Before coming to Charlottesville, Pranita worked at India’s largest engineering conglomerate, Larsen & Toubro in multi-dimensional roles including sales, business operations, and strategic initiatives. While there, she also spearheaded efforts with the corporate social responsibility team to divert surplus rehabilitation materials from urban cities to rural places affected by floods for disaster-relief. Led by Pranita’s efforts, the company was able to collect over 4 tons of ration, clothes, utensils, shoes, and other reusable materials for the disaster affected people. She also conducted regular such camps in Central Mumbai, collecting a ton of material every year. It was here that she realized she was passionate about social impact and sustainability. In her own words, “I orchestrated those efforts…I also spoke with the Heads of Innovation and HR and convinced them to drive a sustainability initiative across all factories of L&T in India. We ended up collecting 1 ton of recyclable paper and electronic waste and were able to give it to proper recycling handlers.” For her leadership, Pranita won the Idea to Execution Award and an Employee Engagement Award for excellence. Even now that she is in the U.S., Pranita feels good knowing that her efforts are still being carried out at L&T. Those relationships and contacts have been formed and social responsibility and change is still taking place.
After working for 5 years, she realized that she had other interests and untapped potential that she wanted to explore. She found that she liked sales and operations; most importantly, she liked working with customers. “I realized that I am also a people person. I wanted to do something that had a mix of both the analytical side of engineering as well as interaction with people” said Pranita. Soon after, she was selected for a fast-track leadership development program within the organization, where she was exposed to other facets of business. She started to learn about operations, manufacturing, finance, accounting and many more areas of business. Eventually, she realized that she didn’t have enough knowledge covering those aspects. That is when she decided to apply for an MBA– to learn the skill set and to get that global exposure. For Pranita, “An MBA is an experience. An MBA is not just an educational degree. It has to be lived in the best possible way and that experience is something that a top US Business School would give me.”
Pranita’s application process was not typical due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I got into the class of 2022 but I had to defer because of COVID and the visa issues revolving around it.” Pranita decided to fill this ‘gap’ year by testing out her hypothesis of working in strategic business solutioning. She successfully divided her time between exploring strategy and operations at Deloitte India as well as consulting at a boutique firm and loved her time there. When asked why UVA and Darden specifically, Pranita had three reasons.
- “The whole case method is something that will force you to be creative and at the same time analytical. You have to be quick, you have to be creative, you have to think fast and that is exactly what I love about the Darden MBA program.”
- “I wanted to go to a school that reflected the values I believe in. The greatest value I believe in is empathy. Darden stands for empathy! The way Darden conducts itself, the way professors interact with students, the whole concept of a learning team… it’s all about empathy. Everyone is from different walks of life and [your classmates] don’t always know what is happening in the case entirely, but we are all helping each other to find a solution. We are all pulling each other up!”
- “Darden is all about muscle-building. It’s not just about one-way knowledge imparting. Darden builds muscle. Now that I’ve come here and am experiencing it, I can vouch for whatever I am saying! It’s so true!”
Besides learning business inside and out, Pranita also shared a few unexpected things she picked up as well. “The most unexpected thing was realizing the potential inside of me. I didn’t know I had so much untapped potential I could use to push myself harder.” From learning how to efficiently multitask to giving a project her full, undivided attention, Pranita feels like Darden has expertly prepared her to take on any challenge. In fact, “What I’ve achieved in these last eight weeks…. I don’t think I have done as much in the months before coming to Darden. It’s a powerful experience that is jam-packed with action!”
One of the greatest parts of the Darden experience is the opportunity to work in a learning team, a group of five to six students from across the different First Year sections. When speaking of her learning team, Pranita proudly exclaimed, “I have a fabulous learning team… you have no idea!” In the first week of working together, Darden organizes various activities for each of the learning teams. These activities help each team’s relationships become strong. “We are now able to communicate on a very deep level”, says Pranita, “One thing that has come out of these conversations is the actual meaning of global exposure. I am interacting with so many different, diverse people and we’ve actually made the effort to indulge into conversations related to diversity, equity, inclusion, race and gender, including topics such as how to judge merit and how to link it to these aspects. At first these conversations were very uncomfortable, but the value was so huge. I now have so many different perspectives that helps me channel myself.” In fact, these conversations helped Pranita make the decision to apply to be a part of the planning committee of the 2022 DEI Summit which is an event that pulls together students from top MBA programs around the country to discuss issues relating to diversity, equity and inclusion. Pranita was selected as Marketing Lead and looks forward to participating in that summit next year.
Certainly, Pranita values the diverse perspectives she has encountered while at Darden. She also has risen to the opportunity to share her own cultural background. It’s who she is, and it’s been fun for her to share it. From sharing mom-made Ladoos (an Indian sweet) to everyone visiting her house, to participating in the Global Food Festival, to sharing her Indian perspectives in her learning team and classes, Pranita has taken advantage of the unique learning opportunity presented at Darden. “I think it’s the most important thing” says Pranita “Everyone here has come to learn and if they get to learn even a little bit about Indian culture from me that would be an achievement. As international students, we have an important responsibility to share perspectives with each other. Darden is a safe space with people from different geographies, economies, race, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. This is a place where all the future leaders are being groomed right now; so if we are able to influence each other even a bit, we are actually influencing future leadership. We can create so much change in the long term!”
Pranita’s optimism shines through: “I’m a very optimistic person but that comes out of not just fairytale thinking but it’s because I believe that I can do it and I am ready to put in the hard work that takes to achieve it. If you back yourself with a good amount of hard work and passion, you can achieve it all. This is where my optimism comes from”. For Pranita, creating change isn’t an event, it’s a way of life. It’s something we all have the ability to do if we just take the first step and leverage that potential within us.
Encouraged by her learning team and her own optimism on life, Pranita realized the importance of her own voice at Darden and will continue to advocate for change and positivity in all her future endeavors.