Applying together to business school gave them a built-in partner

Growing up in a strict Indian household, Rahul*’s earliest leadership template was to inspire through discipline. However, through the leadership opportunities he had as a part of the student government in college, strong communication and empathy, not punishment, became the hallmarks of his method of heading a team. Moving from consulting with Bain to becoming an investment analyst with Sequoia, his work was consistently team-based and required him to keep evolving his leadership style.

A keen focus on academics and a determination to combat the Indian patriarchy led Pooja* to IIT, where she was determined to make her voice heard despite the overwhelmingly male-dominated classrooms in which she was studying. Her outspoken contributions earned her attention, some negative, some positive. Joining Shell Oil after college, it was a challenge for her to find her place as a young employee in such a large organization. She decided to found Young Shell Bangalore to create a community and exchange for other young professionals in the company. She realized that work like this, and the work she was doing through Apex, Shell’s CSR arm, was fulfilling her in new ways, which lead her to pursue that interest full time. It was a risky move to leave an established big company like Shell for a small social enterprise like Wingreen Farms, but it was that transition from an established company like Shell for a small social enterprise like Wingreen Farms, helped guide her future goals.

Applying as a couple to business school was something Rahul and Pooja knew would be challenging, but it also gave them a built-in partner in the process. They were both ready to pursue MBAs, and the support they were able to provide each other made all the difference.

They knew that schools would be evaluating them together, and they worked to make sure their school choices were ones that were strong fits for both of them. Finding programs that balanced each of their needs while providing them with the same level of opportunities and networks to focus on both of their goals meant a lot of program research. They choose to see each other as allies, providing sounding boards for each other for ideas, essays and goal articulation rather than competition.

When one of them was admitted and the other was waitlisted at both of their dream school, it was difficult. But working together to develop waitlist solutions and applying for other amazing options only strengthened their commitment to the process and their shared goal of business school. Now, they are both eager to join the HBS class of 2019 and to evolve their leadership styles together.

*Names changed per applicants’ request.

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