Alumni Stories: Archana Mohan, Carlson School of Management

Alumni Stories: Archana Mohan, Carlson School of Management main image

Archana Mohan is an alumna of Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.

Before beginning her MBA studies, Mohan held the role of Program Management Consultant at Slalom Consulting, Minneapolis. And with eight years’ experience before studying for her MBA, she was more than qualified.

Since graduating from Carlson, Mohan currently holds the position of Associate Director, Strategic Programs of Member Experience, Medicare and Retirement Marketing.

What were you doing before starting your MBA?

I’d worn multiple hats during the eight years of my career prior to business school. As a Software Engineer at Intel, I established myself as a technical expert, providing solutions to customers’ challenges. However, the technically-sound solutions I proposed were at times considered unviable from an overall business perspective. This made me eager to understand the cross-functional factors impacting decision making. Consequently, I transitioned to an Information Technology (IT) Project/Program Manager role with consulting firms such as Cognizant Technology and Slalom Consulting.

What factors led you to pursue a graduate degree?

As a Project/Program Manager Consultant, I had the opportunity to work with Fortune 100 clients such as AT&T and The Home Depot where I learnt the ability to trade-off between Information Technology (IT) wants and business needs. However, the impact of my work was largely limited to projects I handled and within the realm of IT. I believed an MBA would provide me with a multi-disciplinary approach (finance, marketing, sourcing etc.) to solving problems, necessary to transition from my tactical role to a more strategic one.

What factored in to your final choice of where to study?

While I initially applied to Carlson because of its location in the Twin Cities – my home away from home – it  was an obvious choice for me for two reasons. First, the Carlson community offered opportunities to network with like-minded professionals, technology evangelists and industry leaders.

Secondly, the Consulting Enterprise program provided tools required to think structurally, break down ambiguous and complex problems to create appropriate solution frameworks and helped effectively tell a story that resonated with clients – skillsets I hoped to acquire from a business school program.

How did the school contribute to your career progression?

Being a student at Carlson taught me several key attributes of being a good leader. Carlson provided me with a safe platform to shed previous fears and begin voicing my ideas and opinions confidently. Secondly, the revered Carlson professors and the challenging, but intriguing coursework taught me the significance of being intellectually curious. Understanding the current trends and being aware of the business world has impacted how I view, analyze and assess information about current business events.

Finally, the Carlson Graduate Business Career Center and the leadership curriculum provided tremendous support and insights in to what it takes to be an effective leader. I believe that actively employing the soft and hard skills I learnt at Carlson played a pivotal role in securing a strategic opportunity with one of the nation’s top health care players. Coming back to school was a rather challenging decision for me, given that my son was a toddler and I had to quit a 'reliable' job. However, the Carlson experience boosted my confidence and is a constant reminder I made the right decision to go back to school.

What was your favorite thing about the city/campus?

The campus is strategically located close to several Fortune 500 companies and provides easy access to the Twin Cities’ business community.

What was your single best experience on the program?

The Carlson Consulting Enterprise, the experiential learning component of business school was definitely one of my best experiences. Learning while working on real-world client engagements was a pivotal opportunity that helped me learn concepts as well as apply them in a safe environment.

What do you think is the biggest myth about business school?

That business school is only about business! There’s a lot of strategy talk and number crunching, but business school for me has also been about re-discovering and focusing on my strengths and tapping into other skill-sets, learning what it takes to be a good leader, and exploring the intersection of social impact and business innovation.

What is the one piece of advice you have for incoming students to the program?

Trying to soak up the MBA experience is truly like “drinking from a fire hose!”  Between the clubs, academics, expanding your network, figuring out career options to explore and the plethora of social activities available, it’s important you pick and choose where you want to invest your time. Time management and prioritization are critical to making the most of your MBA experience!

Also, go get that glass of wine or beer or find time to unwind – things work out for everyone eventually! I think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes and get tangled in a web of stress. The b-school experience is designed to put you through high pressure situations – so if you can remind yourselves of that from time to time – you should do just fine!

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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