Trisha Shastri started her professional career as an operations consultant at global professional services firm, KPMG after completing her undergraduate Commerce Law degree at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). After learning the fundamentals of consulting, she felt an MBA would provide the crucial skills and experiences to enable her to step up professionally and explore the exciting emerging trend of tech startups.

“At the beginning, I explored product management as a functional domain, but I enjoyed attending the marketing lectures, so I also explored marketing as a career option. I then pivoted to the exciting domain of entrepreneurship” she told us.

The entrepreneurship course at the UNSW Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) captured her attention, and Trisha went on to become president of the school’s Entrepreneurship Club.

Today, Trisha works for a start-up in the US in business operations after a transformational experience while on an international exchange programme to The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, as part of her AGSM MBA Scholarship. She leverages her consulting background with the entrepreneurial skills acquired over the course of her MBA.

“Business operations is very different in a start-up environment compared to consulting, and my MBA taught me to apply my knowledge and skills in different business environments.”

TopMBA spoke to Trisha to learn more about her experience and how studying an AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA has had a positive impact on her career so far.

What made you realise an MBA was necessary to take that next step in your career?

Consulting experience at the start of my career taught me how to identify opportunities for improvements using a data driven approach that KPMG follows. I saw the MBA as an opportunity to leverage this foundation to step up and lead business operations strategy in an entrepreneurial organisation. The thought-provoking interactions with my professors, mentors and peers in the MBA afforded me time and space to deeply reflect on my personal goals and how I can get to where I want to be.

I wanted to be able to level up my skillset and address gaps I had before making the jump into working in other fields I found interesting. I had this desire to do a lot more with my career and the MBA provided me the licence to explore.

Having studied at UNSW previously, was it a relatively straightforward choice to study an MBA at AGSM?

I evaluated multiple programmes because I wanted to consider living and working in a different country, ideally the US. I was also looking for a course that was shorter than two years. 

I spoke with alumni from AGSM, they strongly endorsed the programme and gave me several examples of how it helped them in their respective life journeys. 

AGSM also has international exchange programmes with prominent US Business Schools which I felt would give me the right mix of staying in Australia alongside the opportunity to studyand intern overseas. The AGSM MBA gave me both options that was a key factor in my decision to choose AGSM. 

After graduating, I ended up working in the US and I am still there now.

When considering AGSM, what aspects of the MBA programme stood out to you?

AGSM’s MBA is a comprehensive programme. The core courses give a good mix of everything you need to know across finance, marketing, strategy, and accounting, as well as entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship was an impactful course, it helped me think more carefully about start-ups and apply my learning to explore that world further. The MBA helped me comprehend the broad concepts that would prepare me for the exciting and dynamic working culture of a start-up.

The AGSM MBA allowed me to try diverse courses and learn interesting new concepts. The networking events helped me explore my interests through engaging with alumni who worked in tech companies and start-ups. 

Were there any personal goals you were hoping to accomplish during the MBA?

I wanted to build on my foundation in consulting and accelerate my career growth. The main goal of the MBA was to discover exciting new career opportunities and position myself for a change in career. The MBA helped me rebrand myself as a professional with an entrepreneurial mindset suited for startups.

The AGSM MBA programme provided me with access to a variety of different events and exposed me to different career options. I discovered my passion for start-ups by attending tech events and other social engagements. Being president of the Entrepreneurship Club gave me the licence to host events on behalf of AGSM and build a community for entrepreneurship and start-ups that generated a lot of interest and gained popularity in my MBA cohort.

Notably, your cohort was the first at the school to achieve gender equality. How did that diverse environment benefit your MBA experience?

I think having that diversity in the programme was quite important, not just gender diversity but also diversity of culture, age, and background. 

At that time, I had only been exposed to consulting; it was fantastic to have people in the cohort from the military, from media, from government, from different countries that I would not have had exposure otherwise.

One of the best outcomes of the MBA are the connections with my cohort. They are a great asset. If I ever have a question about an industry or field, I am not familiar with, I can confidently reach out to one of my cohort members.

That is another thing I really appreciate about AGSM: the full-time cohort is quite small, so you get to know everyone and develop deep connections throughout the programme.

How much of an impact did the Luminis AGSM Wharton Business Innovation Scholarship have on your MBA experience?

The scholarship was a key reason for choosing AGSM as it provided me with financial independence, as well as the opportunity to gain a balanced exposure to Australia and the US by going on exchange to Wharton and working for a start-up in New York. 

How would you describe your internship experience in the US?

I wanted to get experience at a start-up while at Wharton for my exchange. I found out that many high growth US based start-ups have business operations teams. I felt like I had the right operations skillset so pitched myself for an internship at a real estate data startup company. 

It was incredible how much I was able to learn in a period of three months. In the start-up environment, they throw you in the deep end on different projects. During my time there, I set up a framework for managing goals. I established OKRs to help the leadership in setting, tracking, and managing goals. It was a big responsibility for an intern, to implementcompany-wide systems.

I enjoyed what I was doing. It was a role where I was working on a range of projects, with a variety of deliverables. The internship provided an environment of ownership of deliverablesand the ability to influence business outcomes in a tangible way.

Based on my performance, the internship turned into a full-time job!

Have there been any instances where you were able to directly apply your learnings from the MBA into your work?

Absolutely. In my current role, I helped facilitate the leadership off-sites with my manager, thinking about the long-term strategy of the company. I went back to the strategy course that I did at AGSM and pulled out the frameworks we would use like the Three Horizons Model and the Playing To Win framework. Pulling those out and helping the leadership team fill in the blanks is an example of directly applying the MBA learning on the job!

In terms of the scholarship, do you have any specific bits of advice for future applicants?

Yes, I have two bits of advice. 

First, it is important to score well on the GMAT and create a compelling application. I personally wanted to give myself the best chance at the scholarship, and so I did the GMAT a couple of times. The GMAT can be attempted a second time if you feel you could achieve better results, especially as it is a requirement for the scholarship.

Second, your application requires a compelling story telling technique that highlights your unique experiences. I highlighted not only my work in consulting, but also my experiences outside my professional life. I drew out how those experiences have made me the person I am today and represented that in an authentic fashion. Authenticity helped build my case for the scholarship.

Discover your inner entrepreneur by studying an MBA at AGSM @ UNSW Business School

This article was originally published in and has been republished with permission.