2018 Best EMBAs: Manisha Mehrotra, Cornell University (Johnson)

Manisha Mehrotra

Cornell Executive MBA Americas program, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

An introvert who loves being around people. Curious with a stubborn streak and an occasional troublemaker.”

Age: 37

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Spent my formative years on a cargo ship traveling the world

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Connecticut, BS in Business Administration with a minor in Communications

Where are you currently working? Bloomberg, Diversity and Inclusion Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I enjoy connecting with people over food and stories. I appreciate learning about new cultures, trying different experiences, and traveling. I am committed to making an impact in my community and driving meaningful change to create a more just society. I currently volunteer as mentor with the Fortune Society and serve in the capacity of board member for Sakhi for South Asian Women, which exists to end violence against women.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my term as board chair of Sakhi, I was asked to lead the annual gala for Sakhi, an event that coincided with the end of the second semester (literally a few days before finals). It was tough — there weren’t enough hours in the day, it was a difficult year for fundraising due to other higher profile causes, my first time with gala management, major projects at work, schoolwork, etc. — I am still surprised I succeeded. Working full time, going to school full time, family, volunteering, and ensuring a successful gala (the largest fundraiser of the year) is something I am incredibly proud of. I had a strong support group who helped me when I was overwhelmed and supported me; they had my back every step of the way.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of driving initiatives globally and ensuring that they are relevant locally. I had the opportunity to work in our London office for a few months. That opportunity afforded me the chance to better understand laws, challenges, and opportunities in the region, all of which led to me being offered a role in London post-graduation.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite classes were Advanced Strategic Analysis and Valuation. It taught me how to think through strategy using a more structured thinking process and leveraging frameworks. Valuation helped me understand the basic principles of valuations; the class taught me the language around a complicated topic and made it more tangible. Across both classes, the lesson was getting comfortable with the language, and the way to get comfortable was to use the tools that were taught.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Cornell’s founding principles, including the commitment to creating a university that was open to all individuals, aligns with my values. When I first entered Cornell’s environment, I was struck by how warm everyone was. I expected people to be smart, focused, and interesting — which they all were. I did not expect people to be as warm and fun to be around. Everyone from the administrators, students, professors, and alumni were happy to engage and answer any number of inquiries that I sent their way. The residential aspect of the program was a big plus — having the opportunity to really get to know classmates and to create long-term relationships mattered to me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have really enjoyed the learning aspect and connecting with my classmates, from whom I have learned a lot. The people that I’ve met are incredible; they are smart, funny, and willing to help. I have relished debating about politics, economics, ethics, and literally hundreds of other thought-provoking and funny discussions. The relationships I have built I plan to have for the rest of my life. The residential time spent together is what makes this program unique.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? A few weeks into the first semester, I had a death in my family and had to fly to India unexpectedly. My teammates/classmates and professors made sure that I was supported and had everything I needed before, during, and when I got back. I was surprised, because at that point I had known my classmates for only a few weeks and did not know what to expect from the program. They helped make a difficult time a little bit easier by ensuring I had what I needed, which allowed me to be there with my family, show up at work, and manage school. I’m forever grateful for their support.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The advice I would give is to be ready to make choices and know that there will be some sacrifices. In my program, twice a month we go 12 days straight (work for five days, school for two, and work for another five) before getting a break, which can be exhausting — find a way of keeping up your endurance. The sacrifices vary by person, but I also say: don’t be afraid. It is a lot of work, but the rewards (the learnings, friendships, and new experiences) are completely worth it.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth was that an executive program is easy. If anything, it’s harder because we work full time, have personal commitments, and are going to school full time. That myth was busted very early in the program — thankfully the professors know this better than new students and helped us navigate while we adjusted to a new normal.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that in some classes I played it too safe, when the worst thing that could have happened is that I’d have received a lower grade in that class. In hindsight, a lower grade could be worth it if I learned more and pushed myself further out of my comfort zone.  

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s not a person as much as characteristics that I admire. I really admire people who have discipline, manage their time well, and still find time to give back to their fellow classmates and communities. As a class, we’ve had over ten babies born, engagements, marriages, personal tragedy, new jobs, moves, etc. I admire the people who can stay present through it all, manage those experiences, and enjoy their time in the program.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…growing up my friends and family would talk about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I wanted to learn how to make deals, make money, and make the world a better place. Business school offered a new way of thinking and helped translate the language of business, all of which I knew would be valuable in realizing my dreams.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…planning on going to business school.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have a few, from heading a corporate social responsibility (CSR) function at a global company to representing the U.S. in a diplomatic role. I want to have positions where I can impact people globally and drive business and policy.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a friend, who is trusted to do the right thing, who asks interesting questions, brings a unique perspective, and is an effective leader who genuinely cares.

Favorite book: The Count of Monte Cristo

Favorite movie or television show: I don’t watch a lot of TV — I enjoy reading news across multiple platforms, but I have a TV for when family or friends come over.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Trek to Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit and learn a language

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

“Manisha is dedicated to making a strong and lasting impact on society. She first mentioned this to us in her admissions interview and continues to emphasize it to the current day as noted in her Poets & Quants nomination form. She is absolutely committed to diversity as illustrated by her 15-year career working with diversity initiatives, first at New York Life, and currently at Bloomberg. She came to us with recommendations from several Bloomberg employees who are also graduates of the program. She is also a close colleague with another program graduate. This speaks to her reputation and profile at Bloomberg.

In addition to her professional endeavors, she is bright, personable, and confident, yet highly approachable and welcoming to those in her presence. This behavior has been on display numerous times as she’s been a strong supporter of the program during networking events and other recruiting events.”

Verne Thalheimer
Director, Cornell Executive MBA Americas
Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University

Camilla M. Morgan
Senior Director of Admissions & Marketing
Cornell Executive MBA Americas
Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University

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