Imagine earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Not too tough for many of our readers. Now imagine earning an MBA. Obviously also not a far-fetched idea for the typical P&Q reader. Now imagine winning an NCAA Division 1 championship. Now imagine doing all three — all before the age of 20. That’s what Brandon Ngai is on track to do. Currently, in his second year in the MBA program at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, he is also an NCAA champion, three-time All-American, and Big Ten champion in the pommel horse in gymnastics. Ngai, who is a Sacramento, California native, became the youngest pommel horse NCAA champion in history when he won in 2016 while earning a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois.
“When I was 14 years old, my junior year of high school, I took part-time classes at the community college with students who were 21-22 years old,” Ngai told Poets&Quants last spring. “It doesn’t take long before it becomes normal, and people view me based on the quality of my work and performance instead of my age.”
Ngai and his coach believe making a run at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo isn’t out of reach. The staff at P&Q will be pulling for his potential appearance at the Summer Games later this year!
Monil Singhal & Mallika Saharia, The Two Applicants That Pulled Off The H/S/W Trifecta
Getting accepted to Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, or The Wharton School is the dream of tens of thousands of hopefull MBA applicants each year. Being accepted into one of the three schools is a massive accomplishment. But getting into all three? That’s almost unheard of. That’s why we featured two applicants that did just that this year.
Hailing from India and having a hodge-podge early career in IIT and education and public policy, Monil Singhal is a unicorn. “It’s really hard to say what the schools saw in my application,” said Monil, who is now attending Stanford. “I don’t think there is a silver bullet. But if I had to pick one thing, I think it would be the passion with which I have pursued major decisions that I believed to be the most meaningful, even if they weren’t always the easiest or considered prestigious.”
The second applicant pulling the trifecta is Mallika Saharia. Also originally from India, Saharia was a promising young tennis star who switched gears to engineering and then tech. “I spoke to a lot of alumni from both colleges, and I spoke to a lot of people with a similar background as mine who had similar post-MBA plans, and Harvard slowly became the clearer choice,” Saharia, who scored 750 on the GMAT said. “The main reasons why I chose Harvard was because of the strength of the alumni network and the penetration of the brand across industries in India. I have plans of coming back to India and it’s a much more recognized brand and there are alumni straight across the country.”
At P&Q, we appreciate MBA students who are using their degrees to make the world a better place. That’s exactly what Julie Greene, an MBA candidate at Oxford Saïd Business School, is doing. Joining with Markey Culver, who earned an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, the duo have launched The Women’s Bakery, a social enterprise based in Rwanda.
“We both began working on community projects specific to women, especially regarding creating greater economic inclusion,” Greene told P&Q earlier this year. “We began to ask ourselves: what do women really need in order to upskill and take care of their families?”
Both Greene and Culver are Peace Corps alums and both went to earn their MBAs specifically to make the world a better place.
“We track all kinds of social impact indicators, such as personal income, household income, and so on,” Greene said. “But for me, the most exciting indicators are more qualitative. I recall one woman who was completely against being on the sales team because she felt she was too shy. But over time, her confidence just kept growing, until one day, while we were discussing sales targets, she said: ‘You know what? I’m going to sell four times as much as that target,’ and she went out and did it.
“It’s those kinds of transformations that make all the work worthwhile.”