2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Reeta Pattanaik, Penn State (Smeal)

Reeta Pattanaik

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), Smeal College of Business

Determined, highly adaptable, performance-driven, and results -orientated, passionate about problem-solving.”

Age: 42

Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania

Family Members: Husband, a son, and a daughter

Fun fact about yourself: I am not passionate about cooking and never follow any set recipes. Somehow food I cook turns out to my family’s liking every time.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from National Institute of Technology in India

Where are you currently working? Management Consultant at AmerisourceBergen Corporation

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, Cradles to Crayons, Home of the Sparrow, Lord’s Pantry & Ronald McDonald House. Graduated in Computer Science Engineering with Distinction.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  Graduated at the top of the Executive MBA class. I have always tried to be the best in whatever I take on. Being the Valedictorian of a very talented and experienced class validates my effort. In addition, I am proud of my contributions as Class Representative towards improving the experiences of my cohort.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Little over 10 years ago, I was filling a temporary role gap. Coincidentally, a lingering problem needed to be solved to progress with a new implementation planned for later in the year. This was an issue that proved hard to solve and many an expert had given up. Though it wasn’t in my skill set, I learned the fundamentals and solved it through effort and grit. The leaders were positively surprised and very appreciative. The implementation went on as planned. I bring this grit to whatever challenge I take on and don’t give up until it’s overcome.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Denny Gioia. Professor Gioia taught us two classes (i.e. Managing People in Organizations and Leadership and Change in Organizations. The course content, his style of teaching and class discussion helped me learn valuable lessons and crystalize the concepts which I am going to utilize in my career for years to come.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I had learned from friends and colleagues about the quality of the program and the effectiveness of Penn state’s large alumni network. What sealed the deal for me was the class visit in Chubb Conference center for Strategic Management class. The visit was very well-organized and class was exactly what I was looking for. After 20 years of professional experience, I was looking to push myself out of my comfort zone and start thinking differently. I felt this program could deliver that. The program has certainly re-oriented my thoughts in a way I couldn’t have done by just reading books or attending seminars.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? What I enjoyed most is the diverse background of my fellow classmates who have become close friends. The industries they are from vary from construction to banking to healthcare to the energy sector and many more. Every class discussion displays unique viewpoints which I could have never thought. I learned so many dimensions to a possible solution, it helped me realize that possibilities are endless and improved my problem-solving skills. I not only learned in class but also learned many valuable life lessons outside the class. Each experience with my classmates was a learning experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lessons I learned during my MBA are strategies for organizational change implementation. I lead large programs for organizational transformation. The change implementation models and concepts help me plan and execute complex programs effectively.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I have two school-age kids with lots of activities throughout the weekdays and weekends. Even though my husband took charge of most of the driving around, there were days when he had to travel and I had to juggle work, both kids drop off and pickups, team meetings with my fellow classmates, and work on school assignments. On such days, I leave work early to pick up kids and do the driving around, come home to attend team meetings and work late nights to finish any urgent office work or schoolwork. I tried to plan ahead as much as I could. In a couple of instances, when things did not fall in place, I raised my hand at work and asked for more time for certain deliverables. Another time, I reached out to my school teammates to chime in for me. Planning ahead, prioritizing my tasks, and reaching out for help when I needed, got me through those challenging days.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The program is intense and would need your focus, time, and energy, but in the end, it’s all worth it. The professors, team members, and other program contacts help you navigate and support throughout. There will be days when you will need to prioritize work or family, but you will have a great support system to help you catch up. The program requires hard work. However, if you are ready to get out of your comfort zone and see a business world with different lenses and be a better leader, you should go for it.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wouldn’t say regret, but you do sacrifice family time over weekends, working late nights, and spending many days prioritizing schoolwork over family time. So, your family do take on more to support you and are surely the support system you need to get through the program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my 2nd team members: Kyle Losch, Pranav Sharma, John Larson and Jiho Lee. While I am always focused on task on hand and how to get it done effectively, this group taught me you can work hard but you can have fun too, they are not mutually exclusive. This is the valuable life lesson they taught me.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I am doing the same thing for a long time and needed to get out of my comfort zone.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Building a successful business of my own

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a friend and a leader with integrity, congruity and reliability.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Own and live on a farm.
  • Even though I was born and brought up in India, there are many parts of India I am yet to explore. I wish to be able to do that when I retire.

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

“Reeta Pattanaik is the valedictorian of the Smeal EMBA Class of 2020 – a very impressive group of individuals. Reeta distinguished herself throughout her time in the program by her intellectual curiosity, zeal for excellence, and her drive to learn new skills to apply to her growing career. Reeta also served as a mentor for many of her classmates, spending time supporting their needs, listening to them and even pushing back sometimes, when it was needed. She was a class representative, elected by her classmates to represent their feedback to the program and help strengthen the experience for all.

Reeta accomplished all this while seamlessly balancing her responsibilities at work and at home as the mother of two children. Reeta is an exemplary individual, an accomplished professional, and a fabulous member of the Smeal EMBA Class of 2020.”

Lou Gattis
Clinical Professor of Finance, Residential and Executive MBA Faculty Director


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.