2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kunal Cholera, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Kunal Cholera

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Age: 37

“Myself, Son, Husband, Father, Software Engineer, Technology executive, Teacher and Investor (in that order).”

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Family Members: Wife – Mimansa Cholera DDS,  pediatrics dentistry resident at UCSF and newly born son – Shiv Cholera – arrived last week during Haas MBA!

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy teaching online on weekends.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Mumbai – Bachelors in Information Technology – Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology (VESIT).

University of Southern California – Masters in Computer Science

Where are you currently working? Director of Engineering at LinkedIn. My team builds software that helps companies quickly hire people globally and at large scale.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles
:

  • I was a small group instructor for the leadership and communications class for our MBA students class in January 2022. I am currently signed up to be a student instructor for our Strategy, Macroeconomics and Data Analytics classes for our Evening & Weekend MBA program at Haas.
  • I have taught 7th and 8th graders on weekends at Chinmaya Mission in San Jose for six years and plan to return this year.
  • I make YouTube videos to share my learnings in a simple to understand format.
  • I failed my first year of college. By my junior year, I rose to the top of the class. I later learned that the failing marks that I received during my freshman year were mistakes – not all my marks were counted for applied science subjects. This “failure” had a deep learning moment for me that propelled me to get serious about my studies.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my MBA program, I created video lessons based on the textbook used for my Macroeconomics class. My classmates found it quite helpful, which gave me a deep sense of fulfillment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of helping several engineers on my team reach their career goals.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Mark Rittenberg is by far my favorite MBA professor. He shows up as his authentic self during every class and he is present in every conversation. He truly gives a DAMN and you can tell that he cares about you. He is a true example of an authentic leader and I am learning a lot from him and his amazing staff that he has built around him.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Berkeley Haas’ distinctive culture and Defining Leadership Principles deeply resonated with me. The principles are: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. My MBA degree has given me the skills to be a much better business leader to handle the VUCA world (a world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity).

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson for me has been to truly understand the power of your network. Before joining Haas, I was the biggest skeptic of the value of networking. However, I saw my Haas network rally for me in ways I cannot describe and it made it real for me the power of genuine connections in shaping your career outcomes. My Haas network helped me get the teaching side gig during my MBA program. They also counseled my wife and me about what to do for pain meds when we were totally confused the day before her delivery, and so much more that I could not have even imagined.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I had to instantly become more efficient to juggle work, family and the newly-added executive MBA program. On top of being more efficient, I, sometimes, worked during family vacations, stopped teaching on weekends, and delegated a lot of tasks that someone else could do for me like cooking, ordering groceries online and many recurring time-consuming activities. Even with all of these efficiency gains  I could not have done this MBA without my family’s support, especially my wife Mimansa. She has been a strong pillar of support and completely understands when I have to sacrifice our family time for work and school. While supporting me, she had a full time role at UCSF, she managed home and was pregnant! She is my superstar and my pillar of strength and love. Thank you!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? No one fails an MBA. Spend the time to genuinely help someone along the way and build deeper connections. First, do it with yourself as you discover truly why you are doing the MBA; and second, do it with others who will be your potential friends for life. The assignments will get done, you will power through, but the time and memories are things you can’t get back.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You will learn more on the job as opposed to doing an MBA – that was 100% wrong. I have learned quite a bit of a diverse set of skills that will make me a better business leader and is ready to scale.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I could have spent way more time on campus and spent more time with people. I wish I would have taken fewer electives and instead gone much deeper in a few classes.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There were so many classmates that I admired from my class and I learnt a lot from them. Among them I want to put a spotlight on Howard Chen, who I admired a lot for reflecting the “student always” Defining Leadership Principle that I deeply care about. Chen is a physician with his own private practice and he has a background in computer science. His “student always” mindset is inspiring and I deeply value his thoughtful contributions in class. He is very humble and present in conversations, be it in small groups, larger class settings, or in hallway conversations. Keep it up Howard, big applause to you for being my inspiration.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Main reason – people! In an Executive MBA program, you get highly experienced executives who are quite happy with what they have in their career (for the most part) and those folks are willing to go beyond. I feel that was the biggest differentiator for me when deciding between the Executive MBA program and an online alternative.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am a software engineer at my core and I love it. I have discovered that I like to teach and I feel a sense of flow when I am teaching. So my ultimate long-term professional goal would be to lead a large team in a chief operating role at a mid-size public tech company and teach topics that I am really good at during evenings and weekends (part-time).

What made Kunal such an invaluable member of the Class of 2022?

“I was Kunal’s faculty coach during the Leadership Communications class that we offered in the EMBA program. He was an exceptional student. He was always participating in the class and also supporting his classmates. I did not hesitate to give him an A. He not only learned the content so fast, he then created YouTube videos about the things he learned during the class. I’ve never seen it from another student before.

That’s why I was personally very excited when I heard that Kunal was going to join our faculty team to teach in the EWMBA Leadership Communications Class. It took me at least 2 years to master the skills to teach the class. I had been through many trainings and I got to audit at least 3 other facilitators’ classes. Kunal didn’t need that much time. After a short training, he found himself teaching the class and the feedback we heard from his students was amazing. He is a living example of all of the Haas Defining Principles. His students were lucky to have him as their instructor and we are lucky to have him as a team member.”

Mehmet Sevinç
Assistant Lecturer

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