2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Ridhima Raina, UC Irvine (Merage)

Ridhima Raina

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

“Business leader, driven by curiosity and ambition, aiming to create sustainable business and better future.”

Hometown: Chandigarh, India

Fun fact about yourself: I am a certified Zumba instructor and taught a class of 20 students back in India!

Undergraduate School and Degree: PEC University of Technology, Bachelor of Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cvent, Senior Product Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Zillow Group, Irvine

Where will you be working after graduation? Experian Information Solutions, MBA Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Awarded Faculty Scholarship
  • Co-President, Product Club at UCI
  • Executive Vice President, Merage Women in Business
  • Vice President of International Student Relations, Merage Student Association
  • Product Club Mentor to undergraduate students
  • Pro-bono consulting for a non-profit (SEED Consulting)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As the co-president of the Product Club, I envisioned providing high-quality tools and creating opportunities for business school students to become product leaders. Over the year, my fellow co-president, and I organized panel discussions, and case interview workshops with industry leaders to give students the best-in-class knowledge and tools they need to succeed as a product manager (PM) across all industries. The one achievement I’m most proud of was a first-of-its-kind effort at Merage – a PM case interview boot camp to help first-year students prepare for case interviews. This was done in two stages. First, I conducted a training and open workshop to cover different frameworks and approaches to be used to solve questions. After that, I organized weekly interviews with second-year students who were experienced with such discussions. I strongly believe in giving back, and I knew I had succeeded when after 20+ interviews, we helped students receive internships at some of the best tech companies.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time at Cvent, I was a part of the Women in Business committee, where we focused on identifying and resolving issues faced by women in the workplace. I vividly recall an instance where one of the female employees raised the issue that after she returned from maternity leave; she was not deemed good enough for the harder projects and was evaluated unfairly. I always made sure that I created a safe environment for women to share their experiences and so as she spoke, she gained support from other women in the room, who had similar experiences. I brought this up to senior leaders, who promised to look into the issue.

Soon after, a committee was formed to look into it, and they found discrepancies in the way the women in question were evaluated. As a result, the human resources department became involved to make sure that all managers underwent training on employee evaluation. Moving forward, they created a new path for employees to raise red flags if they thought their evaluations were unfair. I am so proud to have led such an initiative to make sure that women were being treated equal to their male counterparts and I made sure I saw the results come through.

I’m also proud to be the first international candidate to join Experian’s Leadership Development Program post-MBA and was named as one of the ‘MBA Students Breaking Barriers’ in by my career advisors.

Why did you choose this business school? My business school search was largely organized around my search for community and career opportunities. From my initial interactions with the student ambassadors and admissions committee, I knew Merage would be my home away from home. It’s focus on diversity and inclusion could be seen in the amount of time they spent showing me resources that would be available to international students. Also, the smaller class size at Merage helps foster closer personal relationships and increased attention from professors and TAs.

Irvine is also an attractive location for a lot of the companies I was targeting, which were looking to expand their presence in the area. The career center at Merage has been known to provide us with the resources and support you need to land your dream job. There is also a huge opportunity to up your game with impressive Immersions to choose from. I was particularly interested in the Immersion in Digital Transformation, which I believe is imperative in today’s world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the classes I’ve taken and appreciate professors going beyond to make the classes as interactive as possible. My favorite professor is John Turner – I studied two courses under Professor Turner – Operations Management and Revenue Management. Not having prior experience in any of these areas, I gained a lot of knowledge in these classes.

Professor Turner’s extensive knowledge of operations and decision technologies is reflected in his course content and teaching methodology. He really understands the business landscape and addresses relevant and interesting real-world situations that business leaders truly face while trying to optimize operations and maximize revenue. His insistence on exploring multiple solutions to a problem forced us to think differently and recommend case solutions out of the box. I’m confident that the learnings from his classes will be applicable to real-life scenarios. Definitely one of the most favorite MBA professors!

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course is Sustainability, taught by Professor Leonard Lane. Having worked extensively in the tech industry, I had not seriously thought of ways my company could be more sustainable. However, this course has been an eye-opener for me in terms of understanding that no matter the industry, there is always room for improvement to be more sustainable and leave the world in a better place than you found it for our local communities, planet, and stakeholders. Professor Lane comes with years of experience helping companies establish their sustainability and compliance functions and there is so much to learn from his experiences and discussions with the boards of major brands trying to be more sustainable. This course has definitely taught me to think differently, and I know that moving forward, I will always find ways to include sustainability in the long-term strategy for the company I will work for.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school?  Every year, the Merage school organizes an ‘Intensive’ program for the incoming students in the first few days of the MBA program, where students are assigned pre-decided groups of 4-5 classmates belonging to different cultures and industries. For the next two days, each group stayed up till 2 am solving business strategy cases, simultaneously laying the foundation for strong bonds with each other. This not just speaks volumes about Merage’s focus on building strategic leaders, but also its highly collaborative and supportive community culture. We enjoyed it so much, that we decided to request the program services office to conduct another intensive right before we graduate.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back at my experience, I would have loved to work with students from other schools on case competitions. Case competitions bring out your entrepreneurial side and offer you an opportunity to learn so much from your team members. Collaborating with students from other B-schools would have been an exciting experience since I’d get to expand my network, exchange knowledge, and make new friends outside of Merage!

Though I participated in the SAP case competition with my classmates in my first year, I was unable to participate in another really exciting opportunity, because of competing priorities. But I would highly recommend taking up such opportunities and network with students from other schools to build your skills, and gain insight into specific industries.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about business schools is that they are very competitive – your classmates yearn for the same roles, leadership positions, and jobs as you, and information sharing is limited. However, at Merage, this is incorrect. My classmates at Merage have been most helpful to each other. We helped with preparation for job interviews, shared resources, and had the opportunity to tap into each other’s networks. Throughout the MBA, we’ve supported each other, overcome challenges together, and rooted for each other’s success. Because of our smaller class size, we grew strong personal bonds with each other, and enjoyed yearly class trips to Mammoth. I’m very grateful for classmates who, despite navigating the rough job market, volunteered their time to join me in interviewing first-year students every week, to help them prepare for interviews. And to me, there is no greater sign for camaraderie.

What surprised you the most about business school? Having worked as a product manager, I’ve often had to wear multiple hats and juggle multiple responsibilities at once. Starting my MBA, I thought I was prepared for the hectic lifestyle. But the first quarter at the business school proved me wrong. Juggling academics, club leadership, networking, TA, and job search at the same time was incredibly challenging. I often found myself overwhelmed and spreading too thin, and so I decided to turn the situation around. I started to plan my tasks a day before, made sure to get everything on my calendar, and made productivity tools my best friends. Time management and prioritization are underrated skills, and I’m glad I’ve learned that well at the business school.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I had done extensive research about the school and its unique positioning during the application process. I spent a lot of time understanding the school’s strengths and culture, and how this would be the right stepping stone for me to achieve my long-term goals. Merage’s impressive faculty, smaller class size, outstanding coursework, and proximity to some of the best companies, immediately attracted me to the school. The student ambassadors, alums and current students were very approachable and happily jumped on a call to share their experiences at the school. I also spoke with Eric Duarte on the admissions committee, and he made sure I had all my questions answered and showed me the resources available to international students. I was made me feel like a part of Merage already!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have incredible admiration for my classmate, Maggie Purnawan Jeniawati. Maggie worked as a food scientist for 2 years before joining Merage. Having worked with her on different projects, I soon realized how ambitious and driven she is. Not letting her lesser work experience get in the way, she converted her highly coveted internship to a full-time role in Corporate Strategy at Bimbo Bakeries. During the spring quarter, Maggie also completed her study abroad at Bocconi University in Italy, where she enhanced her skillset and gained a global mindset.

Apart from being a great colleague, Maggie has also been a wonderful friend. She shared sentiments with me as an international student and supported me through my personal and academic difficulties. I knew I made a friend for life and I’m confident she will shine at the company she works for!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Work with business leaders to make my organization’s operations be more sustainable.
  2. Start my own business to help local artisans by exposing their authentic craft to a larger market, where it’s not as accessible today

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

“Three adjectives that I think describe Ridhima well are: driven, smart, and professional. Her intelligence and curiosity I have observed firsthand in the classroom. Ridhima was in my core operations management class in Spring 2022. She was engaged with the material, asked excellent questions, and performed very well on assignments. Operations management is one of the most technical classes in our MBA program, and I view it to be a good barometer of analytical ability. Based on her performance in this class, I asked Ridhima to be my TA for the same class taught to part-time MBA students in Fall 2022, and she agreed.

As a TA, Ridhima was able to give back and mentor another cohort of MBA students. In her interactions with me and with the students, Ridhima was very professional. She was always available to respond to student questions, to grade assignments in a timely manner, and always took care to write her emails in a respectful and thoughtful way. The quarter zipped by smoothly, thanks to Ridhima’s assistance as a TA. I expect also that this experience was helpful to expand her network, as it allowed Ridhima to meet many part-time MBA students (she is a full-time MBA student). With this expanded network, I expect Ridhima is quite well-known among the MBA students in the Class of 2023.

Next, Ridhima enrolled in my Revenue Management elective (a favorite class of mine, which involves forecasting and price optimization). She continued to produce high-quality work, with her group being the only one to earn a perfect 10/10 on their final project presentation. Ridhima has made solid friendships while in the MBA program and counts herself among a group of accomplished and smart individuals.

Finally, outside of my class, it is worthwhile to note that Ridhima has a strong trajectory and is set up very well for success after she graduates from the Merage School. In particular, she will be joining the leadership development program at Experian. Not many companies still have such programs, and those that do only take the top candidates that have the right mix of people skills and technical background.”

John Turner
Associate Professor, Operations and Decision Technologies
The Paul Merage School of Business

University of California, Irvine


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