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Master’s in Supply Chain Management: Nainika Sudheendra, Tennessee Knoxville (Haslam)

Everyone was allowed room for error and given plenty of peer support during tutoring or working sessions so that growth in weak areas was possible, but the group also stepped in to cover when a member did not feel proficient in a certain skill set. The encouraging atmosphere made the learning of new technologies or quantitative analyses less daunting.”

Student Name: Nainika Sudheendra

Graduate Business School: University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Above all, I value kindness, competence, and antifragile sense of curiosity. 

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Tennessee Knoxville Haslam College of Business, Supply Chain Management & Business Analytics.

Current Employer and Job Title: Walmart, Transportation Automation Manager.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have been in the full-time workforce for approximately one year. During that time, my four-person team was responsible for $25 million in savings last year, which was nearly half of the entire transportation department’s savings. 

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: I am very proud of my personal growth and development. I feel much more solidified in my abilities and my goals thanks to this program, and while it sounds cheesy, that growth is crucial in determining how quickly I get to my desired point B. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Gartner’s #2 ranking of UT’s graduate supply chain programs and in-state tuition appealed to me, as well as the fact that the professors and schools involved in the MS SCM – Tri-Continent program were excellent at what they do. It was important to me to get extensive education on how the supply chain works internationally, especially since I had never studied abroad before, and the dedication and networks of all entities in the program made that possible. 

What led you to choose a master’s in Supply Chain Management over an MBA? This is, in fact, not a question I can answer accurately because I will be joining Harvard Business School’s 2+2 MBA cohort in the fall of 2023. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? Two stand out to me in particular: Johannes Kern’s class at Tongji University in Shanghai, which enabled us to undertake real consulting projects for companies like Cargill at a rapid pace and get feedback from C-suite executives. Another is Christian Tröster’s Leadership and Organizational Behavior class at Kuehne Logistics University in Hamburg. Both professors helped us build connections with industry leaders and provided top-down insight on how firms handle strategic operations and people management.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? Walmart is a Supply Chain Forum partner at UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute, so I was able to meet my current director, Russell Zuppo at the UT fall supply chain career fair who advocated for my hiring.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? In such a small crucible of talent and perspective (MS SCM – Tri-Continent classes cap out at 30 people, 10 from each continent), one finds out quickly what they bring to the table, as well as what the table itself is lacking. What I most appreciated about my classmates was their willingness to accommodate everyone’s level of effort. Everyone was allowed room for error and given plenty of peer support during tutoring or working sessions so that growth in weak areas was possible, but the group also stepped in to cover when a member did not feel proficient in a certain skill set. The encouraging atmosphere made the learning of new technologies or quantitative analyses less daunting.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Dr. Chad Autry and Dr. Kai Hoberg were tireless advocates for student success, always willing to write glowing recommendations or provide a source of guidance during periods of transition. I actually used a financial model I learned about in Dr. Autry’s class in a case competition I participated in, and the judges commended us for having the most thorough financial analysis they had seen. Dr. Hoberg has connections everywhere in the world, and I continue to meet and learn from people that he knows to this day. His class provided our first exposure to Llamasoft’s Supply Chain Guru software and increased our ability to see supply chain from a more quantitative perspective, such as using matrix algebra to solve scheduling and inventory problems.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate master’s program? Even if you are only using the master’s program as a stepping stone to a higher salary, be very clear about what you have to offer to the class profile and what experiences (academic or otherwise) you want from the program. It is the only way to honor the effort your professors, program managers, and peers are putting in, and to make sure that you do not miss out on the incredible non-traditional opportunities offered by this program, such as international internships.

What was your best memory from your master’s program? There are so many to choose from, but the one that best demonstrates the degree of the relationships we built occurred on our penultimate night in Knoxville. All of us wrote each other letters with our favorite memories from the past one and a half years together, and stood outside a pizza place at the end of the night hugging each other and crying. It was the perfect ending to the semester before we were separated long-term by the COVID outbreak.