Alumni Spotlight: Aaras Shah

Aaras Shah is the Associate Director of Finance at Zeta Charter Schools, an organization whose mission is to build and sustain high-performing schools that forge thriving communities of lifelong learners, problem solvers, and innovators. At Zeta, Aaras leads budgeting, accounting, and financial analysis for the organization. Previously, he worked at Bain & Company as a Senior Associate Consultant where he focused on strategy and cost-work for Fortune 500 clients across a variety of industries. Aaras got his start working with charter schools at KIPP DC as a Strategic Projects Extern supporting their academic team. He graduated from McCombs in 2015 with degrees in Canfield BHP and finance. We caught up with Aaras recently and talked about his experiences at Zeta and how Canfield BHP helped prepare him for his journey.

Tell us a little bit about your current role at Zeta Charter Schools.

Zeta is a startup charter school network in New York City. We opened our first schools this past fall and have a very ambitious growth plan. I came on as the first full-time financial employee to help build our finance function. As part of that, I do everything across the board, from the smallest tasks to helping define our biggest strategic goals. That involves everything from ensuring we have enough money in our bank account and paying our vendors on-time to developing our current year and long-term financial budgets. In real estate – as we look to grow our network – we need to find buildings to accommodate our students, so I’ve been working on a number of real estate deals since I’ve been out here – just generally overseeing all things financially with the organization. Being in a startup, I’m also involved in a variety of different initiatives across the board just because that’s basically how start-ups work. I’ve helped set up our procurement system, developed our data dashboards, assisted with hiring, and even spent time tutoring some of the first graders in math. I basically have the opportunity to help out in many aspects beyond just what my title might imply.

What were/are your inspirations and how did it lead you to where you are today?

Growing up, my family always placed a large emphasis on education. My older sister is also a UT graduate. She went into education for her career and that sparked my interest. While at UT I was involved with Texas Blazers, an organization that worked very closely with a local underprivileged high school. I got to see firsthand some of the disparities in education between my own and others. My interest grew through those experiences, and as I spent my time at Bain – although I didn’t focus on the social impact of education necessarily – I stayed involved through consistent volunteering or pro-bono project work. After a few years at Bain, I had the opportunity to take an externship in that space and that’s how I found myself at KIPP in Washington, DC. There I knew I wanted to jump in full time, both because there was a lot of opportunity and because I felt confident that I could make a difference. I then stumbled upon Zeta, which seemed like a great fit and was actually recommended to me by another former Canfield BHP student. Since I’ve been here, being able to see that we’re making a difference in students’ lives everyday has reaffirmed my interest in working in education long-term.

What do you enjoy most about working for an organization like Zeta Charter Schools?

The most important thing is the mission. That vision is really powerful and inspirational to me and I see plenty of that in what our teachers are doing and in what our school leaders are doing. I think that the opportunity to be working in an organization that’s so focused on such a mission is pretty powerful. Combining that with the team they put together and the level of responsibility that I’ve been able to take on has made it a great role. It’s been an incredible challenge but it’s something that I have felt prepared for thanks in large part to my time spent at Canfield BHP.

How do you think your BHP and Finance degrees from UT aided you in what you are doing?

Tactically, just through the finance coursework, it’s brought me a lot of familiarity with many of the responsibilities that I oversee. When building our budget, I’m reminded by what the power of compounding will do to our expenses over time based on my practice with financial modeling from MIS301 with Professor Konana. Those are some of the basics that I got more tactically. Then, there’s the fact that my job is not just restricted to finance. That’s where having that really strong, general business background has made a huge difference because I can go back to the lessons I learned in BA324 when I’m focused on helping out with hiring, for example. I can think about MIS when helping out with our data dashboards, or operations when I’m thinking about procurement, so having a general business background has just been incredibly valuable. Beyond that – the emphasis on teamwork and team projects – that really drove learning how to communicate with others who may have different priorities than you or different backgrounds. Getting that experience in all of my Canfield BHP classes has been so valuable and relevant to working in this type of role.

Any advice for current students?

It’s easy to get caught up in seeing how everyone seems to have what they’re doing “figured out” so early on. Whether that’s the exact professional interest or even something like getting an internship early, I think that you’ll find that with the skills you’re developing and the relationships you’re creating within Canfield BHP – if you allow yourself to explore what you like – you’re going to be able to make a pretty good career out of it and you’ll be able to make a big impact in whatever it is that you do. Don’t stress out so much about how everyone else has their stuff together because you’re going to do just fine with the education that you’re getting right now.

Canfield BHP Celebrates National Siblings Day

Great things happen when siblings experience the world together. The Wright brothers, for example, were the first to take man to the air. Together they changed the history of travel and aviation with their achievements in the early 20th century. Venus and Serena Williams changed the world of women’s professional tennis forever when the two sisters burst onto the scene in the 1990s, racking up numerous titles throughout the world. Both sisters have won Olympic gold medals. Many siblings often go off to run a business together and others venture off to great things to make the world a better place.

Today is National Siblings Day and in honor of this occasion, we wanted to feature current Canfield Business Honors siblings to share their experiences with our readers. The Canfield Business Honors Program has seen a fair share of siblings come and go throughout the years. It’s always a bittersweet moment to see them part when the oldest one graduates and enters the post-college world. For now, however, we’re just happy to have them with us!

Ellie and Emily Gex

Ellie (Left) – Freshman – Canfield BHP Class of ‘22
Emily (Right)  – Junior – Canfield BHP Class of ‘20

Ellie Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: It is so fun! My sister is so wise and has a lot of advice when it comes to which classes or professors to take. It’s also fun seeing her in McCombs.

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: To take advantage of the time you have together!  It is such a sweet privilege to be able to invest in your relationship with your sibling that not many others have.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: Yes, definitely! Running into each other and talking before our classes start has brought us closer.  Also, her ability to relate and empathize with everything I’m going through (MIS) has brought more things in common between us.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your older sibling that you’ll take with you throughout your time at Canfield BHP/UT?
A: I’ve learned that if she can do it, so can I. I’ve also learned that even though classes are hard, school does not have to affect my personal life or emotions.  Emily has self-control, rarely appears overwhelmed, and always gives others the time of day even if she’s stressed which I hope to mimic in my life throughout my time at UT and in CBHP.


Emily Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: It’s really fun running into Ellie when we’re both sprinting into McCombs because we’re both running late for our respective 12:30pm classes. We’re usually both wearing the same Patagonia pullover and Outdoor Voices leggings and holding a cup of coffee.

We are so similar and its been great to completely understand each other with regards to classes, work/life balance, etc. I understand how hard MIS is, and I am able to give her advice on the projects. It’s fun seeing Ellie become really good friends with the people in her Canfield BHP classes, because I know that my Canfield BHP friends are my best friends, and I want that same thing for Ellie.

It’s also really funny because we are constantly forwarding each other business-related emails for events put on by Undergraduate Business Council and Honors Business Association, etc. Ellie and I went on a company visit to Whole Foods headquarters the other day together. Sisters who network together, stay together!

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: Ellie and I try to make time every week to hang out one-on-one and catch up, and this is something I would recommend. Make it a recurring event on your Google Calendar! It’s great for Ellie and I to catch up on school, life, and friends.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: I think for the first time I’m really understanding how similar Ellie and I are. What I’ve seen her walk through as a freshman– finding a good friend group, staying up so late studying MIS and BA324 in Scottish Rite Dormitory, and figuring out how to balance school, sorority involvement, faith, and life was almost exactly what I went through. It’s cool to think of Ellie as an extension of myself, in a way, and being in Canfield BHP together has emphasized that for sure.

Q: What advice can you provide for your younger sibling?
A: School is not everything! It seems like it now, but it is not the reason we are on this earth. GPA fades, course schedules fade, even friends fades— the only thing we are able to hold onto is hope for the future and the fact that we have a good God that we can rest in, even when everything else around us may be falling apart.


Eric and Sam Lin

Eric (Left) – Freshman – Canfield BHP Class of ‘22
Sam (Right) – Senior – Canfield BHP Class of ‘19

Eric Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: Since we have a three year age gap – he’s a senior and I’m a freshman – I don’t really notice it. It’s only when I’m going for certain student orgs that he happens to be in charge of – any sort of business org – the seniors or the leaders tend to know my brother well. Academically though, since I’m in different classes than he is – he lives off campus, I live on campus – I don’t really interact with him as much as you’d expect. It’s not like I walk into a CBHP class and see him there. So it’s really just convenient if I need to borrow his car or if I have questions about a class or a professor or about the program as a whole. He generally knows all the answers. Other than that, I don’t force myself to interact with him too much because he has his own stuff that he has going on and I have my own stuff. The most interaction is inside student orgs or outside of school entirely.

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: I would say don’t rely on your sibling because you don’t want some sort of dependency to develop. If I would’ve developed too much of a dependency on my older brother, then when he graduates this semester I would be stranded without his help. So I force myself to break away from establishing any significant dependency on whatever value he provides to me because that would hinder my ability to sustain myself.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your older sibling that you’ll take with you throughout your time at Canfield BHP/UT?
A: The biggest thing I’ve definitely learned from him is understanding how to value your time and prioritize what matters the most to you, whether that’s academics or extracurricular. He’s shown me that academics don’t mean everything and to spend more time doing stuff outside of class that means more to me.


Sam Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: The truth is we’re so busy we don’t run into each other. I almost never see him physically unless it’s on purpose like whenever we need groceries, shopping, or need to get a haircut. I don’t run into him. He has intense classes and is busy all the time. He’s working two internships at the same time and I’m doing a bunch of stuff with orgs. We usually don’t run into each other at all. In fact, other people who are my peers in CBHP tell me they run into him like, “Hey, I saw your little brother again!” and I haven’t even seen him in a week! He’ll randomly reach out to me and say, “I’m taking this class and I’m struggling” with his question and I’ll jokingly be like, “I can’t help you because I did worse.”

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: The biggest thing for other siblings in Canfield BHP is; don’t be afraid to talk about a mix of work and personal life with your sibling. When my brother first came, he was like “Okay, I’m going to focus on getting my work done and then Sam, we can go eat together and do whatever.” I gradually offered him help with this stuff.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: We’ve always been close. We lived together for over a decade. So we’ve always been close. It’s more just proven that we’re close siblings to begin with. We already know everything about each other. It’s just proving that despite not seeing each other all the time we still randomly connect.

Q: What advice can you provide for your younger sibling?
A: Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something that you would never see yourself doing and pass it forward to somebody else.

BHP MIS Professors Bond with Students at Annual Dinner Event

This week, BHP freshmen went to Clay Pit Indian Contemporary Cuisine for the annual, and much anticipated, MIS Dinner with a Professor, with professors Ashish Agarwal and Prabhudev Konana. The dinner started with Mango Lassis and Samosa for all, while Dr. Konana and Dr. Agarwal underwent the enormous task of ordering food for everyone at the table, family style. Students feasted on Naan, Biriyani and even some lesser known Indian cuisine like Dhingri Mattar Paneer and Channa Saag.

Student were delighted to listen to interesting conversation about the professors’ personal life, advice and insights.

BHP freshman, Josh De Anda, says, “Dr. Konana talked about the value of a math or economics background in business, cultural differences he’s seen, and the state of American higher education.”

Specifically, Dr. Konana explain how so many top traders and bankers have backgrounds in economics and math since these fields are the building blocks for the kind of financial modeling that they do. He discussed how he incorporates those concepts into his course for that reason, to give BHP students a leg up.

Dr. Agarwal spoke about his favorite music, hobbies, adolescence and schooling, as well as his philosophy on teaching. Students compared their favorite Guns and Roses and Led Zeppelin songs with Dr. Agarwal, as well as opinions on cold vs. warm calling.

It was a great night full of learning and laughs and at the end the students surprised the professors with a  card thanking them and expressing how wonderful they thought the event was! Dinners with a Professor are organized by the Honors Business Association, and supported by BHP fundraising efforts.

BHP Students Honored for Leadership and Service to McCombs

Congratulations to all of the students recognized at the McCombs Honors Convocation this past Friday. Here is a list of the BHP students who received awards at the event. In addition to these individuals, we were proud to honor many of you for your outstanding scholastic achievements, and want to congratulate all business students and organizations who were honored with an award this year.

McCombs BBA/MPA Alumni Advisory Board Award
Rising Star Leadership Award – Sai Yeluru

This award is presented to a graduating McCombs undergraduate or MPA student who has proven an established commitment to service within the McCombs School through outstanding scholarship and achievements, as well as exemplary leadership and community involvement. The recipient demonstrates significant growth potential as a future leader in the McCombs community.

BHP Award
Conrad Doenges Award – Sai Yeluru

This award is given to a Business Honors senior, who in the judgment of their peers and the BHP faculty and staff, have distinguished themselves in academics and leadership.

Undergraduate Business Council Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes students who have exhibited strong leadership within the McCombs School. There are two winners per class.

Freshmen – Nivva Emmi

Sophomores – Siji Deleawe, Daniel Madden

Juniors – Daniel Miyares, Megan Tran-Olmsted

Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes seniors who have been committed to leaving a legacy of mentorship, leadership and passion at the McCombs School. There are two students selected each year for this award.

Seniors – Mackenzie Moore, Eric Saldanha

Texas BBA Program Awards

BBA Outstanding Service and Leadership Awards – Erika Rodrigues, Jon Burstain, Rakshana Govindarajan, Mackenzie Moore, Aasim Maknojia, Kenny Young, Kobi Nasesk, and Callie Blumenfeld

 

McCombs Teams Dominate at National and International Case Competitions

Ashley Akin, Swetha Davuluru, Anushka Madhuvarshi, and Rebecca Ortiz

This past weekend, McCombs sent a team comprised of four BHP sophomores, Ashley Akin, Anushka Madhuvarshi, Swetha Davuluru and Rebecca Ortiz to the University of Washington Global Business Case Competition in Seattle. The competition featured a short and long case. The UT Austin McCombs Team won their bracket for the short case and took second place for the long case.

Twelve teams from around the world competed at the event. The competitors included American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Maastricht University (Netherlands), Peking University (China), Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (Ecuador), Thammasat University (Thailand), Universidad Panamericana (Mexico), University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), University of Sydney (Australia), Western University (Canada), University of Arizona and University of Washington. The long case focused on global expansion for Amazon Web Services. The winning team was Thammasat University, but Texas was a close second.

“We were so much more invested in the product of our work because we had a whole week of bonding with the other participants,” said Rebecca Ortiz. “It was humbling to hear the experiences that led each international team to Seattle, and to present to a full auditorium about a case that particularly challenged us. When selecting the countries for our solution, we had to consider so many factors, yet create a cohesive strategy and story. The fact that there were no overlapping countries presented by the four finalists really shows the diversity of thought we saw during the week.”

Also this month, the USC Value Investing Group hosted its third annual USC Stock Pitch Competition and two UT teams took home first and second place. Twenty teams from across the country competed. Eric Sun (BHP sophomore), Nick Marchenko (BHP freshman), Dhruv Dhuper (BBA freshman), Joseph Buschmann (BBA senior), and Bryan Goh (BBA junior) took first place. They are all members of the University Securities Investment Team, a group which also financed their travel to the competition. Daniel Chen (BHP Senior), Michael Everett (BHP junior), Jackie Ye (BHP junior), and Reese Davis (BHP junior) took second place at the event.

“Competing at USC was an amazing experience,” said Eric Sun. “We got to meet a lot of students from around the country and watched some amazing stock pitches. Given the caliber of everyone there, we were shocked and ecstatic when we made it into the finals and even more so when we won! I definitely learned a lot from this experience and know more about the economics of the international tobacco market than I ever thought I would.”

Congratulations to all of these students on these impressive wins!

Eric Sun, Nick Marchenko, Dhruv Dhuper, Joseph Buschmann, and Bryan Goh