I was working as a software engineer in India when I began volunteering at a local shelter home for children because I wanted to do more. I taught math, science, and English on weekends. There was a huge gap in the children’s skills that was holding them back from even applying for entry-level jobs, so we started an after-school tutoring program. It was hard work because the gap was significant, but we managed to get every single child to clear their exams, which had never happened in the shelter home. It was the first time I realized I could make a difference.
Within a year, we had scaled the program to 23 cities, teaching 5,000 children. As I began to run this program at scale, I often experienced the huge gap in my own skill set. My CEO had been a nonprofit consultant for 15 years, and he had skills and competencies that I lacked. I had limited to no experience in economics or finance, which is critical and rare in the sector. One day, I hope to effect change on a large scale, so I need to build these competencies. An MBA was a terrific option, and Yale SOM was a good fit, because its mission is so clear. The school identifies up front how important leadership is in both business and society. SOM attracts people who ask, “What kind of impact am I going to leave in the world?”
It was pleasantly surprising to me how with the integrated curriculum, we look at organizations from the perspectives of stakeholders, not topics. I’ve come to see how critical that distinction is. If you just look at topics in isolation, you won’t understand the motivations of key stakeholders. You won’t know what drives certain decisions or how to deal with these competing interests in an organization. Once you look through the different lenses, you realize how complicated it all is and how many factors you have to take into account to be effective as a leader.
My ultimate goal is to run my own nonprofit impact organization. Management consulting or rotational leadership programs are exciting pathways because they will give me opportunities to tackle complex challenges within the context of global mission-driven organizations. These experiences will also help me formalize my skills and build robust internal frameworks for solving problems and creating goal congruency within organizations. Bridgewater is perfect because they have a very unique way of organizing their workforce and they have successfully established a strong culture. In a nonprofit, where you may not have the luxury of financial incentives, the ability to build a strong culture that motivates and aligns your organization toward a common goal is critical.