We have the privilege of welcoming Forté Foundation members into our MBA program each fall. The Forté Foundation is a non-profit consortium of top companies and business schools, working to launch women into successful careers through access to education, opportunities, and a supportive network. Texas McCombs has been a proud Forté partner since it was founded in 2001, and the MBA program participates in Forté events across the country every year.
We recently caught up with a new MBA and Forté Fellow who hadn’t always planned to pursue an MBA, but quickly realized how the Texas McCombs MBA program could help to reach her goals and foster her passion for advocating for women in business. Meet Pallavi Nair!
Tell us about your background– the education, volunteer or work experience that led you to want to pursue your MBA?
My hometown is Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, and I have a chemical engineering background. I think what drew me most to engineering is the drive to fix problems and build solutions. After my undergraduate degree, I worked as a product development engineer at PepsiCo R&D, continuing to use this passion to drive new innovation for brands such as Doritos. At some point it became clear to me that while I loved engineering, I was also fascinated by the strategy behind how we innovated. What were the emerging market trends that were actually worth pursuing? How should we leverage the company’s global resources effectively while keeping our regional consumers in mind? I knew about unlocking new technologies, but how did we decide which technologies were worth unlocking? These questions made me realize that I would love to earn my MBA and spend time delving into these topics through hands-on learning experiences and interactions with not only great professors, but classmates who have experience in a variety of business-related fields. I want to keep creating solutions over the next two years and beyond, and can’t wait to start applying the knowledge I gain through my MBA to my problem-solving approach!
What was the application process like for you? Why did you choose Texas McCombs?
I think my application process was a little different than most. I did not decide until early fall that I was ready to apply to b-school; I was very happy at my current job and an MBA was not necessarily a checklist item to further my current career path. Instead, it was the realization of what truly interested me and what I hoped to learn that drove me to apply. I selected the programs I applied to very carefully, based mostly on reputation, location and program structure, and visited each of the campuses. What struck me the most about McCombs as compared to the other schools was the culture. It’s something people mention a lot, but experiencing it in person really makes a difference! I truly felt the McCombs “win-as-one” culture was very evident. The student body truly felt like a family, and the environment felt comfortable and inclusive without sacrificing motivation and a drive for success. I was also extremely humbled when I found out I had been selected as a Forté Fellow by McCombs in my offer of admittance. The desire to drive positive change for gender equality in the workplace was something I had brought up passionately in my application process, and I was very happy to know that the school saw me as a fit representative for Texas McCombs in this arena.
How did you first connect with the Forté Foundation and how has the organization impacted you and helped you prepare for your future in business school and beyond?
It became clear to me that the reason organizations such as Forté are so valuable is not because they give us some sort of handicap for our gender, but because they provide a means for us to lift and support one another to understand how we can make an impact in the workforce and pave the way for the women who will follow us.
I learned about Forté during my MBA application process. I had unfortunately missed the Forté MBALaunch Program by that time (and I have heard wonderful things about the b-school preparation and networking this program offers from the women who have participated), but as I read about Forté and its mission, I gained immense respect for the organization. In particular, the objectives to “increase women’s access to education and business networks,” to “support women financially in their advanced business education,” and to “raise awareness of the impact that women can make on business and on society/culture/environment/economy” stood out to me as powerful goals.
At one time I did not recognize the importance of such organizations. I thought that, as somebody just as capable as my male peers, I did not need a “support group” to help me accomplish my goals. However, I have come to realize that the purpose of these groups is in fact much different than I understood. For example, when my friends and I began our careers we quickly recognized some of the subtle inequalities we faced based on our gender but I found I was more fortunate than most of my female friends. I worked for a company which made some great strides in workplace gender equality, implementing things like flexible working hours and extended paternity leave. I realized that policies which enabled me not to feel that my gender was a roadblock to my success had been put into place by women leaders who understood the need for them. It became clear to me that the reason organizations such as Forté are so valuable is not because they give us some sort of handicap for our gender, but because they provide a means for us to lift and support one another to understand how we can make an impact in the workforce and pave the way for the women who will follow us.
The Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference, held this year in downtown Atlanta, was a powerful experience and one that left me with a lot of hope and inspiration. The conference comprised of everything from speaker panels and break-out sessions to networking events and a career expo. The McCombs team did a great job of prepping us for the weekend with pre-conference phone calls, resume reviews, and plenty of McCombs swag so we arrived feeling ready to impress! For those considering attending the conference, here’s what I think you should know:
- Come prepared to network with the sponsor companies and use this opportunity to learn more about potential career paths and roles prior to starting school. This is a great chance to ask questions, make contacts, and think about what you want to focus on once recruiting starts up.
- Everybody is there to support each other! The biggest difference we can make as women is to be there for each other, and at the conference I felt this wholeheartedly. Most industry representatives are more than happy to give candid advice and exchange contact info, and MBA students from all programs were eager to make friends and share experiences.
- Take home solutions. The primary purpose of the conference is, after all, to come together and make a positive impact! Learn from and ask questions to the successful women leaders you encounter, and let yourself think about what changes you want to make– whether to your own life to better shape yourself for success, or to the world around you.
- And of course, have fun! The conference was honestly a blast, and getting to know my new MBA classmates over drinks and city exploration was one of the main highlights.
Coming away from the conference, I definitely felt empowered to take charge of the future – not only my own, but of the world in front of me. I think we have done a great job of coming together and identifying the challenges that women face today, and armed with this knowledge it is time for each of us to become a part of the solution. For me, in business school and beyond, it means that I will work to “be the change I want to see” by finding ways to make impact in my own surroundings, from coaching the students who follow me to helping implement progressive policies in my own workplace.
I also feel much more prepared to jump straight into recruiting season after having the chance to hear about so many different roles and become directly connected with people at companies I want to explore internships with. All in all, I would recommend attending this conference for anybody looking to expand their network, learn more about potential career opportunities, and be inspired by strong women!
If you’d like to connect with Pallavi about her experience with Forté, the MBA application process, or her background, reach out to her.
We’ll be featuring more awesome students from our Class of 2020 throughout the year, so be sure to subscribe. If you have other questions about becoming a Texas McCombs MBA, contact our MBA admissions committee. Hook ’em!