Seemhar Anand is currently the director of operations at DBDS Robotics Private Limited and has over 8 years of experience. He attended UCLA OMP in 2019-20 and shares his experience of the program.
What are the factors that influenced you to enroll in UCLA OMP at this stage of your professional journey?
The main driving factor was that I could continue my business commitments while pursuing further education. Another factor was definitely to gain global perspectives. This is something that will greatly help my business.
What have been your key takeaways from the program so far?
That would have to be leadership techniques and operational excellence. Prof. Abe’s strategies and decision making session was really helpful. As was branding by Prof. Sanjay Sood. These two classes have been immensely helpful.
What was most useful to you in the recent module?
I can’t really choose one. I have sincerely gained so much from the whole module. Nothing has been ‘less’ important. I have been able to take away something from all the lectures and topics.
How has your peer group impacted your learning and program experience?
All of us are from different parts of the world and from different businesses, so I have learnt how all of us have tackled similar problems in different ways. This has given me confidence in my own decision and also allowed me to see other perspectives on a global scale.
Are there any specific areas where you have already seen significant benefits as a result of the program thus far?
Many, actually. My leadership skills have definitely improved. I am better at being creative and also ideate more constructively. My communication has become more clear and I am focused on bringing some value addition when I am working on any project.
What unique aspects of the program have resonated with you so far? Please mention any specific event / class / anecdote.
The Birkman analysis session with Prof. Bob Mc’Cann was really shocking for me because I realized there is a lot that I did not know about myself. I learnt so much about my own practices through this, which has helped me improve myself.
Srividya Srinivasan is a dedicated human resources professional with over 16 years of experience in IT and the ITES industry. An expert in managing recruitment at various levels for new or established organizational setups, she has the ability to work with the senior management team to integrate HR functions driving corporate goal attainment. Through her career she has worked with brands such as HCL, Valgen Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Doyen Systems PVT Ltd. and more and gained experience in recruitment, performance management, organizational development, people policy design/implementation, resources allocation, employee relations and performance appraisal. She participated in the pioneering cohort of NUS HRLP in 2022 and shares her experience of the program.
How was your program experience?
The 6-month NUS Global HR Leadership Program was an immersive experience for me. The great thing is that it is designed in a way that it helped me develop a keen sense of what HR leadership looks like in the future of work. Unlike other programs, this program focuses heavily on opportunities for individuals to further develop their self-awareness as leaders of the current trend.
What are your views on the HRLP curriculum?
Overall the course curriculum is fantastic and is suitable for the current VUCA world. It helped me understand the importance of factoring in a digital mindset in the workplace and the role of HR in implementing a people strategy in the digital age. I was able to understand the digital strategy in an organization, as well as the impact of technology on people in organizations where emotional intelligence (EI) meets artificial intelligence (AI).
Digital transformation is not just about transforming the organization to digital, it is all about employee experience using our design thinking.
Another thing that really resonated with me was that thought leadership is not about technology, rather the core thought leadership areas include selflessness, compassion and empathy together with purpose, values and sustainability. DEI is not only supporting a diverse workplace but also equalizes opportunities across all areas of workplace life such as decision-making influence, access to sensitive information, career advancement, job security.
What impact did the learning journey have on your professional growth?
During my learning journey, I was able to build upon my leadership story within the context of my organization as well as the industry. The focused action plan that we worked on helped me to understand my core strengths as a leader and the areas where I need further development. I was able to ask myself and dive deep to build upon essential questions such as; what are the environmental and economic trends shaping the direction of the industry that I work for? How will these trends impact my organization? What is the call to action I have to take as a leader?
What is your overall takeaway?
I have learned that the human brain is capable of learning new things at any age, in any situation, under any work pressure, and with personal priorities. At the end of the course there was a case competition in which my group won first place. It was a completely new experience to learn and compete with other participants. This whole learning experience has given me a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
Pallavi Kulkarni is currently the director at Power Fabricators India Pvt. Ltd. She attended UCLA OMP in 2019-20 and shares her experience.
It seemed to be the perfect time to meet new people who are in similar professional positions and situations as myself. Additionally, the course structure also makes it perfect because it doesn’t demand as much time as a full-time course does.
My single biggest takeaway is the insight to become more focused on people. The psychological aspects of running a business ultimately is about people. Demand is from people and supply is through people, so understanding them goes a long way for any business.
Operations management was what really stood out for me. The content was super relevant and definitely something I can readily start working on. It was also a good combination of theory and practical work. I also loved Prof. Bob Kulhan’s session. That was great too! A must for each cohort.
It is an intimate group with a great set of people. How the program is structured, helps in getting to know everyone really well. Most importantly, I realized I’m not in this alone. Someone else is always going through very similar experiences. Listening to their experiences helped me get perspective with regards to my own.
I have learnt to concentrate on my interpersonal skills and I now make sure I take in a lot more from general conversations with colleagues. I find myself being more patient and have also been forcing myself to think positively.
The business improv session for sure. I went from being extremely skeptical to having learnt so many new things from it. I also helped the group bond and that, inturn, helped me immensely.
Lorenzo Gonzalez is currently a venture capital investor at Brainbest Capital Global Partners. He has approximately 16 years of experience in top managerial and leadership positions with an expertise in business strategy, team leadership, strategic planning, sports marketing, negotiation and more. He attended UCLA OMP in 2019-20 and shares his experience.
Since I have recently taken on the role of a leader at my company, this program is useful to my new needs. It also provides me with the required tools to develop my skills. Additionally, it is a great opportunity to attend one of the best universities in the world.
I have been able to improve my leadership skills greatly and I am able to involve all my colleagues in a project in a strategic manner. It has also helped me improve my listening and team building skills.
For me, especially in this module, the improv session has been most useful. But I also did learn alot from the teachings on supply chain operations. And, overall, the leadership training has been great. I can’t wait to apply what I have learned!
It has impacted my experience very positively. I think I have found a great group of people and professionals who have become friends. Everybody supports and helps the others out so I am very glad to have met them and be part of this alumni.
It has definitely given me a global perspective. Meeting professionals from different cultures and countries has opened my mind to the world. It has also helped me improve my English, which will help me in a global market.
For me it would be the improv class, leadership skills, and the class by Professor Felipe Caro.
Traven Teng is a bilingual regional recruiter with over 7 years of professional experience across the Southeast Asia region for companies such as ByteDance/TikTok, Google, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Lazada, and more. With a strong background in recruiting the talents and a passion for helping people advance in their career, he is also the awardee of the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Gold from the former President of Singapore, Tony Tan. He attended the pioneering cohort of NUS HRLP in 2022 and shares his experience of the program.
How did the program benefit you?
Though I have been a recruiter throughout my career, this course allowed me to gain a further understanding about the different aspects of HR. There are plenty of interesting topics, such as strategy in digital organisation, strategy in DEI, leading in times of uncertainties/hybrid working, executive presence and influence in the C-suite, people analytics, employee wellbeing, managing growth, and more, that have truly helped me expand my skills.
What was your experience with the program?
It has been a fruitful 6-month learning journey, especially because of the faculty. Professors Michael Jenkins, Andrew Delios, Shaily Gupta, Dr. NEO Kok Beng, Dr. Guo Lei and Shrestha Sengupta from Northwest Executive Education made this program incredibly interesting and knowledge-packed. The Project Work Presentation gave us a chance to deep dive into researching case studies, and I am so glad that my team got shortlisted for the final stage.
The future of HR is full of possibilities, and I want to be part of it to make all the dreams possible!
Sumit Sharma is a product lead at Microsoft with over 15 years of experience in web, mobile and desktop products with MNCs and startups for B2B & B2C. She has a strong background in product management for SaaS products in real estate, travel, revenue management and location intelligence (GIS) mobile-first products. Within the realm of product management, her expertise lies in product strategy, market fit, go-to-market strategy, product requirements gathering, prioritization and more. She attended UCLA PGPX in 2019-2020 and shares her experience of the program.
Why UCLA PGPX?
I chose this program because I wanted to upgrade from a functional leader to a T shaped leader. I wanted to improve my acumen specifically in the areas of finance and marketing.
What insights did you gain through the program?
There were two things that really stood out to me. The first insight I gained from the program was understanding entrepreneurship as a process – moving from ideas to business models and applying finance to be able to get profitability was an experience in itself.
The second was how to develop leadership skills and the act of persuasion negotiation. These are some of the learnings and skills that I will value for life.
How would you describe the program?
If I had to sum up the value of the program in one word it would be upgraded business acumen. I am now able to connect the dots between my functional area of expertise and business as well as carry out my existing responsibilities even better.
Rammohan Sundaram is the country head and managing partner for integrated media at DDB Mudra Group, a part of Mudra Worldwide. With over 20 years of experience, his expertise extends from marketing, strategy and digital media to advertising and business development.
A multiple award winner, Sundaram has worked with brands such as C1X Inc, Jio, Yahoo, Tribal DDB, Madison, Monster, Microland and Indian Express across India, Middle East, Africa, APAC & US. He attended UCLA PGPX in 2019-2020 and shares his experience of the program.
Hello, my name is Ram, full name is Rammohan Sundaram, but you can call me Ram. I’m from Gurgaon, which is very close to New Delhi in India. I am the country head and managing partner for integrated media at DDB Mudra Group, which is part of Mudra Worldwide. I was part of the UCLA PGPX cohort of 2019-20 and it was an awesome experience.
Why did you choose UCLA PGPX?
I chose this program because I wanted to stay relevant. I have been an entrepreneur thrice and I’ve sold two of our businesses in the past. But the rapid changes that are happening in the Indian market required me to refurbish all the knowledge. Some of it you have to unlearn to relearn.
That said, I did not want to just unlearn everything that I knew. Because all that knowledge came with experience, and some of it could be relevant in today’s world but a lot of it seemed irrelevant. So, I had to reinvent myself and I wanted to push myself as a leader by staying relevant.
India’s demography is substantially different from a lot of other countries in the world. It has the youngest population globally – 65% of India’s population is below the age of 30, which means that they come from a very different mindset in terms of how they think and how they plan compared to myself, someone who is 46 years old. And while I have been there and done that, I come from a different era. So, I thought it important that I understand how these people would reciprocate to what I might do as a leader. And that is one big reason why I did UCLA PGPX.
What insights did you gain through the program?
The biggest insight that I gained from UCLA PGPX is that fundamentals don’t change. The fundamentals are laid down whether it’s leadership, whether it’s marketing, whether it is financial models, and on top of that you create innovation and new methodologies. But those are all extensions of what has already been laid as ground rules. That is something that I think is very interesting simply because the way we now think with the changing needs of the market is way different than how we probably thought about it 10, 15, 20 years ago. And the best thing about that is the fundamentals are still the same and you continue to innovate as per the needs of the market.
How would you describe the program in one word?
If I had to sum up the value of this program for any individual in one word it would be – transformation. A transformation of how you think, a transformational journey towards being a better leader, a transformation as a human being – you will become a better individual.
The word ‘transformation’ can have many subsets depending on how you want to analyze yourself and what you get out of the program. And I realized several subsets under the word transformation. So, overall it’s been a transformational journey for me.
Sanjeev Bhattacharya is the Global Head of Business Intelligence and Data at Link Group. With 21 years of experience in the banking and financial industry, Sanjeev is a seasoned professional who works with technology and business partners. He has previously worked with brands such as Barclays, GE Capital, and Capgemini.
As a strategic thinker, Sanjeev uses technology as an enabler for superior business outcomes by aligning business and IT objectives. He is not only proficient in the areas of global engagement, technology leadership, CXO stakeholder management, strategic management, and more, but is also adept at tools and technologies such as Oracle 10g and Oracle Exadata, among others.
Sanjeev was part of the UCLA PGPX 2020-2021 cohort and with the help of the Northwest Executive Coach has since been able to secure his current position at the leading financial service organization – Link Group – an Australia-based ASX-listed company spreading across APAC and EMEA regions.
Zoeb Rajkotwalla is currently the Chief Sales Officer at Cognatics. He has over 18 years of experience as a skilled business leader with a demonstrated success in sales, marketing, business development, and operations. He has led large cross functional teams across verticals and geographies for projects which have resulted in tangible and significant improvement.
His experience lies in the telecom, media, real estate, and logistics industries and he has worked with brands like MSMEx, Infollion, Avant Group, and Go Green Logistics Pvt Ltd.
He attended Chicago Booth ADP 2018-19 looking to gain new perspectives and knowledge from the global business market. He was also looking to benefit from the exposure the program provides through its curriculum as well as his global peer group. He shares his experience.
Abhishek Prakash is currently the vice president of business development at mTalkz Mobility Services (P) Limited. His expertise lies in enabling enterprises to achieve 10x business growth through communication solutions such as Whatsapp, SMS IVR, and ecommerce solutions. He also consults for the implementation of digital communication channels.
He is proficient in leading new alliances and streamlining sales processes and has worked with brands like Wipro Technologies, HCL Technologies, HCL America Inc., and IBM over his 18+ years career.
More recently, keeping post-COVID-19 recovery in mind, he is working on newer methods of client engagement and transactions. His aim is to enable organisations towards success with the help of communication solutions, marketing automation, and voice solutions.
Abhishek attended UCLA PGPX in 2018-19 with the goal of improving his people management, communications, and networking skills. He shares his experience.
Siddharth Sharma is CEO, Kolkata & WB at Bharti Airtel. With over 18 years of work experience, he is an experienced international business leader with a proven track record of delivering business growth, leading large and multi-cultural teams, and driving innovation and has previously worked with brands such as Singtel in Singapore, Bharti Airtel Ltd., and BPL Mobile.
Throughout his career, his key strength has been to combine analytical skills with the understanding of what the consumer and market needs, and to offer innovative yet practical solutions to real business issues. He has a proven track record in building and turning around businesses in emerging, as well as developed markets, and has received various prestigious awards in internal and external forums.
Siddharth was part of the UCLA PGPX 2018-19 cohort and came to participate in the program with the belief that everyone needs to redefine themselves to continue progressing; and with the understanding that what he learned in college needs to evolve over time. Here is his experience.
Abhra Banerjee is presently the President and CEO at Cleanomatics. With over 25 years of experience in leadership roles, he has worked across India, Southeast Asia, and the US. Abhra is a seasoned C-level corporate executive turned Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He is a participant of the Berkeley EPM 2019-21 cohort and shares his experience of the launch of his company and of the program thus far.
TELL US ABOUT CLEANOMATICS AND WHAT IT AIMS TO DO.
I conceptualized Cleanomatics when my son was leaving home for the first time to go to his hostel. We figured out that he didn’t have a reliable laundry service available on demand. And with a little research I figured out that it is a very common problem. And, when my son had a bed bugs problem, we looked up Justdial in all of Manipal only to find somebody who charged us a humongous amount and the problem was still not resolved.
Apart from PCI for pest control, and to some extent, maybe UClean and Urban Clap (Urban Company) in some places, there is no such reliable option which is available every time you need cleaning and laundry. That is why we conceptualized this business idea.
We decided that we wanted Cleanomatics to be like Google to ‘search’. Anything to do with cleaning, laundry, and dry cleaning, we should be the destination of choice.
To do that we need to onboard each and every player who’s connected directly or remotely with this ecosystem. Be it chemical manufacturers, machine manufacturers, service providers, etc. We have embarked on this journey of creating the Uber of the cleaning and laundry industry.
And, when we started this journey in January this year, at the conceptual stage we got the blessing of a Silicon Valley pre-seed accelerator. We participated in this pre-cohort program and developed the initial business model and we launched it in India in June. And every month, we have been growing by more than 65% to 70%, acquiring customers, and gathering traction. We are present in all of Delhi NCR and Calcutta. This is how much we have expanded in the last four months. And, in the next three months, we expect to expand more.
WHAT PART OR PARTS OF BERKELEY EPM SPECIFICALLY HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO LEVERAGE IN ORDER TO GET HERE IN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
BEPM and Northwest have been life-changing for me. Because I quit my corporate career after 25 years, when I was at the peak of my career. I was doing extremely well; I was the vice president and business head of Havells (India Limited). But being at BEPM, I realized that this is the time to do something different and that is when I decided to quit my corporate job and make my capstone project my startup idea.
Ever since I’ve started this journey, I have been updating my capstone. I’ve been able to use my interactions with Prof. Frank Schultz, Prof. Holly Schroth, and everybody else, in my startup. I’ve also been able to leverage the Harvard Business Publishing financial and accounting model, as well as the Leading Innovative Change module in my startup. Right now I am waiting for the financial bootcamp, the next phase of the capstone journey, and the next part of the campus modules at Berkeley.
My relationship with Berkeley was further enhanced when my startup got selected for the UC Berkeley SkyDeck Accelerator Program, which is a very prestigious accelerator program. So Northwest and BEPM have made this entire journey possible, and it really is a wonderful journey.
CLEARLY GEN Z AND MILLENNIALS ARE AN IMPORTANT TARGET AUDIENCE FOR YOU. WHAT ARE THE LEARNINGS FROM THE PROGRAM THAT HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO EXPAND IN THIS CUSTOMER SEGMENT?
Gen Z and millennials are not like any other generation. They are digital netizens with a very strong point of view which does not waver easily. They form their own opinions and stand by them. Their world-view is very different. So, no amount of advertising can influence them. If you advertise and you don’t live up to the promise, it doesn’t excite them.
They are not driven by a brand name or glamour. And they will not conform to anything just because you tell them to. They have their own way of adapting to change and their own way of accepting what you tell them to do. This segment is becoming one of the most important segments.
So to work with this generation, it is very important to understand them fully and offer them your product and services on the internet, but not try to sell it to them. Highlight the merits and the functional properties of what you’re offering and allow them to objectively compare it to the competition. If your product is good, you are living up to your promises, the product reviews are good, the service reviews are good, then you will automatically be adopted. Because word of mouth operates in a much more powerful manner with this segment than in any other generation. This is the generation of the future. They will drive the world.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR PEER GROUP AND HOW HAS THAT HELPED YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY?
The group is multinational with people from Australia to the US. In the COVID scenario especially, it is very important to understand what is happening in each country to form a worldview and engage the right possible success formula in the markets you operate in. So the first advantage is that because we have such a diverse group, we have been able to learn from each other’s experiences.
We also bond excellently as a group. There is a lot of bonhomie amongst the group. I have 60 new friends. We all have a common mission and all of us are part of this exciting journey at BEPM.
Every bit of interaction has been very stimulating intellectually. We have study groups and have formed long-term friendships. So it’s a very warm and nice feeling of having an extended family of 60 more people.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE – CHALLENGES AND BREAKTHROUGH MOMENTS SINCE YOU LAUNCHED YOUR COMPANY AND WHAT YOU HAVE IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE.
A startup is not an easy thing to do. You have to live your startup idea 24/7. You have to do everything in that business – be a telephone operator, the person who is pitching to the investors, the HR, the accountant, even if you haven’t done it at any stage of your life. So the biggest challenge for me has been getting used to this new routine. In the beginning, there have been times when I had to reorient, challenge, and completely change myself to adapt to the demands of a startup.
My inspiration has been Colonel Sanders of KFC. Because if he could start his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 65, and make KFC what it is today, I started at the age of 50. So I can do it too.
The second challenge, obviously, is being able to manage capital. Making sure that I have the runway for a suitable length of time, before I raise the next round of investment and how to raise that investment, is a challenge.
The third is the vulnerability to legal cases or litigations. As a startup, it is easy to end up in litigation and understand how to avoid that has been another challenge.
Going forward I think it is a very beautiful future for all of us at Cleanomatics. We are expecting our operating breakeven latest by February, 2021, which will be about a year since our birth. We are working on an evolved technological digital platform with artificial intelligence and machine learning, in line with the vision of being the Uber of the cleaning and laundry industry. We are also looking forward to a hundred million dollar business in India in the next couple of years. We are looking at a 1.2 billion large customer base in India. And we are looking at our US launch and maybe two to three years later a B2B SAAS model, maybe a B to C model. We have not formed that yet, but that’s what we’re looking forward to.
SHARE WITH US ANY ANECDOTES / STORIES / EVENTS FROM YOUR JOURNEY AT BERKELEY EPM THAT HAVE STUCK WITH YOU.
I would say my interactions with Prof. Frank Schultz are times I will always cherish. Every time I need him, even if it’s online, he’s always bubbling with energy and positivity. I always wonder how a person, despite being such a superhero in terms of his credentials, is so down to earth. He is always laser focused on whatever he has to teach us. Every interaction with him has been fantastic.
The interactions with Prof. Holly Schroth in Bangalore, understanding what negotiation is all about, has also been a very memorable experience.
Mohit Jain (from the Northwest leadership team) has been guiding me through my capstone project. Every time I interact with him, he is to-the-point and meticulous about suggesting the next step forward.
Drafting a business plan and reading a balance sheet with Tamhant Jain (also from the Northwest leadership team) has also been a very memorable experience. I can keep on recounting all the lovely memories with each member of the Berkeley faculty and the Northwest team or even the peer group. And I’m really looking forward to the next opportunity when we can be grouped together.
My advice to anybody who is considering this program is that this is probably one of the best programs available. Berkeley EPM is a very natural fit. I always have a feeling that Berkeley knows what I am thinking, what I want at this stage of my career. You can decide how you want to change your life after entering this program. It completely depends on you. If you decide to take it as a college degree and get a Berkeley stamp, you can get that. But if you want to use it as a life-changing experience like me, you will change your life. Because, this is a program that can actually change your life and open up a vista of opportunity, which you had probably never thought of before.
Neha Mathur is currently Co-Founder at Personifwy and WishYogi India Pvt Ltd. She has over 16 years of experience in the hospitality industry around managing large scale operations and corporate strategy. She has worked with various brands and has gained exposure across functions of corporate operations, strategy and business development, finance, and operational consulting. She attended Berkeley EPM in 2016-17 and shares her journey since, with the launch of her company.
WHAT IS PERSONIFWY AND WHAT DOES IT AIM TO DO?
Personifwy is an advanced analytics-based enterprise SAAS platform that helps organizations to drive their employee engagement for business success. At Personifwy we believe that employees are at the center of an organization and it is very important for every organization to lay emphasis on their growth, to understand the feedback, to be able to nurture them, and help them succeed.
We tried to understand why employees disengage when they are on a payroll. And there are multiple underlying factors whether it is because of bad managers, poor teamwork, or development. And slowly, this lack of motivation because of disengagement actually starts affecting individual productivity and leads to decreasing ownership or even receding morale.
So our platform enables organizations to derive and change this cost, which is the cost of disengagement, and turn it around to be a return of engagement, rather than a return of investment.
WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE BEFORE BERKELEY EPM?
I was a thoroughbred hotelier. I was cocooned in the realm of hospitality operations. I had worked with brands like Marriott and The Ascott Limited, and at that point when I joined BEPM, I was the Corporate Head – Rooms Division at Sterling Holiday Resorts (Limited).
AFTER COMPLETING THE PROGRAM, IN WHAT WAYS DID IT HELP YOU THROUGH YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY?
Where I am today is a huge leap from where I was before the program. BEPM has completely changed my entire paradigm of thought. It has broadened my horizons and I have started understanding the world outside hospitality. I have gone from being a hotelier to a founder of a tech-enabled platform. It has been a huge change for me and without the program it wouldn’t have been fathomable. My whole journey of change happened because I joined Berkeley EPM.
WHAT PART OR PARTS OF THE PROGRAM SPECIFICALLY WERE YOU ABLE TO LEVERAGE IN ORDER TO GET TO HERE IN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
I think the most notable was the capstone project. Because Personifwy was in fact conceptualized from the capstone project and my partners in the business are actually my teammates from the BEPM cohort. The capstone project won an award and so we thought of bringing it to life. And since then we have been extremely satisfied with what we are doing.
We also got a lot of support from the Northwest team, especially Tamhant. It was very easy for us to approach him. There were many small hiccups along the way during the journey, and our first reaction would always be to call him up to figure it out. And we always got incredible insights from him on any aspect of the business. That gave us the support we needed and helped us resolve our problems early on. Without that we would have to go through a lot of self study to resolve those same issues. But since we had the kind of incredible support that we did and the kind of people who taught us, we could rely on them for everything that we needed to launch this company.
HOW DID INTERACTING WITH THE PEER GROUP HELP YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS PERSONIFWY?
The entire cohort has been our biggest support system through this entire journey. As students learning together, the best part was that we were not competing with each other, nor were we judging each other. There was a different kind of bonding with this incredible team of people from various facets of the industry. And every time we needed any help from any one of them, we were able to get it. Even after the program ended the interaction and support continued. I think the best part about the entire program is the cohort that you become a part of.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE – CHALLENGES AND EUREKA MOMENTS SINCE YOU LAUNCHED YOUR COMPANY AND WHAT YOU HAVE IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE.
Being an early stage startup you kind of have more challenges than eureka moments, but the ones we have had have been life changing eureka moments. The first was when I gave up all the perks of a corporate life and decided that I should become completely invested in this business, and start something by myself. None of my family members have ever started their own business, so I’m the first businesswoman in the family and have received a lot of support there.
My second eureka moment was when the first big client came on board. And one big moment for the entire company is definitely being accepted into the UC Berkeley SkyDeck Incubator Program. We are so glad and so excited to be a part of the program, and to be able to reach that milestone.
Owing to the entire co-founder team being extremely mature and experienced in its way of handling this business I think there’s a lot in store for the future of Personifwy.
There are so many! There was so much learning across the whole program. The design thinking classes by Prof. Sarah Beckman gave us a different edge towards looking at all aspects of business. Prof. Holly Schroth’s shadow negotiations were also very insightful. So were those meaningful business games we played to be able to understand the intricacies of business. And the financial classes helped as well. A lot of us were not from a financial background, but the professors quashed our worries and told us that we didn’t need to know exactly how an accountant makes a balance sheet, but rather how to understand what is in the balance sheet in order to understand our own finances. Prof. Wasim Azhar’s classes on marketing gave us so much in depth understanding of marketing and has been instrumental in how we are projecting ourselves in the market today. Even after the program, we contacted him to get his expertise on how we should market the product. We have also been able to keep in touch with Prof. Frank Schultz to get his opinions on various aspects of the business. Our visit to Plug and Play (Tech Center) is another thing that stood out to me. So was being able to sit through demo days at Berkeley SkyDeck.
These are aspects that stuck by me. We carved out the entire format of our product, keeping all the things we learned in mind and that’s why we were able to take Personifwy a notch above the competitors in the market. All of these experiences are what brought us to where we are today.
Reema Ghosh Dubey heads marketing and IT at her family-run business, EverSuccess Consultants. She has vast experience as a senior solutions consultant and heading IT projects for top companies in the pharmaceutical industry across India such as Zydus, Cipla, Dr. Reddy’s, and more. She attended UCLA PGP PRO in 2019-2020 and shares her entrepreneurship journey since the program.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
After I took a short break from work to look after my newborn I knew deep down I would not want to go back to work for someone else if given a choice. And I had always wanted to create something of my own; something I could be proud of. I wanted to channel my skills and passion to start my own business and take my own creative liberties.
HOW DID UCLA PGP PRO HELP YOU GROW AS A LEADER?
UCLA PGP PRO ticked all the boxes in a management program I was looking for. The content, price, and pace were apt for me. The classroom modules were the best since the discussions with the professors and my peers opened up new knowledge areas for me. It was a great learning experience because I got to work on all those knowledge areas in my own business and can relate to and apply what I learned.
Leadership is a practice, it’s a way to be part of the team. If you dictate, you are a boss; if you direct, you are a leader. UCLA PGP PRO equips you with everything you need to be a good leader, but you need to apply it everyday as you work towards your goals.
TELL US ABOUT THE GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS AND WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
The company is still at an infancy stage at just 3 months old. And, Craftisco is our first project. It is said you need to work hard to nurture your business for 1000 days and then measure the actual growth. So, that’s what we are doing now.
With respect to our first project, we want to see Craftisco among the top websites for beautiful and unique home decor, handicrafts, and handloom products. While, as a company, we will be introducing more services in the IT and project management domain in the future.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGES WHILE SETTING UP YOUR BUSINESS?
Challenges will always be a part of the daily humdrum when you start a business. Deciding on what technology I should use was one of them. Another one was financing. Since I have been bootstrapping, I have been doing 90% of the work. And, there’s a lot that I don’t have any domain experience in, but I learned and applied. Getting the right vendors on board was also quite a challenge. And of course, balancing work and life.
WHAT MARKETING STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL FOR YOU?
There are 2 main strategies that have worked for us. Applying the 3Cs and 4Ps of marketing is one. We charted out a few strategies and tested each to see its success. But our focus has always been to keep prices low and give quality services. The second is targeting the right audience for our products, the right market, and focusing on locally sourced products to keep the cost low.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Think hard and think strong because the journey is challenging, yet satisfying. Be fearless, trust yourself, and don’t hesitate to delegate when required. And, most importantly, get your finances in order so that you can sustain yourself and your business till you actually start making a profit.
Kuldeep Solanki currently is the Vice President and Head, Services Sales at SAP. He has over 15 years of experience and his key roles include key account management, CXO level relationships, strategic account management, enterprise business applications, etc.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION AND REASON BEHIND JOINING BERKELEY EPM?
I have been in the industry for over 15 years now. I was looking for a program that would allow me to continue my current work commitments while pursuing the requirements on the education front. My aspiration was to grow into senior leadership roles.. Having evaluated over 4-5 different programs, one of the most relevant features of the Berkeley EPM is that it is customised for the Indian market.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT THE PROGRAM
UC Berkeley and the Haas School of Business have some of the best faculty in the world. So you’re getting the best education from the best teachers you can imagine. They say it is a “distinguished general management program that prepares you for the next level of leadership”. And that’s honestly quite accurate. It’s an experience I will never forget. It does actually prepare you for the next level but also teaches you how to be a master at your current position. So it’s not just future-focused, it gives you real-time value. The ability to interact with the faculty of the highest calibre was also a very enriching experience. The program is highly beneficial and recommended for executives who want to boost their career.
WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM INTERACTING WITH YOUR PEER GROUP?
The biggest takeaway is the team of people I met through the journey of the program. The peer group mix is really great since there are a number of senior professionals as well as entrepreneurs. This helps get multiple perspectives at every stage in the program. There is just the right amount of mentorship available with the peer group as well as the faculty to help us reach the next level and progress further. They are from many different backgrounds and industries and so I got and still keep getting such varied perspectives and solutions that have helped me make wiser decisions and have expanded my mind even in life outside of work.
WHAT IMPACT HAS THE PROGRAM HAD ON YOU?
It’s no secret that the business arena today is largely global and grows more so every day, and also thrives on advanced management skills, the latest practices, experiences, and a strong personal brand. This program is perfect for that. I have been working for a number of years and this program was perfect to get reacquainted with the more current path in business. I realised how much more there was for me to learn and how many ways I could learn the things I wanted to in order to be more relevant and contribute to my colleagues, company, and industry.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FUTURE PARTICIPANTS?
You need to understand why the program is for you. Berkeley EPM is meant for you for a few good reasons;
Suprita Vohra is currently working as the Director, Risk Solutions Group at Barclays, Singapore. She is an engineer and finance MBA, from India. Most of her career so far has been in the financial industry, working at HSBC, Citi, and now Barclays. Working across India and Singapore, she has had fruitful experiences in private banking, foreign exchange sales, foreign exchange, and commodity structuring. She attended TLP in 2019 and shares her thoughts about her experience of the program.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION BEHIND CHOOSING TLP?
One of the things that has happened in pretty much all the businesses including mine is that every time we talk about a strategy to grow the business, a large part of the strategy is focused on technology. How can we use technology better to be relevant to our clients, and to beat the competition? I realize that I am a domain expert in my traditional area of expertise but I need to be able to speak the language of technology and be able to build partnerships with my technology stakeholders in order to drive solutions that form a part of my strategy.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE PROGRAM?
When I found out about TLP, I liked a couple of things about the program. First, it’s by MIT Professional Education, the industry leaders in technology. So, I would be directly going to the source of what is driving global innovation today. Second, the program is not a 1-week online program like many other institutes are offering. MIT Professional Education is offering a comprehensive blended program with on-campus and online modules along with project work.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE TLP FACULTY?
What I truly benefited from, and which I probably value the most, is the teaching methodology that the professors used. I had the chance to connect with new people, hear from the best professors in the industry, and immerse myself in a deep learning journey. One of the things that I have gained is the learnings that were shared through a sheer range of company case studies and examples showcased during the program. It was an enriching experience through the narration of the professors that they explained the key messages on making us understand how we can become technology leaders and grow our businesses.
WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM INTERACTING WITH THE PEER GROUP?
The classroom is clearly international and culturally very diverse. There were people representing banking, healthcare, technology, education, etc. including entrepreneurs and technology leaders in the group. It was great to put them all together in a room and see very different kinds of questions and very different perspectives come out during open discussions. The sheer diversity of conversations and perspectives was extremely enriching.
WHAT OBJECTIVES DID YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE THROUGH THE PROGRAM?
I had clearly come to bridge the gaps. The average work experience is 17 years for this cohort. So we are all at a fairly advanced senior stage of our respective professional journeys where we have a pretty clear idea of what we need to do to get to the next step either professionally, as a team, or as a company. My objective was to take some ideas from this program back to my company and implement them in a specific context. The plan and the aspirations were already there, and this proved to be an enabling tool to help me achieve my goals.
Andrew Matheou is the managing director, capital markets at BMO Capital Markets. He has 17 years of experience in revenue growth, market strategy, transformation, people management, and risk management. He has worked at BMO Capital Markets for 9 years and before that he worked at Deloitte. He attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares his experience of the program.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE CHICAGO BOOTH ADP?
I think that at any time in someone’s career you need a bit of an inflection point to think about what you’re doing now, where you are, and where you want to get to in the future. And I think it becomes difficult to do that in your day to day because you’re so busy with life and busy with your job. For me it was beneficial to step back, walk away a little bit, and have some dedicated time to sit back and reflect on where I am or where I want to go. So I think this is a great opportunity for me to kind of hit pause a little bit so that I can look towards the future and move forward in a new direction, or a different direction, or leverage what I’ve already learned into something bigger and better.
The peer group interaction was really fantastic. There was a great diversity in the group with people coming from various industries, big and small organizations and with diverse experience levels, which is what I was keenly looking for in this program. During the classroom discussions, hearing about what has worked for other people was helpful to understand the best practices for many kinds of situations.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE CHICAGO BOOTH FACULTY?
The Chicago Booth faculty is great! I think it’s effectively the same faculty that you would experience in an MBA program. So, a very very diverse faculty, with a global perspective. You’ll find that they are pretty much Booth professors based out of the University of Chicago. But overall really high-quality.
WHAT HAS YOUR LEARNING EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
It is international in nature and brings in different perspectives from the University of Chicago Booth program – so it’s interesting because you get a good mix of the academics from the professors and real-life work experience from all of your peers. And then what’s really unique about this program is it’s in a global setting. Doing it in four cities around the world, in Hong Kong, India, London, and America, kind of wraps it all and gives you a global perspective. So, it’s been a pretty neat mix of interaction taking the academics, the practical experience, and into a global setting.
HOW HAS THE GLOBAL PEER GROUP IMPACTED YOUR LEARNING EXPERIENCE?
Yeah, it’s a very diverse crowd. Where I live in the United States, we have diversity but it’s not to the extent of this program. You interact with a lot of people from around the world – South America, Europe, India, China, other parts of Asia, so, having basically the world in a classroom is a pretty unique experience and I don’t think that most of the students would get that in their home base cities.
Ritesh Singh is currently the co-founder and MD at ARM Worldwide, a marketing and communication consulting company. He has over 18 years of experience in digital and activation and has spearheaded business for noteworthy national and multinational brands. His vision is to emerge as a digital consulting company from India, having a global presence, doing innovative work which adds value to the ecosystem while creating value for all stakeholders. He attended UCLA PGPX in 2018 and shares his thoughts about his experience of the program.
Katherine Todd is currently the director of strategy for AMP Capital head of strategy and operations, funds management at Challenger Ltd. She has extensive experience in managing and overseeing the origination and execution of mergers and acquisitions transactions, complex strategies, projects, and operational initiatives. She has a deep knowledge of financial services across funds management, investment banking, insurance, and institutional banking. She attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares her thoughts about her experience during the program.
Rachit Ahuja is the manager, field marketing, for the Americas at OpenText. He has previously worked at NIIT Technologies Limited and Lymbyc Solutions Pvt. Ltd. He is known to have a natural flair for building deep and sustaining relationships and managing conflicting priorities. He attended Berkeley EPM in 2014-2015 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Parag Bhagat is the global supply chain COE finance manager at GE Healthcare. He is responsible for the centralized execution of key supply chain processes in areas of direct sourcing, product costing, supply chain analytics, inventory measurement. and transfer pricing. His expertise lies in finance, finance systems, product costing and variance analysis, measurement, analytics, and inventory valuation. He attended UCLA PGPX in 2018-2019 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Ankita Subba is the HR DGM at Cairn Oil & Gas in charge of compensation and benefits, performance and talent management, workforce analytics, and HRBP. She is an all round business-focused HR across COE verticals, business partnering, and internal consulting. She attended UCLA PGPX in 2018-2019 and shares her views of the program.
Eduardo Santos is partner and the head of sales planning at Stone Pagamentos. His expertise lies in strategic planning and OEE. He attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares his experience of the program.
Shantanu Roy is the chief information officer for the Indian subcontinent at DB Schenker. He likes shaping highly collaborative teams and strongly believes in a shared purpose, over and above shared outcomes. Digital components, domain-driven design, and data exploratory analysis using R are some of the areas that pique his interest. He attended Berkeley EPM in 2014-2015 and shares his views of the program.
Abhishek Kumar is the vice president at Infogain where he heads sales for the India market and is responsible for developing and executing growth strategies for the region. He specializes in go-to-market strategy, global account management, and integrated deals across a range of industries, including hi-tech manufacturing, network equipment, and telecom. He attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Pritha Mukherjee handles manager relocations at Crown Worldwide Group. She has around 8 years of experience in varied service industries. Her expertise lies in international business development, relationship management, and inside sales. She attended UCLA PGP PRO in 2018-2019 and shares her experience during the program.
Sangeeta Roychaudhuri is currently an executive director at StrategyQore. She has over a decade of management experience in business development, sales, and marketing across different sectors including, financial services, events, training, and technology. She attended Berkeley EPM in 2014-2015 and shares her experience of the program.
Anand is currently working at Nike, Inc. as an Engineer – GSM. He has over 11 years of experience in manufacturing and sourcing in the sportswear, FMCG, and automotive sectors. His expertise extends to production, engineering, operations management, vendor development and sourcing, process excellence and optimization, quality, etc. His interests include networking, team building, training and learning, etc. He attended the UCLA PGP PRO in 2018 and shares his thoughts about his experience during the program.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE UCLA PGP PRO?
I am an Engineer by profession, currently working with Nike, Inc. as the Manufacturing and Sourcing Lead. I had a huge list of options. Then I shortlisted them to a few based on brand image, value, area of specialization in management, whether they were classroom or online, frequency of classes, curriculum, fee structure, and location. The confusion was whether to go with institutes like IIFT, Symbiosis, BITS Pilani, IIM, etc., some of which were granted degrees, or to go with an internationally renowned university with great brand recognition. I chose UCLA PGP PRO for the international exposure, brand image, flexibility, and the extensive curriculum, which is taught by a world-class faculty from UCLA.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM EXPERIENCE?
UCLA is one of the best universities in the world and the brand value attached to the Anderson School of Management makes any program offered by it very attractive. The program curriculum is most suitable for working professionals like me so I chose it over other options like ISB PGP Pro. This program is meant for working professionals who want to enhance their knowledge about the broad functioning of businesses across the globe and power their career forward. The program is world-class in its content and delivery. I strongly recommend this program to those who want to accelerate their career growth.
HOW DID UCLA PGP PRO IMPACT YOU PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?
When I moved from the functional side to the managerial side in my previous organization, I found several gaps in my ability to be a good mentor and a leader. That is the time I learned from my peers (and my personal network) that a management qualification is necessary at this stage. The assignments were truly helpful in widening my thinking and being able to practically apply concepts in a real work environment. I have learnt extensively about other functional areas as well as strategy. I have also been exposed to new ways of thinking and problem solving as well as better operations management, which I have deployed at my workplace and have got great results and recognition from my peers and superiors. The change in my work style is visible.
I would recommend this program for those who have career aspirations and have a North Star goal to achieve. The candidates should fully understand the concept of a blended learning program – a classroom based as well as self-paced program where the participant has to put as much effort as the course providers (be it faculty, program designers, or organisers). If one is willing to put this effort along with a career then the whole experience will be extremely rewarding.
Himanshu Shah is the director, clinical research for Asia Pacific at MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd. He also involves himself in pro bono consulting and volunteering. His specialties lie in phase I, II, III clinical trials, procurement, IT in clinical trials, and virtual learning. He attended UCLA PGP PRO in 2018-2019 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Shivanand Kumar is currently the director, strategy and business development, advice and wealth Management at Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. He has over 13 years of experience in the banking and financial services industry. His specialities are business development, consumer behaviour, brand awareness, and omni-channel marketing campaigns. He attended UCLA PGPX in 2018-2019 and shares his experience during the program.
Nikhil Gupta is currently a senior advisor, strategic business development at Dell Technologies. His expertise lies in business strategy, analytics consulting, corporate strategy, management consulting, consumer electronics, e-commerce, retail, startups, circular economy, equity, and debt investments. He attended UCLA PGP PRO in 2018-2019 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Abraham Vela Torres is the customer project office manager at Schneider Electric and is passionate about business strategy and business development. He makes business solutions more efficient by simplifying the process, focusing on the core values, and aligning business strategy with project execution. He attended UCLA AMP in 2019-2020.
Rejni Pradeep is the general accounting lead at North Oil Company, Qatar. She is a seasoned finance professional with over 22 years of experience in spearheading complex accounting, consolidations, financial reporting, and auditing functions. Her expertise lies in the areas of financial planning, control, and financial reporting in compliance with IFRS. She attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares her experience of the program.
Karan Sahoo is the deputy general manager – marketing and sales at Tata Housing Development Company Limited. He has 15 years of experience in general management, marketing, and business development. He has worked with companies such as Coldwell Banker India, ATS Infrastructure Ltd, British Airways, and Axis Bank. He attended Berkeley EPM in 2014-2015 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Pablo Mancuso is the owner at Accion Group. He has an expansive experience in business development in the media and communications industry of Latin America. Through his 19 years of experience he has an expertise in negotiation, business development, product management, content acquisition and distribution, deal making, research, and executive consulting. He attended UCLA AMP in 2019-2020 and shares experience during the program.
Stuty Sarkar is the head of operations at Antly. She is a process-improvement enthusiast with in-depth experience in IT operations and digital transformation across several functions. These functions include supply chain management, product development, spend and budget analysis, people management, strategic sourcing, process improvement, change management, and overall organisational management. She attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares her thoughts about her experience during the program.
Biplab Chaudhuri is the founder and chairman at Cognatic Solutions. He has over 15 years of experience in the field of IT consulting and services, data management business strategy, big data analytics, BPO services, call centre business management, and corporate workforce restructuring. He specializes in IT and heavy engineering services, big data analytics solutions, BPO services, MSP and master vendor, engineering and IT consulting, and project management. He attended Chicago Booth ADP in 2018-2019 and shares his views about his experience during the program.
Meher Gaurav is the HR and Business Consultant at EVENTZFORCE. She is a human resources executive with 15 years of experience with a passion for building HR infrastructure through technology, compliance, and people, especially with early stage ventures and startups. She attended UCLA PGPX in 2018 and shares her thoughts about her experience through the program.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE UCLA PGPX?
I chose UCLA for many reasons. After having a little over a 12 year long career, I embraced motherhood and took a sabbatical to focus on my child. During that time I also realized that I had jumped into the workforce a decade ago and never had the time to focus on my education. So I decided to ensure that I was relevant and up-to-date to be a modern day career oriented professional.
While I looked out for potential opportunities to forward my career, I also spoke with several professionals and realized that I needed to do a great executive education program. And UCLA‘s PGPX fit all the criteria. My sister-in-law was a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. Learning the values of her university and knowing UCLA’s association with several ISB professors further strengthened my resolve.
HOW HAS UCLA PGPX HELPED YOU?
For the first half of my career, my professional journey revolved around core human resource management. The second half was focused more on helping organizations find success through better employee relations and rolling labour laws to keep the organization legally compliant. One place where I struggled during my career was to understand and manage the tactical side of business implementation.
UCLA PGPX has been incredibly insightful, not only to help me understand where and how I could’ve been more effective in the past, but also to discover so many different opportunities that I see today in areas of operations management, entrepreneurship, supply chain, and marketing. This helped me connect the dots to the bigger picture and realize my strengths beyond the core HRM domain.
WHAT ARE THE KEY TAKEAWAYS OF UCLA PGPX?
For me personally the key takeaway is the ability to view the business from a more holistic point of view. Being in HR, my learnings were very limited to my subject matter, but today I understand the business from all its relevant aspects. With this knowledge I aspire to lead my teams with more confidence and complete business acumen.
HOW HAS THE PEER GROUP IMPACTED YOUR LEARNING EXPERIENCE?
Modern day professionals are evaluated in a manner where they are observed constantly. That is the glass box approach to how they’re expected to perform while being constantly observed. The genesis of the peep and peer groups at UCLA exposes us all to this reality and makes us comfortable with this modern-day phenomenon of success.
IS THERE ANY OTHER POINT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT ABOUT THE PROGRAM CURRICULUM, FACULTY, MODULES, ETC.?
One of the key reasons for me to select UCLA PGPX was the exposure to not just a brand name in education but also the understanding of great business practices, and the exposure to a realistic and future looking faculty. Being able to view modern day business from a magnifying glass and zoom in to see your future possibilities has to be hands down the most promising element of my experience.
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Thank you for your interest in the Berkeley EPM. Please complete the form below to download a program brochure, and we will be in touch with you shortly.
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Thank you for your interest in the Chicago Booth ADP – India. Please complete the form below to download a program brochure, and we will be in touch with you shortly.