From TV to an MBA: How Business Education Can Open New Doors to Opportunity
Devna Shukla won an Emmy for her work in TV.
On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, a popular US news show on every weeknight, she worked her way up from intern to production assistant to editorial producer, traveling the country to cover breaking stories, from presidential inaugurations to the Boston bombings of 2013.
Devna joined CNN while still at high school, age 16, but she never got to attend the Emmys to collect her award; she left a few months previously. By then, she’d already taken the first leap in her career, joining a major cancer treatment and research institution in New York.
Soon, Devna felt it was time to take another career leap. She started thinking about business school.
Choosing a School
Devna had always wanted to go to business school, since admiring MBA students on-campus during her bachelor of arts degree at UCLA. When researching business schools, she considered:
- The degree and format. For Devna, the full-time MBA experience was the obvious choice. She wanted an all-encompassing experience which would help her build up her professional network and, eventually, make a career switch.
- Location. Devna wanted to be in a major city with lots of formal and informal networking opportunities easily accessible. She wanted to be in a place where she could easily connect with MBA alums.
- Funding. Devna had an honest conversation with her family about financing her MBA. With their support—and with personal savings—she worked out a way to pay for business school, confident that the rewards were there.
- Her career goals. Devna is focused on going into a senior role at a big tech company. Consequently, she wanted a location with a growing tech ecosystem and a business school which invests in tech.
- The fit. There are many business schools out there. Devna’s strategy was to find a school with a community she felt connected to. She visited campus, sat in on classes, and attended informational sessions. She asked herself: What is the class environment like? What are the students like? What are the professors like? Ultimately, her search drew her to New York City and NYU Stern.
“I always thought people who go to business school were so smart and had the business acumen to be change-makers in the world,” Devna explains. “I had a great experience at CNN but I felt prepared to make another leap. I felt I could also contribute to the broader community—and that’s what business school is about.”
Going through the MBA application process can be challenging. The trick is to communicate your own unique story rather than a cookie-cutter version of what you may think the admissions committee want to hear.
Devna talked about the challenges she faced working in TV—the long hours, the impact on her personal life, the fast-changing environment, and the need to stay cool under pressure—and how she could use those experiences prepared her for an MBA.
For the GMAT, she took a test prep course and committed to it. But the GMAT, she says, is only important when you’re applying to a school; once you arrive on-campus it’s not a factor at all.
In fact, most schools have no minimum standardized test score requirements. Although the GMAT, or the GRE, are important, schools look at a candidate holistically, considering academic profile, professional achievements and aspirations, and personal characteristics.
The three essay questions NYU Stern poses to MBA candidates are:
- Essay 1: Professional Aspirations. What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them?
- Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. ‘Pick Six’) Describe yourself to the admissions committee using six images and corresponding captions.
- Essay 3: Additional Information. Optional further explanation of gaps in employment, academic results, or plans to retake admission tests.
NYU Stern also asks for two EQ Endorsements (emotional intelligence), one from a current supervisor, to assess qualities like self-awareness, empathy, and communication.
Devna graduated from the NYU Stern MBA program in May 2019She interned with Amazon last summer and is speaking to a variety of tech companies about full-time roles. For Devna, the secret to a successful MBA application is to be authentic.
“As long as you come in with a clear sense of what you want, you will be successful,” she says. “Business school is a big investment for sure, so the best thing you can do is go somewhere you are comfortable and you feel you can shine.”
Marco De Novellis is the editor of BusinessBecause, an online publisher dedicated to graduate management education, and is the creator and host of the podcast, The Business School Question. Follow him on Twitter @marcodn_bb.