This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Archana Rao, second-year student at UVA Darden.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Archana: Originally from India and being an Army Officer’s daughter I studied in 8 different schools and lived in more than 16 different states. Studied Electronics and Telecomm Engineering and pursued a course in Advertising and Public Relations to strike a balance between my quantitative and qualitative skills sets.
Accepted: What year are you at UVA Darden?
Archana: Second Year Darden
Accepted: Why did you choose Darden? Why did you think it was the best fit for you? Has it lived up to its expectations?
Archana: I chose Darden because I wanted to study in a college town with a rich history, wanted a small class size, and the case study method. Darden fit this exact criteria and it lives up to its expectations every single day.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Archana: I wish there was a larger focus on Technology careers. Measures are being taken to build better relations with the Bay Area.
Accepted: Which other MBA programs had you considered? Did you only consider programs in the U.S.? Why or why not?
Archana: I looked at Yale, Kellogg and Haas for particular concentrations that they specialize in. I got accepted at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, but chose to study in the US given the global exposure offered and the extensive diversity here.
Accepted: What was your pre-MBA job? Do you plan on returning to that industry after you receive your MBA?
Archana: I worked at the HSBC Bank as a project management consultant where I was also a global sustainability champion doing pro-bono consulting for non-profit partners in Education. This drove me to join the Teach for India movement where I taught English and Math in a public school.
I realized that there was lack of mentorship beyond school hours and decided to co-found a non-profit called Mentor Me India in Mumbai.
Most recently I spent the summer with the Boston Consulting Group in Houston working in Global Education strategy for the World Economic Forum and industry benchmarking for unconventional shale gas. I will continue to be in consulting full-time given the steep learning curve and opportunity to work across different industries and functional areas.
Accepted: Can you talk about the internship process at Darden? What role did they play in helping you secure your internship at BCG?
Archana: The internship process at Darden is competitive and begins almost immediately as you step on grounds in first year. Being focused, organized, and confident is the key in being successful in the process.
There are numerous support structures like the career development center and your second year coach to guide you all along the way. Your second years are the most valuable resource given that they just came back from a summer internship and have been through the whole process only a few months ago. I utilized all of the above to be well prepared to secure the internship at BCG.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier?
1. Have an open mind coming in, with a vague idea of what you might like doing for a career. Recruiting begins sooner than you think!
2. Focus on learning skills rather than just grades.
3. Build meaningful relationships with your classmates and professors. They are world-class at a top-business school.
Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the MBA admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Archana: Having had a variety of experiences in my career before b-school I was not sure how to communicate my short term and long term goals. But talking to people who had inspiring careers and understanding how they got there gave me a roadmap to how I could communicate those questions. It’s a very reflective process. It was very valuable for me to invest time in thinking about what I really wanted out of life and how I wanted to spend my time.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What have you gained from the blogging experience?
1. My first blog (Life is My Classroom) shares my learnings from experiences I have had at Teach for India and at Darden. It gives everyone a window into thoughts and observations that others in these institutions also experience but don’t necessarily share. I love writing and it’s a great way to de-stress when things get extremely busy at Darden as well!
2. Life on a Post-it – In today’s world where people’s attention spans are shrinking, I believe that cartooning is a strong medium in communicating my thoughts, observations, and musings about life, career, education, relationships etc. on a post-it! I enjoy cartooning and post-its and this blog lets me combine the both.
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You can read more about Archana’s journey by checking out her blog, Life is My Classroom. Thank you Archana for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!