From Classroom To Corner Office: An MBA Candidate’s Roadmap To Becoming CEO

I fondly remember sitting inside the boardroom of a big international company at the age of 18. I could not have been more naïve about the business world. What I remember most is that a few minutes into the discussion, I became awe-struck by the gravitas, street-smartness, and expertise of the CXOs.

Having such fascinating opportunities over the years eventually shaped my big dream of becoming a CEO. It is not for the title, but for the person I would become in the process, and the impact on people I could have.


I am a trained finance and accounting professional, a chartered accountant and CFA Level III candidate. In 12 years post-qualification, I have worked in multiple industries — FMCG, agri-commodities, oil and gas, and specialty chemicals — and with some of the best leaders in such leading companies as ITC Ltd, Puma Energy, and Diversey. I have actively garnered a multi-dimensional work experience, taking on diverse finance roles including finance leadership and general business partnership, and have led agendas for CEOs.

Constantly working with the smartest people is admittedly never easy in the short term. But it is undoubtedly rewarding in longer term.


At the beginning of our career, we are appreciated for bringing specific technical expertise to the table. As we progress toward a managerial role, what is most important is getting work done and leading teams. Finally, to attain a leadership position, we need to envision a better future and motivate the team to collectively realize it.

In my early career I deliberately played bold by undertaking the following, developing myself into a well-rounded professional:

  1. I strategically took roles providing me a unique 360-degree view of the business and the opportunities to partner with leaders in solving key business problems;
  2. I passed on lucrative jobs to work instead with great managers, who mentored me and became my role models; and
  3. I worked with executive coaches much ahead of time on topics such as executive presence, emotional intelligence, and boardroom skills.


As Steve Jobs once said, the only way to do great work is to love what you do. In each of my roles I have been passionate about self-improvement, driving excellence, and leaving a legacy. This has added advantages: First, the journey toward becoming a better version never ends. Second, it is an absolute measure, preventing a relative delusion if you work in a not-so-competitive ecosystem.

I have constantly built new skills for the next job by investing in personal development and creating delegation opportunities for higher responsibilities. My ongoing transformational MBA at IMD Business School is one of the many curated steps toward my dream.


In my post-MBA career, I will take a challenging role that stretches my potential and provides me an opportunity to transform the business. My success blueprint: A successful leader possesses a good combination of knowledge from academics; skillsets from professional experiences and which can be taught in a new job; and a positive attitude toward learning and growth. The last is indeed the most important starting point.

Let me share the following key things from my CEO Playbook to accelerate your leadership journey:

  1. Develop a vision for the future — for your company, team, family. Constantly observe things around you and ask, “Can this be made better?” Think big and — rather than make incremental improvements — be bold.
  2. Act with intentionality and take control of your life. Life is too short to be on autopilot. Know what you want to achieve in the longer run, but have a daily plan as well.
  3. Wear the (symbolic) CEO Medal and act like one today. Solve challenging problems at work and achieve bold personal goals.


While the official title will come with time, what stops you from “acting like a CEO” today?

In the end, my advice to professionals is to go beyond what you think is achievable, because you will often surprise yourself. And I sincerely hope this world will be a kinder place because of your leadership journey.

Wishing good luck to all inspiring leaders of tomorrow!

Rohit Gupta, a CNBC Business Leaders 40-under-40 Awardee, is an astute business leader with a unique combination of visionary leadership, financial prowess, and people skills. He is known for his eternal optimism, positive energy, and kindness both in professional and personal life. An MBA candidate at IMD Business School in Switzerland, he can be reached on LinkedIn.

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