2018 Best EMBAs: Chintan Fafadia, University of Maryland (Smith)

Chintan Fafadia

Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

Passionately business and values-driven with strong emphasis on family and relationships.”

Age: 39

Hometown: I was born and bought up Mumbai, India. I have lived in the U.S. in three cities: Dallas, TX, Philadelphia, PA and Germantown, MD

Family Members: My pillars of strength are my loving wife and best friend, Pinky, and our two beautiful daughters Isheeta (8) and Myra (4) years old. Further inspiring and motivating are my parents, Bipin and Mita, and our strong families on both sides.

Fun fact about yourself: Born and brought up as a vegetarian in India, I knew ‘chili’ only in terms of ‘chili peppers’ until ordering (and realizing I was eating beef) chili cheese fries from a Jack in the Box when I first arrived in the U.S. in 2001.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelor of Engineering – University of Mumbai, India

Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering – University of Texas Dallas

Where are you currently working?

PCTEL, Inc as a Director of Product Management with the RF Solutions division

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Monthly-meeting event manager for Mastek India (my first employer), 2005; Hosted various formal and entertainment stage shows — both school- and work-related (2002-2006); Published a Journal of Applied Physics (May 2008) article from research with a team including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Alan MacDiarmid; Northeast DAS & Small Cell Association advisory council member, 2014; Vice President of Board of Directors Leaman Farm Home Association June, 2014-Dec 2016.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Academically, I am especially proud of A-plus grades for Data Analysis and Managerial Accounting — two courses that have great application in my day-to-day activity. Also, I was part of an amazing Markstrat simulation-team comeback. Struggling, at the bottom during the first few weeks of this inter-cohort competition, we pulled together to win with a significant lead. This collaborative success reflects my intent to work academically, in the framework of the program, with as many members in my cohort as possible. I believe I’m up to 70 percent — and still aiming for 100 percent by July. And to deepen the EMBA experience for my cohort, I initiated and have organized a ‘lunch and learn’ series. During our onsite Fridays, faculty and cohort members share experiential insights into their fields.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While proud of designing, developing and launching such products as SeeHawk scanner receiver software, including SeeHawk Engage more recently, my biggest professional achievement as a product management professional, personally, is the strong sense of team cohesiveness and collaboration that I am able to bring to any team that I am leading or a part of. I strongly believe in the power of building strong ties and delivering values through collaboration and achievement for every member of the team.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Pinpointing a favorite is tough, as I have always focused on finding and take the best from each professor, individually. For example, I have truly learned a lot at UMD from the likes of Dr. Michael Faulkender (Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy nominee) for subject matter expertise and course style; Dr. David Godes for engaging delivery; Dr. Paulo Prochno for methodology; and Dr. Charles Olsen for the no-nonsense lectures focused both on the subject at hand and real-life attributes needed for leading. But I give most credit to Dr. Ann Herd in her executive coach role here at UMD. She takes strong personal interest, going ‘above and beyond,’ to help her coachees and connects everything from values to acumen in the process. In conversation, her point of view comes across as ‘if I don’t know you as a person, how will you I help you as an executive coach?’ She approaches teaching holistically. She gets you to reflect on ‘What I am as a person? What are my values?’ Subsequently, she’s helped me connect back to myself — to find and explore my own values and, ultimately, improve myself.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Corporate Finance was especially valuable because I had little formal experience here. Format-wise, Dr. Faulkender had us study real life companies for valuations and simulate M&A negotiations. And, in subsequent in-class presentations, he made us especially aware of being grounded and focused in presenting financial data because of the inherently high degree of challenge in presenting such information. Broadly, the insight I gained, for example, into evaluating potential acquisitions — including products and MPB (marginal propensity to borrow) value — will help me evaluate data and make decisions in my product management role.

But a bigger insight for me is how this course fundamentally interrelates with certain other courses — Accounting, Data Modeling, Global and Managerial Economics, and Strategy and Marketing — for making any sound business decision.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The Smith EMBA program’s overall strong focus on leadership most strongly inspired me to choose UMD. I saw from the outside and have experienced a truly holistic program based on curriculum design, the focus on assessments, the executive coaching program, and the opportunity to interact with astounding and award-winning faculty representing all aspects of business.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The atmosphere and a very engaging cohort made for a truly valuable and rich experience to the class, which adds so much value to the learnings provided by the faculty. I looked forward to the ‘every other Friday’ on campus…I had blinders on and became engrossed in learning, absorbing new insights from a surrounding, career-diverse cohort. My perspective expanded from a narrow 15 years of singular career focus.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? While the curriculum has sharpened my knowledge and added valuable tools related to all aspects of business (from accounting, finance, strategy, marketing, human relations and economics), my biggest learning has been about how to carry myself as a leader. The program has empowered me to be more mindful, self-aware, confident, open-minded, vulnerable, receptive to ideas, and equipped to evaluate and make decisions based on ‘the complete picture.’

I have been able to take from the program to my company multiple concepts for strategy, marketing and managerial decisions. But I am especially proud of being able to bring new expertise about the Balanced Scorecard – aligned with our CEO’s vision to incorporate this concept into our organization.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My story, here, is a collective one about persevering through grueling travel demands. My work profile, apart from the EMBA program, requires a lot of travel. During the program in Fall 2017, I was on the road nearly every week for my company, while taking on four different EMBA core courses, with four different projects and teams. In addition, I joined my family on international trips for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was followed by multiple back-to-back international trips from January into early March. To add to the chaos, I’ve moved with my family into a new house, in April 2018. Reflecting on this, I am thankful for the support and understanding of my family and EMBA teammates, which enabled me to deliver consistently in the coursework and at work. I am proud of, despite the hectic and frequent travel, never missing a team meeting with the cohort — be it at 10 p.m. from Rio or 6 a.m. from India. I am also thankful for all the support I received from my work colleagues who have always understood my demands from the EMBA as well.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? A few pieces of advice: If you have been thinking about pursuing an executive MBA but pushing it aside, jump right into it. My philosophy is ‘today is always the best time!’ But prioritize communicating and setting expectations about the program with both your family and your company. Tell them exactly how, when and what you will deliver from the program. Then carry over this approach to communication with your EMBA associates to deepen those relationships and the overall experience.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The notion that you’ll sacrifice family life. I’ve always thought that ‘going for an MBA’ would take me almost completely away from my family. Though I’ve experienced academics as time-consuming, I also discovered that by engaging my family in effective planning, I could preserve and enhance the quality of time with my family and friends. For example, we were able to take three, lengthy and memorable family vacations over a summer-to-fall span, without me compromising on school work. Even if a couple hours on coursework is necessary during a vacation trip, it’s manageable.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not doing it earlier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Singling out a classmate is so very tough, here. I thrive in and greatly value high functioning teams. This program at UMD has given me an opportunity to collaborate with and absorb the qualities individually that drive high-level performers from such fields as healthcare, finance, consulting, cybersecurity and marketing. This insight and experience has been invigorating both professionally and personally.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I transitioned from a completely engineering-focused role in my job to a business role. While I met the challenge of the transition, I always believed I could grow further in my career by adding tools and skills related to business aspects that I had been less experienced with.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still thinking about the EMBA program and when to start. I had been mulling the idea for 6-7 years before entering the program at UMD.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to lead an organization and with that be recognized as a sharp business professional with a people-oriented personality and vision for value creation.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Focused, passionate and a caring friend always eager to learn and to contribute.

Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Favorite movie or television show: Friends

What are the top two items on your bucket list? : To successfully raise my two daughters and travel with my wife extensively in Europe, South America and Australia!

What made Chintan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Chintan is truly a role model for EMBA students. In the classroom, he contributes significantly to the learning environment: always prepared, always willing to participate, and able to ask questions that push the boundaries of the topics discussed in class. He makes faculty and students better through the insights he shares based on his experience, and he is able to make great connections between the concepts discussed in class and his professional life as a Director of product management for a telecommunications company. He excels both in quantitative and qualitative courses, demonstrating the breadth of his skills. And his contributions go beyond the classroom: Aware of the importance of knowledge sharing among EMBA participants, he started organizing a “lunch and learn” series, where participants share questions they are facing in their professional activities and get input from other students and faculty members. That initiative represents well what Chintan has brought to the program: a desire to learn and share, helping everyone in his cohort to become better leaders.”

Paulo Prochno
Clinical Professor and Associate Chair of the Management & Organization Department
Robert H. Smith School of Business

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