2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Venkata Veera K Mandala, Lehigh University

Venkata Veera K Mandala

Lehigh University Flex MBA Program

“Resilient, driven learner and problem-solver with a passion to excel and add value.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Malvern, PA

Fun fact about yourself: I can read, write and converse comfortably in four languages. I have hiked up to Mt. Everest base camp and have Mt. Kilimanjaro in sight.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Madurai Kamaraj University, India – Bachelor in Electrical Engineering

Where are you currently working? Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Senior. Manager, Digital Product Owner for COVID Franchise

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My family has been severely impacted by COVID-19 both in India and the United States. I lost two uncles to COVID during the first wave. Since the FDA Emergency Use Authorization approval, being a key player in shipping 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines within the US has been the most fulfilling experience in my career.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Lehigh University’s MBA in Supply Chain Management is highly-rated and highly-regarded. In fact, the Poets and Quants rating for the program was my key decision driver. I chose the program in anticipation of the professional value that it would add and I am glad that turned out to be true. The program is very well designed with excellent instructors. An affordable and flexible program with an established online class infrastructure was a huge draw for me. 

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I loved the fact that I can attend my classes fully remotely, or attend in person occasionally to network with my peers. The past three years have been the busiest in my career and I am glad I chose the online MBA program. It helped me to split my time well between my job and the MBA program. I saved a lot of valuable hours by not commuting and spending that time with my young family.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Networking is a key value that you take away from an MBA program. I was worried that I would not get the opportunity to network with my peers much by choosing an online MBA program. However, the curriculum at Lehigh with all the group projects and the real-time synchronous class with breakout rooms did allow me to know and network with a lot of my peers. I developed lifelong friendships from the program that I am very grateful for.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? They are two different experiences. However, the convenience factor of the online experience is the key. From an engagement perspective, I feel that both the online class and the In-the-room class experiences were comparable.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Give your 100% even though it’s an online MBA program. Being organized and staying focused during the learning process is very critical. There is so much value that you can take away from the program both professionally and personally. I have become a better human being because of the MBA program.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? The only thing I would change is to provide an opportunity to meet my peers in person once a year.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The Online MBA program has certainly changed the way I think and approach my work. I now have a holistic and big-picture view that certainly helps me stand out at work. I can bridge the gap between the digital and business teams with the knowledge and skills I have learned through the program.

Did you earn promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes, made a zig-zag career move from a core digital/IT role to a business execution role. My MBA credentials have certainly helped me in being considered for the interview. The MBA program has certainly changed how I think personally and professionally. My years of IT experience perfectly complement all the knowledge I have gained during my MBA journey to bring immense value to the organization I work for.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? I have a full-time job and a family. My young daughter keeps me busy. The online program gave me the flexibility to work and grow in my role and apply new things I learn from the program.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 15-20 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to grow into an executive leadership role, where I can shape the strategic direction of my company. I want to build and grow teams of people from diverse backgrounds so that we can bring our unique perspectives and solve the most critical problems for our company.


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