my classmates when it came to age range and professional experience. Prior to business school, I remember hearing that I was too old and that I should have applied shortly after undergrad. I’m glad I didn’t listen! It’s obviously important to have real world experience to reference back to in the classroom, but it’s also worth remembering that learning doesn’t stop in your 20s. I am right where I need to be at this point in my life, and I feel fortunate to have experienced business school with people from all walks of life and at different stages of their career. It wouldn’t have been the same without them.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Go the extra mile. I live by this rule and applied it to my application process. In practice, that meant taking advantage of optional steps or sections in my application, reaching out to Babson alumni, researching professors, and responding promptly to any and every communication. Everything you do and the way you do everything sends a message, which in this case means who you are can and should be communicated beyond the words you write in an essay.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My friend and classmate, Neha Aggarwal. I remember meeting her at the start of my first semester at Babson and immediately thinking that Neha was a force to be reckoned with. She makes profound contributions to class discussions and her poise and confidence are exemplary. Even as an entrepreneur and full-time student, she also manages to make time for her friends, peers, and professors. I look forward to knowing the kind of leader she will become post-graduation.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Eugenia Gibbons. She was a wonderful colleague and mentor when I worked as a marketing manager for a non-profit organization in Boston. While she didn’t necessarily influence my decision to pursue business, she constantly pushed me to advocate for myself and prioritize my personal and professional development. Her support ensured I didn’t forget about the goals I set for myself and knowing that someone was watching over me served as important motivation.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Growing up, I moved around the world frequently. However, I have yet to work in a foreign country. Based on my travels, I imagine the kind of exposure you get while pursuing a job in a different country is truly a transformational experience which is why one item on my professional bucket list is to work abroad. The second item on my professional bucket list is to start a Samoan-inspired skincare business. I’m originally from Samoa and have an insatiable curiosity for Polynesian self-care rituals which is why I look forward to the day I get to share some of my heritage with others.

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

“Pua has been an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022 by her professionalism and entrepreneurial spirit. She brings a strong drive to learn, and leadership to enhance the learning experience for all. In particular, she has taken on challenging social problems to apply her knowledge and skills to create value for society.

There are several points that make Pua exceptional for the Class of 2022.

First, Pua is an exceptional student. She is extremely engaged in her courses. She prepares for her classes and engages in classroom discussions to weigh and consider new ideas, pressing for practical and innovative solutions to the problems we are discussing. Her approach in class makes her a natural leader and creates an enormous positive spillover effect for everybody. I can see that such characteristics of her will add to any task she takes upon in the future.

Second, her dedication to solving social problems is promising for the much-needed leadership of the next generation that show concern about their communities and society. This is extremely valuable if we want to innovate for what the businesses should stand for, with respect to their relationship with the environment and society. She demonstrated a moral obligation that every MBA must have to society.

Third, Pua brought in her entrepreneurial spirit and applied Entrepreneurial Thought and Action effectively. In the FutureLab course, Pua, with her team, has taken upon the challenges of older adults with utmost care and brought forward very practical ideas. These entrepreneurial solutions not only spoke for the needs of older adults, but also were acceptable by the organizations. Pua has shown the value of an MBA to the society: practical and implementable, while creative and user-centric.”

Sinan Erzurumlu, Ph. D
Faculty Director, Full-Time MBA Programs

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: CLASS OF 2022