2 UVA Darden Graduates Named ‘MBAs to Watch’
By Dave Hendrick
The business education-focused publication Poets & Quants in July announced its 2021 list of MBAs to Watch, and two members of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Class of 2021 were recognized: Prateek Sinha (MBA ’21) and Harsha Gummagatta (MBA ’21).
Many of the students profiled in the feature saw aspects of their MBA experience “curtailed by COVID,” but used their time in business school to “act as community builders who made the best from what was available.”
“Many times, you would’ve found the MBAs to Watch leading from the back, never needing a spotlight — just a purpose,” according to the article. “Steady and stout, they were often the unflinching voices of reason and reassurance.”
Read the full profiles on the Poets & Quants website and excerpts below.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of hosting “A Professor and a Playlist”, a live podcast that brought the Darden community together during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week, I was joined by a professor who shared their playlist of 10-12 songs that resonated with their life, their journey, and their current state of mind. Weaved in between the songs, was an open, honest, and fun conversation about the impact of music on the professors; how their music tastes evolved, untold stories of concert experiences, and how music shaped their personal and professional lives. “Community” is one of Darden’s biggest strengths, and I have always believed in the power of bringing people together through music. Despite the lockdown restrictions, the show provided a space for faculty, students, and members of the community to get to know each other and brought the community together at a difficult time in our lives. Hosting this podcast helped me develop my personal brand and served as a launchpad for my new podcast venture “Third Coffee” which is live now on Spotify!
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After my first year as an analyst working in the Operations division at Goldman Sachs India, I was chosen to travel to London as a subject matter expert to help build the infrastructure for a new financial regulation that was coming into effect. This was the first time someone as junior as I was in the company received such an opportunity. It wasn’t just the international work opportunity that made me proud, but what this experience taught me at an early stage in my career. Two things stood out:
- Cross-cultural exposure – This was the first time I worked outside of India and this experience sparked my interest in working globally and seeking out experiences outside of my comfort zone
- Patience – Although I was early in my career, I was beginning to get impatient, looking for new challenges and growth opportunities. Through this experience, I learned to stay focused at the task at hand and gained comfort in knowledge that recognition and success is an inevitable byproduct of a focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Why did you choose this business school? If I had to pick one overarching reason for choosing Darden, it is the strength of the community. At Darden, I learn every day, not just in the classroom with our incredible faculty but also outside the classroom, from my friends, peers, and, yes, the faculty once again (they are incredibly available and giving of their time). Many students may have similar goals, but it is fascinating to learn about each person’s background and process; it always helps build perspective and generate new ideas. This exchange of ideas fuels both my personal and professional development and is possible only within a tight knight community, making me forever thankful for choosing Darden!
What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into Darden, I knew that the faculty had an open-door policy, but honestly I didn’t fully grasp what that meant. I was surprised by how truly accessible, open, and honest the faculty are; they aren’t just our teachers, they become our friends, allies, and mentors for a lifetime. They truly care about their students’ experience, both from a personal and professional growth standpoint.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I love organizing large scale events. One of my main goals prior to coming to Darden was to utilize my experience to help all students build connections with alumni and professionals. Through my VP-Events roles with the General Management and Operations (GMO) Club and the Technology Club, I got to work with a team of fabulous peers to put together three major events: MGMT (Marketing, General Management, and Technology) conference, Tech Week and GMO Week. Taking full advantage of the virtual platforms, we engaged over fifty alumni and senior leaders from over twenty companies and a majority of the Darden community. What was most satisfying was to see how these events helped me and my peers build new connections and leverage them to secure jobs and internships over subsequent months.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the impact I had on our Myanmar sales team during my time at Cummins. I played a key role in helping establish and grow our sales team and their capabilities. Spending up to three weeks a month in Myanmar for one year helped me build strong relationships with the team, understand their motivations, and work with them to secure new clients. The role gave me a glimpse into what qualities would help senior leaders succeed – getting up to speed rapidly, working with new cultures and languages, navigating interpersonal and team dynamics, and managing multiple stakeholders across functions in a matrix organization. The fact that the team continues to use my improvements and has grown from strength to strength since I left, gives me immense pride. I leaned heavily on this experience to put my MBA coursework into context.
Why did you choose this business school? When people talk about fit, it can seem a very nebulous concept. Darden proved how carefully thinking about fit can make a world of difference to one’s MBA experience. As I was introspecting during the applications phase, I realized I do better in a more active form of learning like projects and case studies, put my best self forward in small and close-knit communities, and what I wanted most out of my MBA was to rapidly expand my knowledge. Darden checked all the boxes emphatically. My experience thus far has vindicated my decision.
What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I feel is that Darden, especially the first-year core curriculum, is too hard and not applicable to all career tracks. While it is hard, the support structures in place – professors, learning teams, section peers – make the learning process fun and manageable. The core curriculum helped me build a solid foundation across subjects that I had never been exposed to like accounting. I saw later how the cross-disciplinary exposure was instrumental in succeeding during my internship.
What surprised you the most about business school? While I was prepared to learn a lot, I was surprised by the extreme pace of exposure and development that came with business school. I never expected it to help me become comfortable with failures and rejections. A favorite example of mine is networking during recruiting. I was terrible at it and my initial efforts yielded poor results. But as I was exposed to new ideas and learned from my peers and the community, I was able to get the results I wanted. Business school throws you into the deep end, but at Darden you are not alone. Your peers, faculty, and staff are always willing to take time out to help you on your journey.
In May, Poets & Quants named Class of 2021 graduates Amanda Wiggans and Katie Cech to its list of 100 Best and Brightest MBAs.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia