I read in an article that a person is an average of five people with whom he or she surrounds himself or herself. Looking back, this adage worked for me.

The 21 months at Fuqua was the most exciting time of my life. In many ways, I feel spoiled by the program’s residencies, enthusiastic and highly engaging professors, rigorous course material, and most importantly, a class full of accomplished people. The cherry on the cake is the sense of triple-threat leadership — EQ, IQ, and DQ — embodied by the class and alumni, which makes Team Fuqua unique.

Until 2019, I never thought I would take this journey. An email from GP Patil, a family friend and Emeritus Professor at Penn State, on Diwali in 2020 motivated me to challenge my status quo and grow! Professor Patil planted a seed that would inspire my thoughts on upward mobility. What would come next in life beyond my present professional and personal achievements?

Upward mobility and desire for growth drove me to apply to business school. Venture capital firms place big bets on startup teams — I put my long-term bet on Team Fuqua.

Getting My MBA

The first term residency in Durham began with a personality assessment (self-awareness) and a team-building session that was very different from those I had seen in my career. It helped not just to break the ice with our teams, but also help team members understand each other as people. The first days at Fuqua built a foundation for the trust we needed to support each other through the rigorous course and assignments.

The fun-filled, people-focused aspect of the residency was balanced by a thick accounting book and a well-organized course of managerial effectiveness that kept us on our toes. We spent 15 hours (out of 24 exam hours) in the shoes of financial analysts applying the financial accounting lessons. Debit money, debit time, debit sleep, credit managerial skills, credit financial analysis, credit resilience!

The next four terms continued the invaluable learning experience. The professors facilitated discussions in core business subjects pushing me along with the class to get ideas and perspectives from experts in all major industries with a little humor here and there! In courses I had high proficiency, I experimented with ways to simplify and communicate technical aspects and rationale behind business decisions to my classmates who were not that proficient. In other courses, it was the other way around. Aside from the lessons, we built strong relationships as we worked our way through difficult assignments, readings, and yes, jet lag as we traveled to four different cities for cultural immersion.

Sushant Gupta and three of his Global Executive MBA classmates at an international train station

Gaining a Global Perspective

During these terms, the discourse on Global Markets & Institutions was an eye-opener for me, making my perspective truly global. The five megatrends report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ten Years to Midnight book, interviews with a few people who are addressing the world’s burning problems in their own ways provided me with a glimpse of backstage global events.  

Our leadership course changed me. The course put a structure around behavioral traits that help in leading a team by knowing people, communicating about relevant aspects of a project, and pushing members to excel and innovate. The simple behaviors, backed by data from extensive studies, helped fill gaps in my leadership style, making me a better influencer than before.

After our global residences were complete, we had elective terms where our classes became bigger. Now joined by our Weekend Executive MBA classmates, I met equally impressive people from all industries. I took electives to learn more about strategy, entrepreneurship, and corporate finance.

From making a business plan for a new venture (which is now an early-stage startup) to evaluating three business plans as a skeptical investor, it was an incredible learning experience for me. I also evaluated a restructuring plan for a company in distress, based on its financials, in the final exam of the course giving me a glimpse into the role of a Chief Financial Officer.

I thought I had diverse classes at IIT Roorkee, my undergraduate alma mater, but Fuqua was even more diverse! Reflecting on my time at Fuqua, I can see that I have grown to be an average of professors (some of the most enthusiastic, influential and knowledgeable folks I’ve met), my classmates (stellar professionals who brought rich knowledge of all major industries and had diverse upbringing and personalities), and the program team who ensured we had one of the best experiences ever. I shall always cherish spending time learning and having fun with them.