2021 MBA to watch: Akshay Arora, Rutgers Business School

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“A passionate, tech-savvy marketer who wants to make a dent in the consumer and healthcare industry.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: I am a lark and I wake up at 5:30 am every day. I start my day watching the sunrise with a cup of Indian chai. Also, I like to make video montages of important moments in life, events and travels.

Undergraduate School and Diploma:

Master of Pharmacy, MPharm (Hons) – UCL School of Pharmacy, London, United Kingdom
Executive Business Management – IIM Lucknow, India
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Wings Pharmaceuticals, Delhi, India as Brand Manager (Orasore, Hairshield & Digital).

Where did you do your internship during the summer of 2020? Signify (Philips Lighting), Somerset, New Jersey. I assisted the professional lighting segment for the Office & Industry portfolio.

Where will you work after graduation? Brand management, over-the-counter (OTC) health products / consumer packaged products

Community work and leadership roles in business school:

Vice President, Student Government Association, RBS 2020
Social Media Ambassador for Rutgers Business School & Rutgers MBA Program
Co-organizer, J&J RBS Hackathon 2020
Fundraising Ambassador, RU Giving Day

What academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of in business school? I am very proud to have participated in case competitions during my Rutgers MBA. I entered six case competitions and co-hosted / volunteered for two events. I was lucky enough to win three. I have gained invaluable expertise and unmatched skills while solving these real world marketing, strategy, supply chain and healthcare issues. I also took this opportunity to network with MBA students across the country and made good friends at Rutgers. I think every student should participate in at least one case competition during their MBA.

List of competitions: Yale Healthcare Services Innovation (YHSI 2019), Katz Invitational (2020), Rutgers Big 10 (2020), MIT Sloan OpsSimCom (2020), Tepper 25th ICC (2020), Rutgers 8th Annual Biopharma (2019), Rutgers Business Plan (2020) , RBS J&J Hackathon (2020).
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Although a pharmacist by training, I have always been oriented towards strategic and consumer-oriented roles. I was fortunate enough to land a position in pharmaceutical marketing which helped me grow and learn with a hands-on approach. I shifted gears and focused on digital marketing. Since 2016, I have supported several organizations in their digital & social media strategy. I am proud to be creative and to have an original approach to my work.

Why did you choose this business school? Before choosing Rutgers, I spent two months visiting business schools across the United States to find the perfect fit for me. I attended open houses, spoke to students on campus and alumni on LinkedIn, audited classes, walked around the school neighborhood, assessed local transportation, researched accommodation and delved into sites. Web. Rutgers Business School was the only one that complemented my pharmaceutical background, had an unrivaled reputation and ROI in the tri-state area, and gave me easy access to businesses in New Jersey and New York. I love living on campus and I’m proud of how Rutgers has managed to manage this pandemic: mandatory weekly testing, email reports, and social distancing protocols across campus.

Who was your favorite MBA teacher? Doug Brownstone, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the Management & Global Business Department. Professor Brownstone was an exceptional mentor and guide during my time at Rutgers. I have been fortunate enough to work with him on real projects such as the very first RBS J&J Hackathon 2020, the annual Rutgers Business Plan Competition, and the Paterson Film & Entertainment Commission. He’s super friendly, insightful and approachable. Her consulting course, “Integrated Business Applications”, is designed to be engaging and interactive. Outside of academia, his industry experience and professional network are extensive, and he leverages this to invite relevant speakers to his courses.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Before the pandemic, the MBA experience was common and fun. The MBA program here is a tight-knit community and spending time with classmates and professors at Barcade, a neighborhood bar, was a big part of our evenings. The best event was the elegant Winter gala which took place at the Hyatt in Jersey City in January 2020.

Thinking back to your MBA experience, what is one thing you would do differently and why? Initially, due to my pharmaceutical background, I focused exclusively on all marketing and pharmacy related courses. I found new love and interest during my second semester in finance and supply chain management. If I had to do it again, I would remain open to all subjects equally. An MBA is an experience like no other. To maximize this opportunity, you have to be open to all challenges. Also, if I knew we had 2.5 semesters of home study, I might have traveled a bit more during the initial period of the MBA program.

What’s the biggest myth about your school? Many people at home (India) and the United States only look at rankings to judge MBA programs. I’ve heard a lot of them and think their judgments are baseless as they don’t take into account community, faculty credentials, and school location. Rutgers Business School’s proximity to New York City, its strong alumni network, distinguished faculty, and part-time MBA community is impressive. No one has ever talked about the industry leaders, vice presidents, or senior executives you meet in your classes.

What surprised you the most about business school? The MBA program is what you make of it. Many professionals join the MBA program with a myopic view of the program’s offerings and how to leverage the school community. A business school is a gold mine of professionals and academic champions. The opportunities here for learning, networking, leading and maximizing time are endless. I was surprised at the leadership opportunities that a business school offers you.

What was one of the things you did during the application process that gave you an edge in your chosen school? As an international student, I gained an edge by visiting schools in person, auditing classes, connecting with current students, and exploring the campus, housing and the city. My pharmaceutical background also helped me move my file forward during my selection.

Which MBA classmate do you admire the most? Jie Wen Phang – As an international student colleague, I was impressed with her approach to school, classes, deadlines and sponsorship challenges. She has held leadership positions within the student body, stayed on top of her job, and excelled in finding employment in the industry of her choice. She has always been useful for school work, and her knowledge and experience add value to any team she is a part of. Jie Wen and her husband Dr Keshav are good friends and stars of my Instagram feed.

How disruptive was it to switch to an online or hybrid environment after the COVID hit? Academically, it was difficult during the first weeks of spring 2020. People were getting used to the new environment. The atmosphere in the classroom was not the same as everyone was still discussing COVID and there was gloom everywhere. We’ve come a long way since then and now the lessons are more interactive and the use of technology has changed a lot. Personally, it was difficult as I am an extrovert and liked the social settings. Lockdown and online classes took away the human side and being away from home didn’t help either. I am grateful to my friends (Prateek, Ria, Krystian, Doel, Abin and Madhoo) in Newark, who have kept the social circle going during these difficult times. We explored many lakes, parks, outdoor dining, and organized weekly potlucks. Rutgers housing protected us and protected us.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father, RP Arora, and my brother, Varun Arora (Thunderbird, MBA 2013), have always motivated me and challenged my business acumen. They convinced me that pursuing an MBA would provide me with a broader business knowledge and sharpen my ability to solve business problems. Every weekend, they listen intently as I share my cases and my discussions in class. My brother has always focused on effective and stimulating case study-based teaching of American MBA programs. They are my heroes and inspire me every day.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. I want to be a good mentor to someone and share the knowledge I have gained. “Knowledge increases by sharing, not by saving. “
  2. I want to promote creativity and design thinking in my future teams. I have had my fair share of success with the proper use of the creative resources available. I would like my peers to improve their digital transformation in daily business operations by implementing design thinking.

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

“Akshay Arora is one of the best and most productive MBAs I have had in my teaching career at Rutgers Business School. Here’s just one example of how Akshay demonstrated his abilities: During his second semester, he volunteered to develop and lead the inaugural Rutgers – Johnson & Johnson Hackathon at Rutgers Business School. The aim of the Hackathon was to generate ideas to solve the current problem of increasing the number of women who embark on a career in data analytics. This is important because data analysis is a huge and growing field, and the number of women in this field is very low.

Akshay’s work was a key factor in the success of this event. He managed to recruit over 250 Rutgers students in just one week thanks to a strong marketing campaign. He was able to enter information about the students when they applied, which allowed us to select the participants. He also organized and coordinated the day to keep the Hack-a-thon running smoothly, allowing six teams of students to work alongside 10 industry professionals from Johnson & Johnson to develop their ideas. Each of the teams presented their solution, and at the end of the day, the judges selected a winner.

The winning idea to increase the number of women entering the data analytics field is now a test plan at five major New Jersey companies. Akshay didn’t just make a difference for Rutgers with his expertise. He made a difference in society.

Doug Brownstone
Professor of Professional Practice, Management and Global Business
Rutgers School of Business

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