Harvard Business School Names A New MBA Admissions Chief

Harvard business School admissions

Rupal Gadhia, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid

For the second time in a row, Harvard Business School has named a new chief of MBA admissions who has no admissions experience at all. The school today (Sept. 5) named the global head of marketing for SharkNinja robots as its new managing director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.

A 2004 Harvard MBA, Rupal Gadhia succeeds Chad Losee, a former Bain consultant, who got the position in 2016 and left at the end of 2022. Losee also brought no admissions experience to the job and ultimately reduced the MBA application rounds to two from three, allowing other peer schools a look at later applying applicants, and imposed a word limit on the one required essay.

Gadhia, 44, will assume her new role in October when Harvard will send out interview invites to round-one candidates who must file their applications tomorrow on Sept. 6. Gadhia is the first person of Indian descent to hold the top admissions job at Harvard Business School which has now been led by two back-to-back deans from India, Srikant Datar and Nitin Nohria.

RUPAL GADHIA HAS HAD A  LONG CAREER IN MARKETING AND BRANDING

Harvard business School admissions

Rupal Gadhia’s LinkedIn profile picture

Based on her work experience to date, she will have a challenging learning curve to get up to speed. Gadhia will be leaving her job at Needham, Mass.-based SharkNinja after only 11 months. Since graduating from HBS 19 years ago, she has held eight different jobs with eight different companies. In her first three years after earning her MBA, she worked a year at Sara Lee as a brand manager in the company’s classics bread line, then a year at Campbell Soup in a brand management job for kids’ soups and SpaghettiOs, and finally a year as a consultant for Netlink Software Pvt Ltd., a mid-sized IT company. She spent three years as an associate consultant at Booz & Co. from  2007 to 2010 before moving on to the Brand Union, a marketing company,  as an executive director for another three years. In 2013, Gadhia went to Interbrand as senior director of brand strategy, a job she held for four years, until leaving for GenPact, a consulting and outsourcing firm, as vice president of brand and digital marketing. Gadhia joined SharkNinja as a senior vice president in charge of marketing its line of robot vacuums in November of 2022.

In an interview published by Harvard Business School, she acknowledges the challenge ahead. “To be honest, I have a lot to learn from the MBA team,” she said. “I was very impressed with the people I met during the interview process and feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from them. My first order of business would be to learn, absorb, and understand how MBA programs operate and how they recruit the most amazing and talented students.”

She said her interest in the job occurred after the school asked alumni for help in May to find a successor to Losee. “After almost 20 years, I finally realized that I had the marketing and social enterprise skills my mentor suggested I develop,” said Gadhia. “So, when (MBA Executive Director) Jana (Kierstead) contacted HBS alumni about the role and it read like my dream job, I couldn’t help reaching out about it – it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. HBS had such a profound impact on my life and is responsible for one of the biggest growth periods of my life – it was the place that taught me to find my voice, express my thoughts and perspectives, and lead with integrity and kindness Taught. And I wanted to make a contribution to HBS that would have a profound impact on generations to come. This role will leverage my background in marketing and strategy and give me the opportunity to grow and learn from the best and brightest.”

The school noted that she was chosen after a national search by the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. In its announcement, HBS said it had met with candidates from very diverse backgrounds and experiences from a wide range of industries. “Her track record transforming organizations helped her to stand out among the finalists,” said Jana Pompadur Kierstead, executive director of the MBA program, in a statement. “Through her work, Rupal can ensure that our MBA program is accessible to all and grow the pipeline of leaders who will one day make a difference in the world.”

BORN TO INDIAN PARENTS WHO LEFT UGANDA AS REFUGEES FOR ROCHESTER, NY

In her role, HBS said, Gadhia will partner with a variety of internal and external stakeholders including current HBS students, alumni, faculty, and administrators. She will oversee an admissions process that aims to deliver a high-quality, MBA class with wide-ranging talents and experiences. She is also tasked with building upon previous efforts to increase access and affordability and remove financial barriers for applicants and students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. A person who reported to Gadhia posted a highly favorable review of her as a boss. “Rupal is the leader we all want to work with and learn from,” wrote Kate O’Neill Rauber on LinkedIn. “She’s smart, strategic and trusted by the C-suite. She champions her teams, is highly respected and inspires others to elevate their game. What I appreciate most about Rupal, though, is that she’s supportive, compassionate and real. There’s no pretense; only a desire to achieve the greater goal and to help others be their best.”

Born and raised in Rochester, NY, her Indian parents were in Uganda when Idi Amin was in power and had left Africa as refugees and settled in Rochester. “I spent my weekdays in public school as the only Indian child in class and my weekends surrounded by Indian families who were like family to me – because my real grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles were continents apart,” she added. “I was born to Indian parents and was given two career options: a doctor or an engineer. You can imagine the conversation I had when I told my parents I thought interior decorating was my job. It didn’t go well! So, I took the shortest route and checked that box. Became an engineer.” She went to Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, in 1996 and graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 20001.

“After graduating and working as an engineer for a year,” she said, “I went to HBS, where most of my elective classes were in marketing and social enterprise. Upon graduation, I was torn between working in social enterprise or brand management – ​​so I called up my mentor and asked him for advice. He told me to first pick up some skills that could really benefit a nonprofit. This led me to Sarah Lee and Campbell Soup Company in marketing/brand management.”

Gadhia ended up in Boston after meeting the man who would become her husband. “After working in the agency world for more than seven years, I met the love of my life, my now husband — he was living in Boston and I was in New York City — and we had to decide which way forward to go,” she said. “Include a four-hour train journey to see each other that wasn’t possible. I joke that we picked at straws and he won and so I moved to Boston where I joined Genpact…”

“We are thrilled to have Rupal take on this pivotal role at this pivotal time, when the need for leaders of competence and character has never been greater,” said Matt Weinzierl, senior associate dean and chair of the MBA program, in a statement. “Her authentic belief in—and experience with—the transformational experience of the HBS MBA, combined with her superb analytical, marketing, and strategic skills, will inspire the world’s most promising young leaders to join the HBS MBA community of which she has been such an engaged and active member.”

HER FONDEST HBS MEMORY: TUESDAY NIGHT DINNERS WITH A BUNCH OF GIRLS

Gadhia seemed ready for another career move. “Returning to HBS in this role is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Gadhia in a statement. “The School had such a profound impact on my life and career that leading the admissions effort was the unquestioned next step for me.”

Asked what she likes to do in her personal time, she replied: “I have five-year-old twin girls who are full of boundless energy and endless conversation. They bring joy to my personal time because it is wonderful to see the world through their eyes. When I am not at work, I am with my husband and girls. I love anything artistic from woodworking to painting to using resin to make hair clips for my girls. It’s the way I relieve stress. Although the combination of my twin girls and art can sometimes make me stressed, especially when sticky, paint-filled hands get everywhere, I love seeing their creativity in action.”

Her fondest memory while an MBA student at Harvard Business School? “Tuesday night dinner with a bunch of girls from my section who are now my best friends,” she said. “We still see each other at least once a year. They’re the women I call for good and bad news, they’re the ones who help me figure out tough things, and they’re the ones who spring to light in a jiffy. Our dinners were sacred. We would all drop everything and make sure we were present. One of us would cook dinner for the group and we would connect with each other through the ups and downs of relationships, the stresses of classes, and figuring out our future paths. The Tuesday I’d love to forget (but my friends will never) is the time I was making dinner and one of the side dishes was spaghetti. I got a little distracted while cooking and actually managed to burn the spaghetti. So, from then on, I ordered takeout while I did my cooking! I’ve really honed that skill over the years, and I’m proud to say I’m one of the best Uber Eats and Door Dash orderers out there!”

It was a year ago in September when Losee publicly revealed he was stepping down from the post as managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, to accept a job at Yale University as head of strategy in the university’s provost’s office. Losee, who earned his MBA at Harvard in 2013, left Harvard after six and one-half years as admissions chief. His announcement came on the same day that the head of admissions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Kirsten Moss, stated she also would leave. Stanford is still searching for a successor.

DON’T MISS: HARVARD STILL SEARCHIN FOR AN MBA ADMISSIONS CHIEF or MEET THE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL MBA CLASS OF 2024

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.