2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Pradnya Parulekar, UCLA (Anderson)

Pradnya Parulekar

UCLA, Anderson School of Management                            

Age: 46

Hometown: Troy, Michigan

Family Members: Shauntanu M. Parulekar – my son

Fun fact about yourself: I love to communicate in sign language, practice belly dancing, and can rebuild a traditional gas car engine.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA – University of Michigan (1996); BSME Kettering University (2000); MS Public Policy-University of Southern California (2012)

Where are you currently working? Director, Business Development- Phillips-Medisize Corporation; Analyst-Wavemaker 360

  • Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:
  • Kathy Radner Fellowship recipient ($18,000)
  • EMBA class of 2020 Academic Representative for Council meeting
  • Lowell-Milken Sandler Institute Entrepreneurship Contest- 2nd place ($25,000)
  • CoreVent team leader: USC/UCLA Hack for Hope: Bronze Medalist
  • Anderson Student Association-Social Impact-Ethics Challenge Finalist
  • Easton Think-in the Next- Product competition- Semi-finalists
  • Knapp Entrepreneurship Competition- Semi-Finalist
  • UCLA GradSlam- semi-finalist ($250)
  • UC Big Ideas- Semi-finalist
  • Pepperdine Most fundable companies- semi-finalist (35/1000 companies)
  • Teacher’s Assistant for MGMT 248 EVI Professor George Abe: Spring 2020
  • Completion of MBA specializations: Global Management, Entrepreneurship, Easton

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?   At the beginning of “Shelter in place,” I was asked to offer some manufacturing advice on how to help a UCLA engineering grad student launch his low-cost, stripped-down ventilator to help the UCLA Health System. I immediately joined his efforts and we are on our way to fundraising to scale by networking and winning hackathons. I am doing this in the midst of working on COVID-19 testing solutions in my day job, teaching my 4-year-old to read, and being the errand point person for my elderly parents and neighbors. It’s been so rewarding to be able to help and continue to find ways to be helpful for those who need it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was a lead design engineer who helped a start-up company qualify unique material designs that allowed for successful FDA approval of their product.  This product allows epileptics to earn a driver’s license since this device can predict seizures a few minutes before they happen.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I wanted the in-class learning and all of the “out of classroom” lectures, speaker series, and conferences that have augmented the classroom learning as well as provided me with high value networking connections. I heard from Nobel Prize winners, CEOs of start-ups, VP of Fortune 100 companies and political leaders. I was also able to participate in Global Immersions where I learned how high-tech can develop in socialize sovereign nations (Sweden/Finland) as well as community efforts to make a political change (South Africa).

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The leadership learnings and the ability to question, practice, and implement those lessons at my employer, my community and in my home life.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? How to listen with empathy and curiosity.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Many events at UCLA happen during the evenings after public school hours.

My scheduled included traveling for business, all-encompassing class weekends, having to attend a Monday night guest speaker, and writing a paper for certificate credit. That can be a challenge for my 3-year-old son who has not seen me in several days.

However, I often brought my son to the events so I could learn; he could eat and we could both spend time together. In one occasion, the guest speaker pointed to a blip on his economic graph and at that same moment, my young child exclaimed “What happened?” when he dropped a dinner roll. The speaker, whose back was to us, said “I’m glad you asked. That was when the Lehman Brothers went bankrupt…”  The speaker never knew it was my child who set up the segue but all of us in the backrow were laughing with tears.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Participate in as many classes, competitions, and extracurricular activities as possible. Don’t use your family or work as an excuse – invite them into the experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I didn’t engage with the other cohorts (FEMBA and FTMBA) sooner. The level of energy and engagement that the other classes bring is invigorating and I was able to offer more insight and support to my younger counterparts.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Chidinma Chima-Melton for being an investment banker-turned-pulmonologist who juggled being a new mom (she gave birth after our statistics final) and a warrior in the COVID-19 epidemic, all the while being an accessible friend to all.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I started to feel the articles in WIRED magazine and the TEDX talks were no longer geared for me and my industry. I knew I wanted to feel more relevant and useful.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To be a fearless entrepreneur who creates organizations that lead other industries.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A kind and reliable friend.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1) See Hally’s comet return with my own eyes. 2) Learn the tango well enough to dance with a stranger.

What made Pradnya such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“It is an honor to nominate Pradnya Parulekar for the Poets & Quants Best and the Brightest of 2020.  Pradnya is the embodiment of ethical leadership, known amongst her peers for her integrity and commitment to ethical responsibility.  In admissions, we knew that Pradnya would bring to the cohort a commitment to ethics, and she did not disappoint!  In the EMBA program, the highlights of Pradnya’s ethics can be highlighted in two key areas: her entrepreneurial venture of Wise Earthcare and her elected position of the Academic Representative in the 2020 Class Council.

Pradnya entered the program from the healthcare industry, specifically healthcare business development. As part of this industry, Pradnya recognized the need to reduce waste produced by healthcare products. As a result, Pradnya showcased her entrepreneurial skills by co-launching Wise Earthcare, her EMBA capstone project with her Anderson classmates. The mission of Wise Earthcare is to reduce plastic waste by creating biodegradable and sustainable oral healthcare products. Wise Earthcare has resonated with several agencies. Pradnya’s team was chosen to showcase their company at the 2019 UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator Showcase. Most recently, Wise Earthcare won second place out of 18 teams in the Lowell Milken Institute Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs. The launch of a company during the global COVID-19 pandemic has been no small feat.  However, the commitment to Wise Earthcare’s mission and focus has kept Pradnya committed to the project beyond EMBA graduation.

In addition to Wise Earthcare, Pradnya has demonstrated her ethics as Academic Representative on the 2020 Class Council. This is an elected EMBA class position, and Pradnya has proven to be an ethical and fair class representative. In particular, her leadership has been of paramount importance during the EMBA class response to the COVID-19 situation. She has been the voice of the 2020 cohort, expressing class concerns and suggestions in an impactful, unbiased manner.  EMBA leadership has relied on her guidance as Academic Representative to best address a curricular transition to remote learning. In fact, her leadership has been recognized beyond EMBA. UCLA Anderson’s Dean has called on Pradnya’s expertise to advise on a Steering Committee for Strategic Initiatives.  Her ethics is recognized by students, staff, and leadership alike. Pradnya’s commitment to ethical leadership is the reason we are nominating her for the Poets & Quants Best and the Brightest of 2020.”

Sarika Thakur, MPH, EdD
Executive Director of Admissions, UCLA Anderson EMBA and UCLA-NUS Programs


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