Alumni Stories: Vandana Sathpathy, Kellogg School of Management ‘17

Alumni Stories: Vandana Sathpathy, Kellogg School of Management ‘17 main image

Sometimes, life is about making sacrifices. Vandana Sathpathy knows this better than most, having left her job, husband, family, and all her friends behind when she decided to pack up and relocate from Bangalore, India to the US for her MBA.

She didn’t know a soul in the States when she first arrived, but Vandana was determined to put her professional life first, step out of her comfort zone, and take her career to the global stage.

She also knew she wanted to work for Amazon. In her MBA application essay, she even spelled out her career goals: ‘product manager at Amazon’.

Fast-forward two years and Vandana’s career dreams have become a reality. She’s now a senior product manager in the Kindle business at Amazon, based in Seattle, evaluating new market opportunities for Kindle’s international expansion.

Vandana applied for the job on-campus at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois.

In recent years, Amazon has grown into one of the major employers of MBA grads globally, hiring 1,000 MBAs a year. Amazon hired 32 Kellogg MBA students in 2017, making it the third biggest employer of Kellogg MBAs after McKinsey and BCG. It’s also recruited more class of 2018 Kellogg MBA students into summer internships than any other company.

Vandana had multiple offers from business schools in the US and India, but she chose Kellogg for its Multidisciplinary MBA + MS Design Innovation (MMM) program, a dual degree combining a full-time MBA with a master’s from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

BusinessBecause caught up with Vandana to find out more.

How did the job at Amazon come about?  

I got my Amazon job offer through the on-campus recruitment process at Kellogg.

While I was nervous about recruiting as an international student, Kellogg has so many resources for career growth and development including structured peer mentorship programs, student-run interview preparation groups, career development workshops, mock interviews and so much more. I therefore had a strong support system to work with and could leverage the resources that made sense for me.

How are you applying your MBA learnings in your current role?

I think the sheer amount of team work and group projects at Kellogg prepared me well for moving the needle and delivering projects as a cohesive unit when people with diversity of thoughts, different work ethics, different communication styles and strong opinions come together.

In my two years at Kellogg, paradoxically, the only common factor in all my groups was diversity and learning to leverage the strengths of the group while navigating through our differences to achieve an end goal has been crucial to my role at Amazon too. 

What advice do you have for international MBA students looking to start new careers in the US? 

The pressure of finding a job in the US, compounded by work constraints due to visa restrictions, can lead to students sometimes applying for jobs they aren’t interested in, just for a measure of job security.

Instead, take time to get to know all the opportunities available to you. Do some research upfront about companies you’re interested in. Actively seek out a mentor early—either a peer or a recent alumnus who started out as an international student and is working at your dream company. They will be able to empathize with you, and provide guidance on your career transition.

Meet with the career center at your school to understand your options, attend job fairs and networking events to meet with companies, put yourself out there and actively reach out to people in your network to find opportunities.

You may not need a work visa for an internship, so use that opportunity to either try something new or gain experience in a new role or industry you want to break into.

Why did you choose Kellogg for your MBA?  

One reason was the MMM program. It offered the opportunity for holistic development by combining the academic rigor of an MBA program with a healthy dose of creativity, design thinking skills and experiential learning.

Kellogg students and alumni were also the most welcoming and engaged. They made time to talk to me even before I was admitted. This showed me their commitment to the school and the strength of the Kellogg network.

Would you be where you are today without it?

Kellogg opened a world of opportunities for me. It would have taken a lot longer for me to get where I am without the MBA. I was humbled at the lengths to which my peers would go to help each other succeed.

One experience that stands out for me are my meetings with my career coach at Kellogg who also doubled down as my life coach. She kept me honest and true to myself as I navigated the stressful process of recruiting and evaluating multiple job offers and tried to identify what mattered most to me and why. The decision matrix we formulated is a framework I use to this day to make important life decisions.

Marco De Novellis
Written by Marco De Novellis

Marco De Novellis is a business journalist and editor of BusinessBecause. BusinessBecause is a trusted source of business school news, with punchy daily editorial about the lives of MBAs and the career paths they choose, as well as practical resources for b-school applicants.



See related categories:

Click here to Log in or register to share your views on the article.