2023 MBA To Watch: Nafisa Rawji, Wharton School

Nafisa Rawji

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“I’m a conscientious, multi-hyphenate Pan-Africanist. I’m an eternal student with a passion for pushing potential.”

Hometown: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania/Holden, Massachusetts

Fun fact about yourself: I won Most Likely to Be a Millionaire in my high school’s business curriculum program.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BBA from Temple University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Product Manager at VMware Tanzu Labs

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I interned at Flatiron Health in New York, New York.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still deciding.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: R. Graham Whaling Fellow; 2022 – 2023 Wharton African American MBA Association Co-President; 1Y VP of Social for Wharton African Student Association

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This is outside of the confines of a formal program or club, but I am most proud of helping bring Wharton students to four African countries in my time at Wharton on student-led treks (South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania).  Most of these countries have been overlooked by the West as a visitable area, especially in local experiences.

My entire life I have been rooting for the underdog and had a passion for helping bring overlooked stories to life.  To me, the beauty, diversity, tenacity, and possibility on the continent is the most beautiful story there is, and I have dedicated my life to telling it/showing it to people who may not have known before.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the product managers I upskilled in my time as a product manager/software enablement consultant at Tanzu Labs FKA Pivotal Labs. It was incredible to see how extreme programming and Pivotal principles could help bring out the best product managers and leaders in people who then affected their software teams and development organizations.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Wharton because this school is the perfect blend of academia and execution.  I truly believe Wharton is the embodiment of data-informed action. To me, methodology and doing-through-learning are critical for any business leader who actually ignites impact.  Wharton has helped shape those kinds of leaders since 1881.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I really think Professor Samir Nurmohamed is incredible.  He was my first professor at Wharton during our Pre-term introductory class, Management 610. I truly believe his passion for real-world business coupled with his intense dedication to research was evident throughout our entire experience in the room.  I’m sure Wharton very thoughtfully chose him to be the first impression of the Wharton educational experience and I believe he sets a new standard for storytelling and motivation in the classroom.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? There are so many! One of my favorite courses was Entrepreneurship, Change, and Innovation. It was great to experience Wharton’s revolutionary alternate reality courseware directly, but it also simulated conflict and ambiguous environments in group settings that forced us to reconcile what kind of leaders we think we will be with how we perform in high-pressure situations.

This was also the fast timeline of applying classroom theory to real-world situations. I think this immediate relevance will make it intuitive to recall what we’ve learned when we enter our next workplace.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA tradition is Follies. It’s incredible to see how multifaceted and talented our classmates are, but it’s also a timely reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I had taken more risks and learned more about different career paths in my first year. While I love tech, it’s been extremely interesting learning about different parts of the startup and finance ecosystem that supports the tech industry in my second year.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? For one, the restaurant scene! Philadelphia is an amazing restaurant city. There are lots of hidden gems, as well as the crowd-favorites like Laser Wolf or Vernick. It is also a city of neighborhoods, each couple of blocks are an entirely different world and small community. I love how you can really explore endlessly here if you choose to, and be inspired by the communal spirit.

What surprised you the most about business school? The extent of personal development surprised me. I knew I was coming here to reflect on being a better leader, but I did not expect how much this experience would make me question, reflect, and double down on who I am as a person, regardless of what my occupation is.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? You would have to ask the AdCom!  I would say I think I really connected how the innate parts of who I am and my story connect to what I want to do and why I am certain I will succeed in whatever I choose – even if my goals change. My grander “why” was also very clear and related to the rest of my application profile and the decisions I have made up until this point.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Lionel Okono. He has been an informal and formal pillar in our Wharton community. There is not one person who has had a bad interaction with him, and he continues to be so giving even while being incredibly successful professional and personally.

His story of how he has pioneered his family’s trajectory and what such high regard he holds his home community is also incredibly inspiring. He is truly the embodiment of an effective servant-leader in a top global program.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to work in the African Tech space one day to help accelerate the trajectory and growth of the Continent’s middle class/small business owners. I also want to create a substantial scholarship for increasing the number of Black people in tech.

What made Nafisa such an invaluable member of the Class of 2023?

“Nafisa came to Wharton and focused on taking new, challenging coursework. She has done this, and more, during her time so far. She has also set up study halls for minority students in some of her classes. Additionally, Nafisa has worked on the presidential curriculum to demonstrate the Augmented Reality Courseware platform for Wharton.

She has been an active supporter of the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA), helping organize the Whitney M. Young Conference in 2022 by getting a wide and diverse technology panel. She also set up a series called cross-check community conversations featuring students of color checking in with first year students. The Diaspora Night she’s helping organize at the end of February (Black History Month) will also include stress-relief and health-focused conversations and offerings.

What has set Nafisa apart is her work to create new communities or platforms to support existing communities that are not well connected.

She has organized many treks that have focused on African countries, earning her the nickname of “Trek Nafisa”. She used the Global Immersion Program (GIP) model to create these opportunities. A lot of research goes into it, but she finds it very rewarding. She has organized these treks in South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda. Now she is working on a trek for Tanzania to highlight the “Silicon Valley in Zanzibar”.

Her legacy will be built on the many spaces where she has supported under-represented students and helped them make meaningful connections and expand access to resources.”

Eddie Banks-Crosson
Director of Student Life


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