2022 MBA To Watch: Vedanti Shah, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Vedanti Shah

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“Ambitious, empathetic, passionate leader ready to tackle the next challenge. Adventurous soul; amateur runner.”

Hometown: Ahmedabad, India

Fun fact about yourself: I am a certified open water scuba diver

Undergraduate School and Degree:

St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad (B.Sc. in Biochemistry)

Gujarat University, Ahmedabad (M. Sc. in Biochemistry)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Marketing Manager, Art Amore (Startup in India aimed at spreading knowledge of global contemporary & folk arts)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Investment Banking Summer Associate, Jefferies

Where will you be working after graduation? Industrials Investment Banking Associate, Jefferies

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President of Internal Affairs in Student Government: Developed programming to improve the student academic experience at Vanderbilt
  • President of South Asian Business Club
  • Peer Coach for Finance students: Coached a group of 1st year finance students in preparing their investment banking applications, cover letters, interview answers, target recruitment companies and more.
  • Recruiting and Admissions fellow- Conducted admissions interviews of potential students in the class of 2024
  • Social Startups Chair at the Turner Family Center: Led the Social Enterprise Pitch Competition for Vanderbilt graduate students
  • Vice President of External Affairs of Net Impact at Vanderbilt: Assisted in planning events aligned with the sustainability goals of Net Impact at Vanderbilt.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Whenever I decide to get involved in a project, venture, or a task, I want the impact of the project to sustain beyond my presence in the role. This was also my goal when I decided to join the Turner Family Center as the Social Startups Chair. The main function of the role was to facilitate the on-campus Hult Prize Competition with my committee. However, I wondered if the role could be more than one case competition. We decided that we wanted to create a platform where participants could really engage in ideating on a social cause that mattered to them. After a lot of brainstorming, we created a Social Enterprise Pitch Competition, where students could pitch a social enterprise solution that addressed a social cause in the Nashville area. This not only created a competitive environment, but made it possible for Vanderbilt students throughout the university to collaborate beyond their own graduate programs and impact the community around them. I was extremely proud to lead a team of stellar individuals to ideate and execute this event. However, more importantly, I created something that would sustain way after I have left Vanderbilt.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my most recent role before business school, I helped curate the first workshop our startup ever organized. At Art Amore, workshops were the core revenue generator in our business model. Two days before our first workshop, we hadn’t received any interest and were on the verge of cancelling it. However, our print marketing efforts finally came to fruition, and less than 24 hours before the event, we received 40-50 inquiries. While we were skeptical if we would be able to pull off this workshop in such a short time, I took charge and assured the founders that the workshop would be executed with the highest level of quality. Within 24 hours, I worked with the founders to set up a venue, facilitate logistics procurement, and coordinate PR coverage. For days after, every single participant was sending us thank you notes about a very positive experience with our organization in the workshop. We also got a lot of recurring customers join us in multiple future workshops. This high-stakes and high-pressure situation helped me establish the foundation for my managerial style and taught a lot of invaluable leadership lessons.

Why did you choose this business school? For 4 years before business school, I was working in startups with small teams where almost everyone was buying into major organizational decisions. But I knew I wanted to learn and build managerial skills in a larger complex organizational setting. So, when it was time to choose business schools, Vanderbilt was one of the very few programs that checked this very niche box of ‘personal and influential’. It is a small program with an intimate class size where I am not just a name in the crowd. But it is also a well-renowned program with excellent resources and access to the financial industry, which is where I wanted to transition. Because of this juxtaposition, I have formed relationships and a network way beyond the 2-year program and have a job in an industry and organization I feel passionate about!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Ranga Ramanujam. I had heard a lot about his Managerial and Organizational Effectiveness (MOE) class, and it was a must-take class at Owen for me. Learning with Ranga is also one Owen experience you should not miss. MOE is a class designed to gain an understanding of what it takes to be effective personally in a managerial and organizational context. Naturally, the class requires a lot of introspection based on your past experiences and who you are as an individual. Ranga created a safe space in the classroom for everyone to explore this, while at the same time pushing you out of your comfort zone. A lot of business school learning is about strengthening economic and strategic knowledge. But Ranga is really invested in developing business leaders with equally strong non-cognitive skills. He is a professor who will make the time to help you gain the most out of your business school experience – almost like an informal career mentor.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The DE&I committee of the student government organizes Humans of Owen: a platform for the Owen community to hear personal stories from classmates, professors, and anyone at Owen about their lives, adversities, challenges, and happiest moments. This event is organized almost every month and it is just a wonderful opportunity to learn more about people around you and where they come from. The beauty of the event is that it celebrates the diversity and similarities of the humanity of the Owen community. Amidst the fast-paced life of business school, it is a chance to truly form human connections. I have attended every single one of their events and it is an Owen experience that served as a reminder of why I chose Owen in the first place: the amazing people you work with every single day! If anything, this event just solidifies the personal scale that is so important at Owen. Shoutout to Katherine Gaede, Jacob Schrimpf, Kelly Szteinbaum, and Al Rasmussen for making Humans of Owen such a special part of Owen!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would take the time to introspect more. Business school is a transformative experience and also fast-paced. It is easy to get lost in doing things, delivering results, and checking boxes. But what makes business school so transformative is how you evolve as a person through these 2 years. It is important to take the time to stop and smell the roses and constantly ask yourself, “Am I on the path to becoming the person I wanted to be? Am I achieving my personal development goals as well as achieving my professional goals?”

What is the biggest myth about your school? Because Vanderbilt is such a prominent university in the Southern US, everyone thinks that recruitment is primarily focused in the American South and probably not competitive enough for larger cities. But Vanderbilt has a stellar reputation in organizations throughout the country. I am heading to New York after school, and so many of my peers are headed to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oregon, and more! So even though the school is in Nashville, its footprint is all around the country.

On a lighter note, everyone says Vanderbilt is in the South so it’s going to be sunshine all year-round. Now that is a myth for sure, because I remember wearing a lot of layers in winter.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised by the amount of group-work and team projects one does. I knew going into business school that you work together with a lot of people but was pleasantly surprised at the number of opportunities you get to work with a wide variety of people in the class. It is one other avenue to know classmates, their working styles, and their personalities. Even non-academic things require a lot of collaboration, and it really prepares you for life after an MBA.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Speaking my truth about what I was looking for. A lot of people think there is a right answer in interviews, and that admissions officers are looking for certain buzz words or the appropriate things to say; this notion couldn’t be further from the truth. Specifically, Vanderbilt is a program that really values the diversity of its students in their backgrounds as well as in their aspirations. So instead of trying to find the right thing to say, I focused on my ‘why,’ my ‘goals,’ and my ‘motivation’ to pursue business school. This approach ensured I had an honest conversation with my interviewer about finding the right fit with a business school, and I can proudly say that I definitely found it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Liza Moskowitz! She is the President of the Women’s Business Association, my classmate, and among the most admirable people I know. Liza is very passionate about advancing women in business and closing the gap in diversity representation at business schools. She has made an active effort to understand the challenges faced by women in business school and helped implement solutions to address these challenges. She is a fearless empowering change leader who has offered a 110% support to every minority leader in the business school. Liza is who I hope business leaders in the future would be like.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It would be my sister – Rachaita Shah. Right after school, she started her own venture and has hustled her way through building her own businesses. Her entrepreneurial spirit and managerial skills are unmatched. When I was considering business school, all she told me was “Think what you want your career to look like and see if business school is going to help you achieve it.” Everything I have done in business school is governed by this principle.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Early on in business school, I attended a session which suggested that to truly grow in your professional setting, you need to build a network wherein you have a mentor, champion, teacher, and sponsor. A mentor is someone who will guide you. A champion is someone who will hype you even when you are not in the room. A teacher is one who takes personal responsibility for your learning. And a sponsor is someone who will vouch for you at the stake of their own reputation – really backing you up. My bucket list would include identifying these four people in my professional life.

Second, investment banking is not the most diverse industry out there. I would like to create a pipeline to advance more women in the industry and create an environment wherein women can thrive, feel supported, and pursue full careers in finance.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has impacted every facet of life including corporate careers. It has underscored the importance of staying creative and constantly learning on the job. The willingness to adapt to a volatile work environment is a ‘must have,’ not just ‘good to have’. The pandemic has challenged the standard norms of conducting business. I believe a flexible workplace will be the new normal where providing increased flexibility to employees is as important as working alongside colleagues and building culture in a physical workplace.

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

“It has been a real pleasure to get to know Vedanti. She adds extraordinary value to her class by exemplifying many of the qualities and actions that are critical for success in these increasingly uncertain times. She is curious, open-minded, and is constantly seeking out new experiences and learning opportunities both inside as well as outside the classroom. I have stopped being surprised by seeing her enroll for courses far-removed from her functional specialization or participating actively in student club activities that take her well beyond what she is comfortable with. She is socially adept and is a much sought-after collaborator. She is also tuned to social issues such as the uneven access to education in emerging economies and brings this awareness to discussions of management issues.

A couple of things raise all of this above the level of the routinely excellent. First, Vedanti has managed to do all this and earn the respect of faculty and classmates while staying authentic to her personal style and values. In effect, she demonstrates there is more than one way to be an effective learner and leader. Second, she has accomplished this through the disruptions of the pandemic. For the first several weeks of the program, she was forced to attend remotely from India even as her classmates were getting to know each other in person. Nevertheless, she was elected to the student senate very soon after her arrival. I must attribute a lot of this to her ability to build and develop online connections. Even more, through the various disruptions of the pandemic, she has constantly exuded good cheer and calm. I am quite sure that her company and counsel has had a steadying effect on her classmates.”

Rangaraj “Ranga” Ramanujam
Richard M. and Betty Ruth Miller Professor of Management


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