“I had a really great time, and I made friends – things I didn’t expect would happen on my first day in the United States.”
Ajay Awanti arrived in St. Louis on a hot July evening in 2013, after a 23-hour flight from India. Jet lag and homesickness had kicked in, and he was ready to call it a day. When his host, a second-year Olin MBA student, invited him to an event at a local pub, Awanti turned down the offer. “I won’t know anyone; I’ll be out of place,” he remembers saying. But his host wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Awanti went to the pub.
“After a quick round of introductions, the group of second years shared information and experiences with me. They cheered me up.”
The impact of culture on recruiting and grading
“Networking isn’t part of my culture,” Awanti says.
In India, employers base their hiring decisions on students’ grades. Conversely, a pass/fail grading system was one of “my criteria for short listing business schools. Opportunities for academic one-upmanship are missing from Olin’s MBA program for good reasons.” Deemphasizing grades allows students to focus more on learning, soft skills, and fit with the companies that employ them.
A Weston Career Center webinar taught him the “rules of the game” before he set foot on campus: network early and often. Awanti went to a Meet the Firms event during his first month in the program. He also visited MasterCard in St. Louis with fellow members of Olin’s Supply Chain and Technology clubs.
“I got to know people at MasterCard, which was an ice breaker at my internship interview.” (He landed the internship).
Why Olin’s diversity is important
Awanti believes diversity is “even more important in small programs.” To prepare students for global business, the academic environment must provide varied perspectives from people from different backgrounds. “Students must learn what it takes for a diverse team to come up with innovative solutions.”
He says some of the most interesting class discussions have come from situations where students say, “That’s not how we do it in India or China.” The resulting dialogue broadens understanding of management practices around the world.
On the quality of Olin professors
Awanti has reached out to Olin faculty on numerous occasions. He talked to them about operations and his career options. “Getting to know my professors also made me more comfortable opening up in class and, as a result, I became more involved in class discussions.”
Ajay Awanti, MBA 2015
Post-MBA employment: Project Manager, Mitchell International, San Diego
MBA Internship: MasterCard, St. Louis
Pre-MBA employment: Harman, Bangalore, India
Education: Bachelor of Engineering, Visvesvaraya Technological University
Hometown: Gulbarga, India
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