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My name is ————-

I started writing this essay on a piece of paper, but that’s exactly what I’m not.

Let me introduce myself properly.

I am my parents’ child.

My parents are a driving force in my ambition to make this world a better place. My dream of pioneering my own Ed-Tech start-up first began at my kitchen table, where my parents – an educational strategist and a high-tech executive – would share stories about their work.

My dad, a farmer turned president of a $2B market cap tech company, showed me that determination succeeds in any environment, from the fields to the boardroom. My mom, an education innovator and social justice advocate, impressed upon me the importance of proper and equal education for all. My parents showed me that a profession is more than advancing just yourself or your family – it’s about advancing society.

I am determined to reach and exceed my parents’ achievements, in my own way, by combining the passions born from my life’s biggest influences – education, technology and management.

I’m driven by the desire to use technology and open source principles to improve education in remote and rural areas around the world.

I am a global citizen.

Just before I entered first grade, my father was tapped by a former army commander to work in high tech in Boston. My view morphed from the rolling hills of our town to skyscrapers, the songs of birds replaced by honking taxis.

Two days after arriving in America, I found myself in a public classroom, without a single friend or a word of English to my name.

Feeling embarrassed and confused in class led me to spend my afternoons memorizing the ABC’s and scanning books in English. I forced my parents to give me English lessons every night when they returned home from work. After a year, I felt completely at home, and I even mentored new foreign arrivals, preparing them for what to expect at school and helping them to practice English.

We moved back to my town after six years in Boston, but the experience abroad was foundational. Rooting for the Celtics became as much a part of my anatomy as Brazilian asado – Boston added another layer to my identity.

Acclimating to a foreign culture at such a young age opened me in ways that have been essential to my personal and professional growth. Long afternoons of learning made me an independent learner – a skill I use often at work today, mastering new programming languages and conducting in-depth research at my employer’s innovation center.

Overcoming my language barrier at a young age taught me to be patient, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and instilled the value of mentorship. These insights helped me to become a highly cooperative person whom others feel they can trust.

I am a leader.

I first learned to lead as captain of my high school basketball team, leading my team to a national championship against all odds. We had less talent, less experience, and we were (on average) 4 centimeters shorter than our opponents. In the end, our teamwork and friendship prevailed. After winning the championship, I was invited to scrimmage with the national team. I insisted they allow my entire team come.

Becoming national champions showed me the value of persistence and never underestimating you own abilities, or the abilities of your team. This was especially instructive when serving as a paratrooper; I suffered a serious back injury from long treks with heavy equipment. My commanders presented me with two options: take a desk job, or sign an extra year beyond my mandatory service to attend Officers’ School and afterward lead an elite unit for special operations and technology development. Determined to make the most of my service in spite of my injury, I chose the latter.

Just like the basketball team I led, my first project as started as something of a lost cause: I was handed responsibility for developing a $2.8M thermal tracking device alongside a world-leading military contractor. The project was over a year behind schedule, manned by an exhausted, frustrated team.

I never doubted that we would reach the ambitious 8-month goal the army had set. I created a comprehensive Gantt to meet development, finance, logistics, and HR benchmarks. I worked hard toward creating cohesion between army and civilian team members.

When additional product features required more capital to develop, I used my nights off to create marketing campaigns that I pitched to higher-ranking officers – to countless colonels and even a brigadier general. I solicited private donations from dozens of international donors, tailoring each presentation to their cultural preferences and priorities.  I raised $1M in capital, we met our deadline, and our unit became the go-to unit for product development and for special tech operations. After the release of the thermal tracking device, I led 7 additional projects with budgets totalling $4M.

I believe that Ed-Tech is the future.  

Growing up in an immigrant community, I developed a close understanding of what it meant to live in a poor, remote part of a country. Teaching at-risk teenagers and elementary school orphans in Thailand brought meaning to my mother’s words, “Education is the distance between have and have-not.” Technology is the only way to shorten this distance.

I intend to leverage my technological skills, experience as an educator, and the business acumen I’ll acquire at Harvard to create Ed-Tech products to increase access to education through low-cost applications based on based on collaborative knowledge sharing and big data analytics.

My tech achievements thus far give me the confidence that I am ready to bring my own products to the public.

I developed a start-up company, an online platform for professional development and recruiting. I drew capital for entire project with nothing more than belief in my idea and very convincing power point presentations. Today, My company has thousands of users and is the main professional development platform for several multi-million-dollar tech firms.

Global change begins from local change, and my country is fertile testing-ground. After my MBA, and hopefully following success as a product manager with an Ed-Tech firm, I intend to pilot my own projects in my country’s periphery, targeting underserved populations.

Harvard is my calling.

More than being located in my beloved childhood hometown, Harvard Business School is the place that piqued my interest in management sciences. I had the opportunity to accompany my dad to HBS courses while he was studying with the Advanced Manager’s Program. Sitting in the AMP courses ignited my interest in case-studies (I ended up reading every study in my father’s folder!), and I enjoyed in-depth discussions with professors like Richard Vietor and Guhan Subramanian. I am fortunate to be able to continue my interaction with HBS through reading articles and case studies on the IBM learning portal.

Harvard is the quintessential learning experience. Through innovations in EdTech, I believe the Harvard standard can become a world-wide education standard.

I’m an adventurer, a risk taker, a challenge seeker. I’m an educator, a leader, an entrepreneur and a social innovator.

I’m not just my past, I am my future; and I’m about to embark on a new chapter of my life, with you, at Harvard.

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” Malcolm Forbes

Who am I? I am confident, an initiator, a problem-solver; I use my communication skills and emotional intelligence to motivate others to attain goals. The constant in my life that has shaped how I act, react, and make decisions – diversity.

I grew up immersed in two cultures with very different traditions. My father’s side of the family is Welsh. On my mother’s side, my great grandfather was the second Prime Minister of my country. We are also diverse in our wide range of talents, from architecture (my dad) to music (my mother is a professional pianist) to wine (my uncle, an INSEAD alumnus, heads a well-known local wine label).

As a child I watched each one’s uniqueness enrich the whole. For example, our extended family, all 40 of us, has a special April tradition; we build a camp in the desert for 8 days, our own Burning Man festival. Each one contributes from his strengths; my father plans the tent construction, my uncle creates a special wine for the occasion, my mother is in charge of music, and as the years have passed I find myself ‘producing’ the event, from arranging food and supplies to creating galabias (long, flowing Arabic robes) with a family logo for us all.

This tradition taught me that finding and utilizing the strengths of each team member not only maximizes productivity, it creates synergy, strengthening the group dynamic and enriching all members of the team through exposure to others’ expertise.  My happiest moments professionally are seeking patterns to structure a team that will cultivate the individual while helping everyone to share the big picture, our mutual goal. That is why I’ve given each salesperson in our store a camera, to view our merchandise and clientele through their own lens and express their personal vision of our brand.

The amazing diversity I’ve experienced in my life has shaped me in other ways as well. At 14, I was accepted to a choir that traveled abroad 3 or 4 times a year to perform in communities around the globe. I loved getting to know people from countries including Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Peru, Japan, England, Italy, France, and the USA. Moreover, working intensively with our small group of 20 and managing the logistics of travel as a teen gave me problem-solving skills and the ability to forecast long-term consequences, as well as a lesson in how devotion to a goal can motivate a team.

When one of my younger sisters was diagnosed with anorexia, my ability to understand, motivate, and put the strengths of others to good use was truly put to the test. It hit my family so hard that suddenly I found myself in charge. Navigating that challenge was the most difficult and important thing I have ever accomplished, a trial by fire that has given me the strength going forward to take on herculean tasks.

In terms of weaknesses, I know that I can be impatient. Once I ‘get the idea’, I’m ready to move forward and I want everyone around me to be as ready and as enthusiastic as I am. I manage this tendency through awareness and analysis, working to recognize when my impatience is rising, and stopping to consider whether ‘pushing’ will help or hinder the situation. Am I with a client who needs kid gloves? Am I with my employees? I am honored that the excellent teams I have built understand and appreciate my management style, and find my direct approach motivational rather than off-putting. And they freely remind me that my impatience often results from bogging down in detail. Trusting my team to do their best work always solves the problem.

It is very nice meeting with you on my way to Kampala. I have a meeting tomorrow with the largest water company in Uganda. Out of all the sectors that I cover at the World Bank Group, water is the most exciting, due to the inherent challenges and the significant positive social impact that can be made in it. I have managed water purification projects in India, Uganda and Ghana and played a key role in financial engineering and structuring aspects of these projects.

One of the greatest challenges in the sector is limited capital availability, and I intend one day to set up a Private Equity fund focused on Africa and Asia in order to attract private capital to the sector. In order to achieve this long-term goal, I plan to spend 5 to 10 years post-MBA at a leading PE firm, and eventually move into a Director role at a water sector-focused company in Africa. After gaining the skills I need to run an investment fund, I will start working towards launching my own PE fund.

I come from a humble background in Sri Lanka, and if education had not been affordable in my home country, I would not have made it to where I am today. I am grateful to society for that, and feel I owe a whole lot back. I believe that the best way to give back to society is by making people’s lives better. Over the last decade, I have led several programs to bring sustainable development to the community. In these challenging programs, I have managed teams of 10-20 members in design, implementation and fundraising activities, including establishing a scholarship fund for students from low-income families. I also had the privilege to host a weekly live finance TV show on Sri Lanka’s national network, and to found a venture involving polythene recycling to address a growing social issue of waste management in the country.

I am always exploring ways to bring sustainable impact to society, and establishing and managing a water sector-focused PE fund would be my ultimate professional and personal goal.

Beyond the achievements written in my CV, I would like you to know more about who I am through three important lessons I have learned. The first lesson I learned from my parents, the second from my soldiers and the last lesson I learned from my comrades.

From my parents I learned the importance of dedication to my goals. I am the eldest of five siblings, and until I reached junior high all five of us slept together in the same room. Even with limited financial resources, our parents promoted personal development and insisted we all learn to play an instrument and master at least one sport: I played piano and practiced judo. Music and sports taught us to set our goals and to keep improving in order to achieve them. As a result, I grew up to be very mission-driven: quickly analyzing the main factors involved in reaching a personal goal and aligning them around the objective. With the ability to clearly visualize the goals of my organization or the needs of my community, I am able to take initiative, identify opportunities and drive everyone involved towards achieving them.

As a graduate of the Defense Force’s technological leadership program, I saw the need for combat officers with technological expertise. Therefore, although most of my program classmates pursued roles as developers or engineers, I elected to fill a demanding role in a field unit, where I could contribute my knowledge and understand first-hand the technological needs of our fighting forces. I saw my opportunity to make an impact as a combat officer in a highly technological and elite operational unit of the Artillery Corps.

From my soldiers I learned that in order to be an effective leader, I need to listen to my subordinates and constantly work to improve them and myself. Serving as a platoon commander I made it a practice to have weekly personal conversations with each of my subordinate commanders during which each of us would provide candid and constructive feedback to the other. Thus, I was able to achieve great trust through and use their feedback to improve as a commander. I believe these conversations created a winning team, in which my subordinates flourished. Most of them were promoted to platoon sergeant.

As a platoon commander I was concerned that the training we received fell short of meeting operational requirements on the field. When I attributed this in part to inadequate simulator time during officers’ training, I convinced my superiors to assign me to command the officers’ course in order to make sure that future officers would be qualified to face the challenges they were about to encounter. Moreover, my experience in music, where independent practice was a key to improvement, inspired me to include more independent practice in the training plan, nearly doubling simulator time without overtaxing the instructors. My efforts were acknowledged when I was rewarded the ‘Officers Excellence Award’ by unit commander for my contribution as the officers’ course commander.

Finally, I discovered through my military comrades what I want to do with my life and career. As a commander I had the privilege of working with many amazing people, but I also saw too many cases where people with tremendous talent were blocked from fulfilling their potential due to socio-economic circumstances. This seems to be a particularly serious problem in my country, which was ranked as the fourth most unequal society among OECD countries. I met one soldier who finished high school without taking his final matriculation exams in math because he had to work to support his family. I helped prepare him for the exams, which he completed with excellent grades, and he helped me to understand the challenges so many people face.

Inspired by these soldiers, I began to volunteer for the Movement for the Quality of Governance, an organization boasting 17,000 members that promotes increased moral standards in the public service and politics in my country. Researching market aspects that affect equal opportunities has helped me understand that what my country needs most is the creation of opportunities.

Local startups have seen many successes during the last decade. However, a very large portion of our society is unable to take part of that phenomenon, as many successful startups are sold without creating sustainable jobs in the country. Thus, innovation in my country translates into big wealth for the few most talented but has little effect on the lives of the majority of the middle class.

In the long run I envision myself starting and managing a sustainable, international business in the field of automated transportation. I am passionate about extending economic opportunities to populations who need it most, and I expect the field of automated transportation to have great impact by spreading affordable transportation and creating new job opportunities for workers around the globe and in my country.

In order to lead in an ever-changing world, my business would have to predict and meet global demands, engage in continuous innovation, and incorporate the finest management practices. I need an HBS MBA to improve my expertise in these three areas. As a post-MBA step towards my goal, I intend to lead the efforts towards self-driving vehicles in a global corpora, where I will contribute a multidisciplinary view that merges technological and business knowledge, while I prepare to start my own business in the field.

At HBS I will take advantage of the many opportunities offered such as the ‘FIELD Global Immersion’, where I will be able to study relevant global topics first-hand. I am especially interested in studying the unique transportation and economic needs of emerging markets such as India or Brazil, which would affect the future demand for automated transportation and where automated transportation can serve as a much-needed engine of progress. I have the necessary technological and leadership background to be this kind of leader, and an HBS MBA will bring me one giant step closer to achieving it.

I come from a very big family. I have sixteen aunts, fourteen uncles, and one hundred and fifty cousins. Three years ago I decided to capitalize on our family-oriented culture by starting an initiative to promote charity and community involvement among my family members. I worked with my cousins to elect a management committee amongst ourselves to run the program. Every month, the committee collects donations from a hundred of my cousins to purchase food and basic necessities to be distributed to poor local families. In three years, we’ve donated more than $100,000 benefiting 600 families across five cities in the Eastern Province of my country.

When the word started spreading about the program, we were approached by a number of big families in the region to help them implement a similar initiative in their own families. As I hope for the program to continue as a legacy in my family for generations to come, I aspire to turn this simple idea to a sustainable non-profit program that can be easily implemented by families or other groups and expand its impact to the wider society. I therefore hope to take advantage of CBS’ Nonprofit Board Leadership Program to gain the necessary practical training and understand the challenges faced by other non-profits and learn how to strengthen my own program and pass it to the future generations.

Being a daughter of two politicians, I once accompanied my father to the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Zuma in Parliament. When the media approached my father for a comment, he was firm and honest in his response, acknowledging progress made but highlighting the president’s failure to address unemployment. From my father’s example, I learnt how to stand up for what I believe yet also to be attentive to others’ opinions. In one instance, I motivated that my employee be promoted, listened to the challenge from other managers and in rebuttal, shared practical examples of his excellent performance to reach consensus.

I grew immensely when I moved from the small town where I grew up to the bustling city of Johannesburg to study actuarial science. I was intrigued by the idea of building predictive models after an actuary visited my school to talk about the profession, offering bursaries and I promised to also give back. Determined to empower others, while chairing the university Business Society I initiated an entrepreneurship forum for students to share their innovative business ideas. The number of students participating doubled to 300 in a year, and I was delighted when many opened small businesses on campus.

I always wanted to work in a cross-cultural environment and immerse myself in diverse ethnicity. When I relocated to the Old Mutual UK office I realized that the local organisational structure was less hierarchical. As a result, decisions were made faster and change, including products I re-priced, was quickly implemented. I adjusted by proactively engaging on my product ideas to influence change instead of continuously receiving change. This experience gave me insights into change management in an international setting, allowed me to bridge cultural differences and sparked a passion to make a global impact.

During yoga practice I constantly aspired to reach the perfect poses. I was introduced to yoga during a visit to India, when I admired the serenity that surrounded local practitioners. Over time I realized that my relentless aspiration for perfectionism was making it more difficult for me to compromise and settle. I consulted with my yoga teacher who helped me put things into perspective and concentrate on the present. This viewpoint transferred to work, where I was easier on myself when standardizing the profit templates across countries, and accepted that this could not be achieved perfectly given different systems used to generate data.

Passionate to help others, I volunteered in a civil society organisation and launched 15 food gardens, creating incomes for 150 previously unemployed people. Even though I was operating at full capacity, I felt obligated to help another volunteer in distress to source sprinklers for the gardens, and I obtained insufficient seeds to grow the vegetables, delaying the end product. I learnt that even though I constantly strive to please others, I need to define clear boundaries to be effective. For example, during our valuation when deadlines are tight, I politely declined to proof-read a colleague’s report which was a good decision as we met deadlines in the nick of time.

My diverse experiences have shaped my character and aspirations, while my determination to build on my strengths and address my weaknesses serves as a ground for becoming a global leader.

In my childhood, my passions tended to be on the geeky side. They included chess, math, and stamp-collecting (I have one of every stamp printed between 1970 and 1980 in my country), and I believe they sharpened my intellect as well as my autodidact skills. When I turned ten, my father bought me my first computer, and I dove into studying various programming languages, using them to create a gaming website, which ultimately had hundreds of visitors per week. That is probably when the entrepreneurial bug first entered my life, and it's been with me and growing ever since.

Alongside these more intellectual hobbies, I took up basketball, keen on developing my social and athletic side. Serving as my team's captain for most of the ten years I played in school, I was privileged to gain invaluable leadership experience at a young age, and experienced the thrill of leading my team to win three championships. Among all the lessons I learned from this sport, I think the most important was the realisation that talent alone will not enable a person to achieve his or her goals. One must also have endurance, dedication, and a firm belief in oneself.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved numbers – from calculating each person's share of a restaurant bill to analysing football team statistics. Due to this strength, and others, I was selected to serve in an elite intelligence unit. It also helped me to finish university first in my class, despite working over 36 hours per week as an Investment Analyst.

One area I've been working to improve this past year is my tendency to be overly impulsive. As an example, I left a coveted position after four years, to join a startup – and then eventually left the startup, when I realized that I prefer to work with startups and not for them. Had I taken the time to truly consider my options, I might have made a wiser choice. I've done a good deal of soul searching about this feature, and have been working on making more weighted, informed decisions. At INSEAD, I'm especially eager to take some electives in the Decision Sciences – particularly Management Decision Making, which can help me to examine how to make decisions and avoid common pitfalls – both in business and in my daily life, knowing it will make me a better leader, businessman, and husband.

Finally, I consider one of my greatest strengths to be the ability to go outside my comfort zone. For a long time I wanted to work more internationally, and to have something I could call my own. One of my proudest moments was getting past the fear I felt of entering something risky and unknown, to seize an opportunity and establish my own eCommerce business. Establishing Vinopo has paid off in many ways – not only in business knowledge and success, but also with the knowledge that facing one's fears can only strengthen oneself.

Hello! Thanks for meeting me here at the Mumbai airport.

My name is _____________. I was born in India, attended college in California, and was recently naturalized as an American citizen. I currently head my family business of industrial logistics in India.

Three years ago, if you would have asked me whether I would think that I would head a 65 person company, I would have answered with a resounding NO!

 As a burns victim, I was always more interested in Healthcare. I wanted to help people by becoming a burns specialist surgeon. My journey in business started with what I consider the worst day of my life; the day my father passed away from a heart attack. Only 22 at the time, I had no prior experience in business, yet, the responsibility of running the business came on my shoulders. I also had to take care of my mother and grandmother, so failure was not an option.

 In the last three years, I have learned a great deal about running a business; Managing and growing the business has completely altered my career path. As a logistics service provider to healthcare companies, I learned of supply chain costs and the importance of business acumen to optimize operations and decrease costs in healthcare. I realized I could have a much larger impact on the healthcare system as a whole in a business role.

I even got a chance to sharpen my business skills by collaborating with a non-profit organization to set up a school for less privileged children in India. This was an important personal accomplishment for me and I intend to continue this spirit in Pittsburgh.

 With the help of an MBA from CMU Tepper and its analytical approach to management, my goal is to fill the gaps in my business knowledge in order to be part of the value-based healthcare shift in American healthcare. I want to help the industry in a healthcare consulting role to provide patients with more value for their money and become more transparent while maintaining healthy margins through efficiency. This is where I believe my passions and skills meet the best.

Judge Business School

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