With fewer international students and fewer women at SOM, Nooyi found the school “a pretty lonely place. But there were three women in the admissions office who decided they would take me under their wing. It was just unbelievable. Every day in the morning I would go to them and they would be my three moms and take good care of me. The cutest thing is how they went around New Haven to find that Indian family who could feed me because I was a vegetarian. They found families that would send me care packages. This is the kind of help that I got.”
When Nooyi first interviewed for summer jobs, she had no business suit, instead wearing a sari. It didn’t keep her from getting an MBA internship that allowed her to afford two suits by the time she returned to SOM for her second year. After graduating with the MBA, Nooyi first went to work for Boston Consulting Group for six years. She joined PepsiCo in 1994 as chief strategist, becoming chief executive in 2006.
Even though these MBAs have climbed the corporate ladder to the very top rung, they acknowledge that the degree can only take you so far. Miles White, who earned his MBA from Stanford in 1980, learned about the limits of his degree within two days of his arrival at Abbott Laboratories in 1984.
“When I joined Abbott,” he said in a recent interview with U.S.A. Today, “I was there about two days when the president of the division I had joined asked me if I had an MBA, and I said yes. And he asked me what school, and I told him. And he said, ‘Well, that’s terrific, but I got to tell you, it’s not going to matter here. You’re going to get ahead based on what you do, not where you’re from.’ And it was true. That’s going to be true for you every day, everywhere you go.”
James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhilips and a 1969 MBA grad of the University of Texas’ B-school, apparently agrees. “The first piece of advice I received upon getting hired for Philips has stuck with me throughout my career,” Mulva told an interviewer not long ago. “Work hard, work damn hard–or get out of here.”