2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Gurkamal Pannu, Yale School of Management

Gurkamal Pannu

Yale School of Management

“Driven, passionate, and dedicated early-career investor.”

Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio

Fun fact about yourself: I’m the National Policy Debate Champion in the NEDA League.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Dayton, BS in Business Administration, Majored in Finance and Business Economics with an Investment Management emphasis

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Student at University of Dayton | Analyst at Sage Rock Capital (event-driven hedge fund)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? MIT Investment Management Co. (MITIMCo), in Boston, MA

Where will you be working after graduation? Global Investor at MIT Investment Management Co. (MITIMCo)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Investment Management Club – Club President

Net Impact Case Competition (2021) – Most Innovative Social Impact Winner

Masters in Asset Management Program – Student Ambassador

Teaching Assistant: A History of Financial Market Fraud: A Forensic Approach, taught by Professor Jim Chanos

Teaching Assistant: Fixed Income Securities – Bonds, Swaps, and Derivatives, taught by Professor Saman Majd

Research Project: Options Volatility & Hedging, with Professor Saman Majd

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my efforts in building the Investment Management Club at Yale SOM. When I started at SOM, the Asset Management degree was in its inaugural year, and the Investment Management Club didn’t have the resources it needed to help students in their exploration of investment management careers. Over the past year, I built an education program from the ground-up, presenting once a week to 70-80 classmates on everything from how to network in the investment industry to working with Bloomberg to source and diligence new ideas. Along with my leadership team, I was also able to bring in hedge fund managers and professional investors to share their stories and connect with SOM students in small group sessions. We also prepared and sent teams to various pitch competitions and ranked well against our peers at other business schools.

I’m proud to have built what has become not only one of the largest professional clubs at SOM, but also a close-knit and supportive community of investment professionals that we’ll continue to rely on throughout our careers.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was at Sage Rock Capital, I led diligence on an investment that I found very compelling. Unfortunately, the stock moved upward before we could initiate a position, and stayed pretty volatile for a few months. Aside from my day-to-day work with the fund, I made sure to update our work on the investment, waiting for the right opportunity. After a few more sprints of diligence, I was able to get it in the portfolio as a first-year analyst. The stock has since doubled, and I’m proud of myself for pushing on something I believe in and thankful to my team for giving me the chance to refine my work until I was able to craft a strong investment case.

Why did you choose this business school? When researching business schools, I was looking for a program that would allow me to matriculate immediately after graduating from my undergraduate degree, and to refine and build on my investing experiences. My older sister helped me find Yale. With a history of accepting younger candidates (termed Silver Scholars) into the MBA program, along with the then-newly-introduced Masters in Asset Management degree, Yale SOM was the perfect fit for me. The combination of programs has allowed me to learn from world class professors in the MBA and practitioners in asset management, and to even work full-time at a hedge fund during a gap year.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I took Prof. AJ Wasserstein’s Rollups, Consolidations, and Programmatic Acquisitions in my first year. He’s a practitioner and devoted educator, and his courses are some of the most in-demand classes at SOM.

Despite this, he always makes time for students. Aside from serving as a mentor to entrepreneurial classmates, he’s worked with dozens of students on research projects available on his website.

Before each class, Prof. Wasserstein asks students to complete a survey about the day’s case and he then highlights student contributions and insights as we discuss the subject matter. I think an excerpt from his writings explains his level of thoughtfulness and care in teaching best. Here’s an excerpt from Prof. Wasserstein’s writings that best explains his level of thoughtfulness and care, in which he shares advice for graduating MBA students:

“Even though most students reading this know me as a business school instructor, what I want most for each of you has very little to do with business or even entrepreneurship. I do not really care whether you achieve unrivaled financial success, but I deeply hope that you find happiness.”

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Prof. Zoe Chance teaches Mastering Influence & Persuasion, which is based on her book Influence is Your Superpower. During the course, we delved into the psychology and methods behind modern-day influence, including through practical application activities. Here, we had the opportunity to build our skills negotiating with business owners or trying to barter a paper clip to something of actual value. Everyone came into the class with different perspectives on influence, and Prof. Chance was guided an open and inclusive discussion where we learned not only from the course materials and exercises, but from our classmates’ unique experiences.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? This year, I co-hosted the SOM Diwali Celebration, organized by the South Asia Club, which is one of the largest student events of the year, with performances from incredibly talented classmates, speeches, and guest appearances from professors. It really reflects the enthusiasm everyone at SOM has to connect with their peers and learn from their different experiences. Shoutout to the leaders of South Asia Club for their efforts in organizing!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? SOM has fantastic professors who really do make time to speak with students, and it’s something I didn’t really take advantage of during my first year. This past year, I made more of an effort connect with faculty outside of classes to learn from their experiences in the industry (and get great reading recommendations!), which has helped guide my learning process towards topics I’m most interested in.

In classes, you don’t just learn about what’s academic consensus– you get to hear from researchers on the cutting edge of new innovations in almost every field. I’ve had some of the best conversations with professors sparked by an in-class discussion about something that hasn’t even made it to publication yet. It can be intimidating to reach out to people who literally wrote the textbooks I read in undergrad, but also an opportunity to go beyond the classroom.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Yale SOM is in a new building further from central campus, and incoming students often ask if it’s also a bit removed from Yale College. SOM students can take any course offered to undergraduates, and a number of joint degrees across graduate schools. My classmates often take courses cross-listed with the Law School or Jackson Institute, allowing us to customize our degree to fit our interests.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? New Haven is a small community and most graduate students live within a few blocks of each other in the East Rock neighborhood. It’s very common to run into classmates while picking up a coffee or during a morning run. I’ve been fortunate to connect with a lot of my classmates in the classroom, but also organically while going about my day.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was most surprised by the diversity of experiences that my classmates came in with. It’s one thing to think about people with unique career paths – it’s another to become friends with the food scientist behind the Red Velvet Oreo, or meet a classmate who performed at the White House. I know no matter who I strike up a conversation with at SOM, I’ll come away fascinated and having learned something new.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The first person who comes to mind is Max Yamamoto. Max is a fellow joint MBA/Masters in Asset Management student, and a Vice President of the Investment Management Club. He has been an incredible leader and spearheaded coordinating with the Career Development Office and making sure our events run smoothly. Max is a great combination of efficient and intelligent, somehow always ahead on his work but never too busy to chat. I’m excited and honored to work with him next semester on our research project on options volatility pricing, and dreading facing him in soccer intramurals. Post-graduation, he’s headed to Dimensional Fund Advisors – the team is lucky to have him!

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

1) Conduct original and impactful research in asset pricing or portfolio management and get published in a reputable finance journal.

2) Organize an investment conference and pitch competition for students and investment professionals to network and share ideas.

What made Gurkamal such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“I have reviewed thousands of applications during my career in admissions and Gurkamal’s candidacy left a memorable impression. In a pool of abundant talent, Gurkamal immediately stood out as a candidate – besides the “traditional” metrics of success that impress an admissions officer, we saw the consciousness with which he approached everything he did, his commitment to his community, and his constant strive towards betterment – of both self and society. Since he joined the Yale SOM community – as a joint-degree student in the most selective programs at the School – he has amplified his efforts in service of two programs (the Silver Scholars Program and the Master’s in Asset Management) and the School’s mission “to educate leaders for business and society”. Gurkamal has brought exuberant energy and enthusiasm – convening and supporting people (through clubs, conferences, and mentorship), as well as building resources and making connections that will serve the next class, long after he’s graduated. His career is already off to a really promising start and I can’t wait to see all the incredible ways in which he will engage as an alum. I have no doubt that he will continue to contribute and come up with new ways to positively impact those around him and beyond.

Maria Derlipanska
Director MMS, Asset Management

Gurkamal’s resume documents strong academic performance, solid work experience, and a clear commitment to developing expertise in all areas of finance, both academic and practical. All my interactions with him support this testament.

Each fall semester I teach an advanced finance course at Yale School of Management. Gurkamal applied to be my teaching assistant last fall and although he had not previously taken the course, he impressed me such that I was willing to engage him as one of two teaching assistants for a class of approximately 100 second-year MBA students. It is a testament to his academic prowess and interpersonal skills that he was able to learn the material whilst fulfilling his duties as teaching assistant. He exhibits a strong commitment to continuous learning and growth, organizing an independent study to extend his knowledge beyond the scope of my course, which I will be supervising this spring.

Gurkamal has exhibited strong leadership qualities and interpersonal skills in his capacity as President of the Investment Management Club at Yale SOM. In addition to his regular teaching duties, he also organized two guest speakers for my class and coordinated their sessions to allow participation by members of the Investment Management Club. He is clearly respected by his peers and has contributed to the Yale SOM community beyond his academic courses.

Gurkamal Pannu is an exceptional candidate who embodies the qualities of a top MBA student – academic excellence, exemplary leadership, and a commitment to personal and professional development growth.

Saman Majd
Lecturer, Yale School of Management


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