2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Raisul Chowdhury, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Raisul Chowdhury

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management & McCormick School of Engineering (MBAi), Northwestern University

“An optimist.”

Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Fun fact about yourself: I make the best Bangladeshi Chai (milk tea) in the world (self-proclaimed).

This is something that helped me hold onto my roots as I’ve moved halfway around the world as an immigrant – first to Canada, and then to the US for my MBA. No matter where I am, a cup of chai is all I need to invite everyone into my world and learn about theirs.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka; Bachelor of Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Before business school, I was at a Toronto-based AdTech startup named StackAdapt, leading the 3rd largest team in the company. I got a chance to work at the intersection of business and technology, building brand new audience targeting solutions and performance optimization algorithms while helping clients create strategies for their digital marketing campaigns.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? During the summer, I interned with Google in the San Francisco Bay Area. I worked with YouTube’s Marketing Strategy, Insights & Analytics team building the MVP of an algorithm that enables data-driven marketing decisions.

Where will you be working after graduation? I have returned to my previous team at Google, in the capacity of Global Analytics Manager, Youtube. I’ve taken on the role of enhancing our Data Science and AI capabilities to continue establishing YouTube as the best platform for creators.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director, Kellogg Tech Club (KTech)
  • Director, Kellogg Data Analytics Club (KDA)
  • Careers and Alumni Chair, Kellogg MBAi Program
  • Dean’s Honors List
  • Mentor, Kellogg South Asian Club (KSAC)
  • Leader, Kellogg Tech IPG (Interview Prep Group)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Growing up in a tiny corner of Bangladesh without running electricity or fresh drinking water, I could hardly dream of finishing high school, let alone pursuing an MBA from a top business school in the world. Given those odds, being able to complete my MBA from Kellogg and having that opportunity to expand my potential makes me feel very proud.

Most rewarding for me, was being a leader at Kellogg Tech Club (KTech), one of the largest communities at Kellogg. As the Careers Director, my role was to enable first-year students’ strategies and prepare for recruiting in the tech industry. As I was organizing student-connects and company events, I was proud to be able to have a positive impact on my peers’ MBA journey.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest moment was at my previous company, when the algorithm I designed was rolled out across thousands of campaigns and completely reshaped how the team worked. This opened up new possibilities by automating campaign optimization and was one of the first AI products I worked with the Data Science team to build. It was the moment I realized the power of AI to scale capabilities and fundamentally rethink how we do things.

To an extent, this inspired me to pursue MBAi and the career path I’m on right now – combining AI and Machine Learning with business intuition to make the best decisions.

Why did you choose this business school? The decision to pursue an MBA was a significant investment in my life. During my research, I focused on not just the reputation, ranking, and academic structure of schools but the culture and community aspects as well. It was especially important to me that I choose a school that I can be proud of and, at the same time, not have to change who I am in order to belong.

I chose Kellogg because of its culture of openness, inclusiveness, and growth. As someone who’s always felt like an outsider, it was important for me to be in an inclusive culture. Kellogg was everything I expected and even more.

Another reason Kellogg stood out to me was the unique MBAi program. Working in the tech industry, I knew that AI was going to change the world. Sitting at the intersection of business and technical teams in my previous role, I knew there was a clear need for leaders who understand both business principles and technical know-how. MBAi was the perfect fit for me since it presented me with the opportunity to take courses and learn from exceptional faculties from Northwestern’s Engineering and Business schools at the same time. I was thrilled at the prospect of being the first cohort in the world’s first AI-focused MBA program.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’ve had the privilege to take courses from incredibly talented Kellogg Professors such as Suzanne Muchin, Gina Fong, Nour Kteily, and Craig Garthwaite to name a few. Because of the joint degree nature of my program, I was also able to learn from some amazing faculties from schools across Northwestern University; such as Sara Sood from McCormick School of Engineering and Steven Franconeri from the Department of Psychology.

While all faculties at Kellogg are highly invested in students’ success, Professor Paul Corona takes it to a whole new level. Kellogg has a unique program named Leadership Development System (LDEV) that Paul leads. Throughout the MBA program, LDEV helps develop leadership skills among students through practical application. Through the program and his course, Paul played a crucial role in shaping my MBA experience, in the classroom and beyond.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My MBA courses, from both Kellogg and McCormick, helped me enhance my business acumen, AI understanding, and leadership skills. I learned so much from courses such as Selling Yourself and Your Ideas, Negotiation Fundamentals, and ‘Visualization for Persuasion. Not to mention MBAi-specific courses such as Computation Thinking, Advanced Product Management, and MBAi Business Analytics.

But a course that helped me introspect to discover who I am at my core, and fundamentally reshape my leadership approach was Personal Leadership Insights by Professor Paul Corona.  This is one of the unique courses offered by Kellogg School of Management and has a very unorthodox pedagogy. The course flips the narrative and teaches how to not just be a successful leader but also a fulfilled leader. Over 10 weeks, students go through a journey of self-discovery in an intimate group of 15 to 20 peers. In the end, you come up with a solid understanding of who you are, what success looks like for you, and most importantly, how to get there.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I were to go back and restart it all over again, I’d ask myself to show more grace, to myself.

The business school experience can be a lot. Especially at a school like Kellogg, you will never run out of things to do, clubs to be a part of (or create), or small group dinners to host. At times, it can feel overwhelming. It could get challenging to juggle academics, recruitment, and extracurricular activities. In times like these, it is important to take a step back, take a pause, and look at the incredible journey that has led to that moment; and the innumerable possibilities that lay ahead of us.

What did you love most about your business school’s town?  Evanston is a hidden gem. It’s a nice little quiet college town right beside Lake Michigan. It’s perfect for a morning run beside the lake before getting on with the classes. The sense of culture and community at Northwestern extrapolates to everyone in the city. Wherever you go, you can always expect a hello and a smile. And the best part? As Kellogg students, you get special discounts at hundreds of restaurants in the city.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into business school, I assumed that people would be highly competitive as each pursued their own success story. I was surprised to see it was humility and curiosity that thrived and defined the culture at Kellogg. Everyone I had come across was genuinely interested in learning about the other person. Everyone at Kellogg approached each interaction with curiosity. This enabled me to learn not only from my professors in the classroom, but more so from my classmates. There is an innate focus at Kellogg on becoming the best version of ourselves by helping everyone around us grow. Everyone I met – classmates, faculties, and staff members – was truly invested in my success. This motivated me to push myself even further.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? It is difficult to identify exactly what gives a candidate edge during the MBA application process as truly is a holistic evaluation of all the different aspects.

But if I were to pinpoint one thing, it was the demonstrated interest and commitment to my future plans – that I was able to showcase through my application. Throughout my application, I purposefully highlighted my experiences that helped the admission committee connect the dots between my past and my future. While applying, it is important to remember that the reader might not have the context that you have. So always ask yourself: what can I do to make it easy for someone else to understand my story?

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate that I admire the most is a friend of mine from the MBAi program – Guy Gutfarb. He is a veteran who became a software engineer and eventually, a product person helping multiple startups grow. What sets Guy – a father of two sons – apart is his unwavering commitment to learning. Guy is one of those folks who would approach every assignment, and every activity to learn something from it. I admire how focused he is to his goals and aspirations. Here’s an example: despite the prospect of many cool internships during the summer, Guy decided to take a stab at building his startup. Throughout the summer, he built an AI product from scratch, believing he can change the world and I’m sure someday, he will.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I had the fortune to grow up in a tiny town in Bangladesh but live in a few of the largest cities in North America. My journey from Halishahar (my childhood neighborhood) to Toronto, and then Chicago has opened my eyes to the striking difference in life. It showed me how different opportunities (or the lack of them) can be, simply depending on where you’re born. My life’s goal is to bridge that gap. Through my work, I want to create platforms that enable and empower people from all walks of life. Be it through elevating platforms such as YouTube to empower storytelling or by creating a new product targeted through the developing world, I want to be the changemaker.

Another area that I’m passionate about is scaling AI to solve hard problems. Coming in 2023, we’re now seeing some broader applications for AI but I believe it’s just getting started. AI has the power to go a long way and can contribute to solving humanity’s biggest problems. I want to be at the forefront of it.

What made Raisul  such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“I recommend, with the highest level of confidence, Raisul Chowdhury. Raisul – a role model in my Personal Leadership Insights course – caught my attention immediately for being extraordinarily thoughtful, thorough and candid with his preparation. This made perfect sense after I learned Raisul’s life story of overcoming extreme adversity through hard and wise work: from being the primary breadwinner for his family since high school, to assimilating and influencing cultures from rural Bangladesh to Toronto, to leading a 500-person local team with diverse members (most 10-20 years older), to leading a multi-continental team of colleagues who spoke 15 languages, to helping Google organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

But Raisul doesn’t brag about his many accomplishments. He doesn’t display aggressive behaviors either. He leads with the kind of assertiveness and influence that inspires the best in his stakeholders. Raisul has continued to grow as a leader, inside and outside classrooms, by developing and demonstrating both intellectual and emotional intelligence – a balanced leadership style many find elusive. I have no doubt Raisul will accomplish his career mission: ‘Become a leading figure in the tech industry . . . a creative problem solver . . . a disruptor who transforms teams and organizations for the better by challenging status quos.’”

Dr. Paul Corona
Clinical Associate Professor of Leadership
Director of Full-Time MBA Leadership Development


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