2021 MBA To Watch: Priya Gupta, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Passionate about creating ethical / fair technologies, helping communities thrive and cooking soups of all types.

Hometown: Syracuse, New York State

Fun fact about yourself: I received an award during my last job for “Most concerts I attended on a working night”.

Undergraduate School and Diploma: University of Southern California – BA International Relations (Global Business)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Intentional Futures, a boutique consulting firm where I was a Senior Strategist

Where did you do your internship during the summer of 2020? Google’s gUP team, where I was an intern responsible for product support for Google Pay

Where will you work after graduation? Google, back with gUP

Community work and leadership roles in business school:

  • Student government – Diversity, equity and inclusion Chair
  • Business & Technology Club – Member of the Advisory Board

What academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of in business school? This is ongoing, but I am proud to work with the Tepper administration, my classmates and alumni to improve the school’s commitment to racial equity and DCI more broadly. I care deeply about creating a fair experience for the Tepper MBAs that also trains its students to be inclusive leaders, and I work to keep the work going after I graduate.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Create a framework in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation education team to guide their grant-making strategy. It was the first project in which I played a bigger role. I had to facilitate conversations with 18 Foundation Program Officers and Directors who had been subject matter experts in their fields for over 10 years. It was intimidating, stimulating and inspiring. I learned not only how to develop a unifying framework and how to facilitate change management, but also about the profound challenges that students may face in pursuing their studies. I incorporate all of this knowledge into my work, as I seek to create products and services that uplift all of us, not just a few.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Tepper because I wanted to be at a school that represented the intersection of my three main interests: technological innovation, business, and politics. Considering Tepper’s place in CMU’s innovative ecosystem, its technically competent faculty, and close relationship with the Heinz School of Public Policy, I knew this would be a natural fit for me.

Who was your favorite MBA teacher? Taya Cohen did an amazing job teaching my negotiation course. In addition to presenting insightful content in an engaging manner, it also creates an environment that is inclusive and respectful of everyone’s preferred style of participation. His demeanor, a combination of professionalism, frankness and friendliness, greatly facilitated the active engagement of each of my classmates. I greatly appreciated her perspective on the important negotiations that I facilitated and I intend to stay in touch with her.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Tepper Reads is a book club program run by our Accelerate Leadership Center (ALC). Business school is generally focused on creating strategies, creating financial models, and developing your leadership skills. Tepper Reads is a welcome concentrate on human nature and human stories; after all, we create products and services for people. ALC intentionally chooses books that are meant to expose us to important narratives, especially those that have been historically marginalized. In spring 2020, we read West exit and had the opportunity to speak with author Mohsin Hamid. Fall 2020 brought Colson Whitehead Nickel boys and my classmates and I discussed the story behind Whitehead’s heartbreaking story. This spring we read The half that faints and I’m very happy to hear from Brit Bennett herself at the end of the semester!

Thinking back to your MBA experience, what is one thing you would do differently and why? I could try one or two other case contests. They are a great opportunity to learn to think quickly and creatively, to bond with classmates early on in the program, and to meet students from other schools.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming in, I knew the MBA experience would be student-focused, but it was still amazing to live and breathe this with my classmates. You have a lot of control over how you want to challenge yourself, whether it’s in the classroom, club management, or student advocacy. The best part is that you can take risks that you might not otherwise. Business school is truly the safest place to experiment, make mistakes or fail, and learn.

What was one of the things you did during the application process that gave you an edge in your chosen school? In my application, I did not look for a role or an industry; I went there after a mission. My long term goal is to work in the field of AI and ethics. From this mission, I defined what I wanted to accomplish in business school and the steps – academic and extracurricular – that would prepare me to succeed. I will also give a quick take to do a double degree. I am pursuing an MBA and an MSPPM (public policies). I firmly believe that the pursuit of interdisciplinary studies will naturally bring a unique and more holistic perspective to the MBA program.

Which MBA classmate do you admire the most? Melissa Bizzari is one of the most motivated, empathetic and thoughtful people I know. I remember being immediately impressed with his creative spirit when we participated in a weekend entrepreneurship hackathon. It was at the very beginning of our MBA program, and my admiration for her only grew. Being part of the student government together – her as president, me as DCI president – we both learned a lot, especially looking to help our classmates navigate COVID and participate in conversations. important issues on racial injustice. Throughout this experience, she constantly reflected on her leadership performance and, if necessary, pivoted her approach to become a better leader. Last but not least, she is a big fan of personal care. She always takes the time to enjoy life and cultivate friendships. One of my favorite MBA memories is when she asked me at the last minute if I would attend a concert for one of her favorite artists and we had an amazing time. During COVID, we take care of each other by sharing baked goods and sending each other funny videos on Instagram.

How disruptive has the switch to an online or hybrid environment been after the COVID hit? From a logistics standpoint, COVID has not been incredibly disruptive. I was impressed with how quickly the Tepper Faculty made everything virtual. However, the change certainly had an emotional impact. Concentrating in the classroom seemed impossible at times, and the sense of community crumbled a bit as we struggled with the future of our MBA experience. We made the most of it, however, turning to Netflix watch parties, online gaming, and ultimately physical distance walks around Pittsburgh neighborhoods. In the fall, things felt easier as masking was standardized and clubs figured out how to run fun virtual events, like our program’s annual talent show.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother has always been a big fan of education; She not only has her MD, but also pursued a part-time MPA and MPH while working full-time and raising two children. It was from her that I acquired my desire to always continue to learn, whether formally or informally. When I found a more specific career path that interested me, she and I had countless conversations about the skills and knowledge that would serve me best. We collectively established that business school would equip me with leadership and strategy skills for my career path, while political school would help me refine a socio-political lens with which to approach my work.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? High on my to-do list is to implement responsible, community-driven innovation practices within a company. The second element is to lead a mentorship program to advance the next generation of innovative and inclusive leaders.

What made Priya such a valuable addition to the 2021 class?

“Priya’s active commitment and commitment to inclusive excellence have made her an invaluable member of the Tepper School of Business. In her role as ACS Lead for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Priya set a framework for creating an inclusive culture by providing support to affinity communities impacted by the various events of 2020. His leadership in facilitating discussions of anti-Asian sentiment, raising the need for a dialogue on police brutality and African American history, and leading the affinity club board, provided an opportunity to ” educate and empower his MBA peers as well as his campus colleagues.

Academically, Priya’s curiosity for how technology can serve people ethically and fairly led her to pursue a double degree in public policy. This collaboration between technology and politics has provided him with the tools to think holistically about how people’s lives can be affected by innovation and policymaking. Priya is a mentor and leader among her peers and her extraordinary poise and professionalism brings out the best in those who have the pleasure of working with her.

Colleen McMullen
Executive Director Community and Inclusion
Tepper School of Business

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