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From HBS to Cutting-Edge Tech – MBA

Gaurav Singh (MBA 2022) grew up in Varanasi, India. He completed his Bachelor’s of Technology in Instrumentation and Control Engineering from NIT Trichy, India before moving to the US to pursue his MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. From an early age, he has been interested in using technological innovation to better human lives.

When and why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

Growing up I always wanted to be an engineer, more specifically a roboticist. The biggest technological problem in 2016 was autonomous vehicles and I was fortunate enough to join Ford as a Machine Learning Researcher. I wrote software, generated intellectual property, and talked about autonomous vehicles in international industry conferences. In late 2018, I realized that commercially launching autonomous vehicles is going to be more than an engineering challenge, and would require a lot of business development and strategic planning. I convinced the executive leadership to let me spend a year in the business team. I made significant contributions while serving as a bridge between the siloed engineering and business organizations. However, I realized that I would be a lot more effective if I were equipped with frameworks and tools from a formal business education.

Why Harvard?

I wanted to go to a school that prepares generalists, invites dialogue in the class, and attracts truly diverse candidates. With my desire to live and work outside of the US, an internationally-recognized brand was a deciding factor too. HBS was the only one that fit the bill. A lot of schools prepare you for your first post-MBA job, but the HBS case method goes further. HBS classroom discussions simulate the kind of multifaceted challenges that senior executive leaders face which prepares you to be the leader you want to be in 20 years.

What was your first cold call like?

I was the first one to be cold called for my section. It was nerve wracking! But my discussion group talked about the case in so much depth, right before the class, that I could articulate a thoughtful response almost on autopilot.

What surprised you about HBS?

Imposter syndrome is real. I was surrounded by some of the brightest people in our generation. I was constantly in awe of my classmates’ accomplishments, spirit, and drive. Yet as I got to know my classmates on a personal level, the very same people would talk about being insecure and feeling like they were falling behind others. One of the strengths of HBS is the supportive community– as a section, and as a class, we felt safe to be vulnerable with each other.

I was also surprised at the number of discussions we had on topics like creating a work-life balance and the pursuit of happiness. With changing times, it is important for the curriculum to reflect on living a fulfilled life and not just relentlessly pursuing the next promotion!

How did HBS prepare you to advance in the tech sector?

Very early in my time at HBS, I became an active member in the Tech Club, CAML (Coding, Analytics, and Machine Learning) Club as well as the VCPE (Venture Capital & Private Equity) Club. That allowed me to network with classmates with compatible interests while keeping myself abreast of the latest news and learnings from the tech industry. In the immersive Startup Bootcamp program, I joined a small team to take an idea from scratch and build a minimum viable product (MVP). Courses like The Entrepreneurial Manager, Launching Tech Ventures, Founder’s Journey, Entrepreneurial Finance, and Field X were great ways to get practical advice about operating a startup from the founders themselves. The Harvard Innovation Lab and the Rock Center of Entrepreneurship are two other massive resources one should not miss!

Overall, I think the tech ecosystem is highly developed on the HBS campus! There were several options to customize the MBA experience to fit my needs.

Looking back, what experiences stand out from your two years at HBS?

The section experience is definitely a highlight at Harvard. Taking classes with the same people builds camaraderie and you get to know all of them on a very personal level. I am glad that I also spent time connecting with professors outside of class. They are my biggest champions and personal board of directors.

I also got some hands-on leadership learnings from my stint as the Co-President of the Tech Club and serving in my section leadership. Leading and managing a team of dozens of high caliber people can be daunting but teaches you lessons that stay with you forever.

What are your future plans?

Keeping with my tenet to always be working in cutting-edge tech, I have joined a Series B artificial intelligence accelerator chip maker based in Toronto, Canada. I will be leading and growing their technical marketing efforts. I am planning to get as many varied experiences as possible over the next few years to help me prepare for executive leadership later in my career.

On a personal front, my wife and I are looking to raise our baby girl (born during our second year at HBS) and provide her with as many enriching experiences as possible while charting our respective careers.