Faculty Spotlight: Shiva Agarwal, Management Capstone

Written by Megan Tran-Olmsted

Dr. Agarwal teaches the capstone class that all Canfield Business Honors students must complete to graduate. Because the class serves as the final honors class for many students, it is designed to equip students with the necessary skills to become future business leaders. The class heavily emphasizes the importance of business strategy and successful execution. Dr. Agarwal often emphasizes the fact that “good strategies can quickly become bad strategies” if they lack proper implementation techniques. Because of this pitfall, the Management Capstone class seeks to help students become successful by implementing good strategic practices and avoiding common mistakes.

Dr. Agarwal’s background is multifaceted. She first began her career as a software developer for Microsoft after completing her undergraduate degree in computer science. It was here that she had the opportunity to explore a rapidly growing and changing business in the personal computer space. However, after several years with Microsoft, Dr. Agarwal decided to make a pivot into the business strategy space by completing her MBA. From here, she joined the Boston Consulting Group as a business associate. Here, she was able to utilize her analytical problem-solving skills gained from both her prior work experience and her MBA classes.

Ultimately, Dr. Agarwal felt a continued yearning to dive deeper into business analytics over a longer time frame than consulting allowed. Because of this drive, she pursued a Ph.D in Management at the Wharton School of Business. Here, she had the opportunity to build on her experiences at Microsoft by exploring technological innovation, platforms and business ecosystems, and how those concepts related back to strategic management and corporate strategy. After completing her Ph.D in 2017, Dr. Agarwal began her research and teaching career at the University of Texas at Austin. Now Dr. Agarwal focuses on how firms within their larger respective industries interact with each other, rather than focusing on a single firm.

Dr. Agarwal is a strong believer in the case method of teaching. She believes that this is particularly important in fields such as management where class concepts are largely theoretical, as opposed to formulaic. In her classes, students analyze how corporate giants like Apple, Amazon, and Coca-Cola have designed and adapted their strategies over time to remain competitive in a dog-eat-dog world. Furthermore Dr. Agarwal has seen time and time again that there is a common misconception about business strategy. She says that many people believe that there is “one path to success,” when in fact, each business requires a different and adaptable strategy depending on many market forces.

Since Dr. Agarwal has previously spent several years as a software developer, a business consultant, and now a prominent researcher, she can offer a unique perspective to students interested in entering the tech space, the consulting world, or even academia. She recommends that students test the waters prior to diving into a set career path. She tested several avenues before deciding that the academic world was what she desired to pursue. She fondly recalls how she developed strong relationships with her professors and was fascinated by their research and publications, which fueled her interest to join academia.

When she’s not exploring the next big move in the technology space or teaching CBHP students in the classroom, Dr. Agarwal enjoys spending time with her three-year-old daughter. Even at home, her interest in technology still shows as Dr. Agarwal thinks about the impact of technology on the younger generation. While she teaches this class on creating successful business strategies, Dr. Agarwal says that she would love to know what the ultimate successful parenting strategy looks like.

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