Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Ishan Desai, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Ishan Desai

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“I live by a relationships first ideology and am extremely passionate about paying it forward.”

Hometown: Mumbai, Maharashtra – India

Fun Fact About Yourself: Even on a Friday evening, if I had to choose between going out partying and playing any sport, I’ll likely choose to go play instead.

Undergraduate School and Major: VIT University, Vellore, India

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Associate Consultant – Eli Lilly and Company

What has been your favorite part of Nashville so far? Why? The cultural diversity of Nashville is certainly my favorite part of Nashville. I firmly believe that even just interacting with individuals who have had different backgrounds, personal, professional or both, is a great way to learn new things. Just a few months into living in Nashville, I’ve already had the chance to visit the farmer’s market here, enjoy Halloween, and even celebrate Diwali with my friends from the cohort and give them a glimpse of the Indian culture. Nashville is a beautiful place with culturally diverse and inclusive people and that really makes this place special.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The Vanderbilt MBA is a unique program that allows you to customize your curriculum. For many, an MBA is often one of the biggest investments they make in their careers. Hence, I believe it is important for an MBA program to offer you what you need, and the Vanderbilt MBA does exactly that. Here, you not only choose a Concentration of your choosing but also have the chance to Specialize in a functional area that you are most interested in. It doesn’t stop there as you can even choose an Emphasis in the industry of choice. This makes the Vanderbilt MBA program very special as it allows you to learn and develop in the area of your choice and I believe that strongly elevates one’s professional development.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Vanderbilt Owen? Having worked in the consulting space, I am passionate to pursue a post MBA career in consulting and believe the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club (OSCC) is an incredible resource. The programming at OSCC not only helps you learn various aspects about the consulting space but also offers all the resources (and more) that you would need to secure a career in the space. The 2nd year MBA students at the OSCC are invested in the success of the 1st year MBAs and will offer guidance and support at every step of the way. This includes help with identifying target firms, connecting with alums and practitioners, application preparation as well as case and behavioral interview preparation.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My time at Eli Lilly was very exciting. Not only did I have the chance to not only work on analytical projects for some of Lilly’s top brands, but also engage in helping set up a consulting function to save costs by running more analytical activities internally going forward. I was one of the starting members of my unit and helped bring in associates and, coach and mentor them on various aspects of consulting for pharmaceutical brands. This allowed us to set up a cost-efficient internal consulting function that Lilly’s brands could reach out to and receive data backed insights and strategies to some of the most diverse and complex business questions.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? As a firm believer of cultivating diversity, I believe that being elected as a 1st year board member of the Owen South Asian Business Club (SABC) is my biggest accomplishment. Through the SABC, I am able to offer my peers, who come from various places around the world, a perspective into the culture from South Asia. Recently, we hosted a Diwali themed Closing Bell at Owen and offered South Asian food that everyone relished.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I recently read the book Don’t Believe Everything You Think by Thomas E. Kida, and I highly recommend prospective MBA students to read this as well. This book gives a great perspective into the science of thinking in order to become a better decision maker, a skill I believe is critical to be a successful MBA student.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA program? Authenticity and integrity go a long way. I believe that everyone brings value in different ways and the sum of everyone’s values and experiences is what makes the Vanderbilt MBA so special. That not only enhances one’s own experience at the program but also adds value to others around.


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