When Parniyan Cagatay, WG’19 came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco, she found three classmates who lived near her in the South Bay to carpool on class weekends. What began as an efficient way for Parniyan, Karthik Kalpat, WG’19, Yash Arekapudi, WG’19, and Nima PourNejatian, WG’19 to get to school became an opportunity to exchange views on work, school, and their personal lives. As their friendship grew, the carpoolers realized how this time helped them grow. We asked them to tell us more about their carpool experience and the importance of making connections with classmates.
Parniyan Cagatay, WG’19
Finance Director, Chegg, Inc.
Santa Clara, CA
Rutgers University – New Brunswick, BS in Accounting
Choosing Wharton: The cohort was the number one reason I came here. I wanted to learn with and from accomplished and diverse leaders who shared a growth mindset. I visited some classes before applying and was impressed by how engaged, experienced and intelligent Wharton EMBA students are. After those visits, I was sure that such a high caliber of classmates would accelerate my career and personal growth.
Student Bonding: What surprised me was the depth of social connections throughout the program. I bonded with classmates in various ways: working with my learning team on projects, attending social outings, forming a South Bay study group on non-class weekends, and carpooling to/from campus. Those functional experiences grew into friendships and became the springboard for connecting with the class at large. By the end of my two years, I felt like I had gained hundreds of family members.
Maximizing Time Together: I interacted with different classmates at meals and each class project in order to create deeper connections with as many people as possible during the two-year program. I was amazed at how supportive my classmates have been in helping each other cross the finish line and couldn’t have gotten through this experience without relying on my cohort.
Advice for New Students: I am a firm believer in leaving a situation better than you found it. Be intentional about contributing to the class experience; support your class by leveraging your strengths and don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it. Also, spend as much time on connecting with your classmates as you do on your studies, and maximize on-campus and off-campus experiences to build your network and Wharton family.
Karthik Kalpat, WG’19
Director, Applications Engineering, Synopsys Inc.
Mountain View, CA
The University of Illinois at Chicago, Master’s Computer Science; University of Madras, BE in Instrumentation Engineering
Choosing Wharton: Through Toastmasters, I know the value of interacting with people from different fields. A big reason I came to Wharton was because this program offers the opportunity to learn from and alongside people from diverse backgrounds.
Networking: I’ve never been comfortable with networking. I always thought of it as a transactional relationship. However, at Wharton, I learned that networking is really about getting to know your classmates and understanding their perspectives, goals, and ambitions.
Maximizing Time Together: I don’t drink alcohol and I was reluctant to hang out at the pub with students at the start of the program. However, a classmate set me straight. She taught me that the focus was not drinking, but rather spending time together and forming friendships. She was right! After that, I joined my classmates on as many social outings as possible to build deeper relationships. I also got to know classmates during lunches, class breaks, and during Global Business Week and Global Modular Courses.
Bonding: I never expected to form these types of friendships this late in my life, but I think of my carpool group like family. It’s worth putting in the effort to make connections. If I didn’t get to know my classmates, I would have missed out on a tremendous part of the learning that is possible in this program.
Advice for New Students: Don’t come in with an objective. Just talk to everyone and use those conversations as learning opportunities. Also, don’t wait to ask for help or to offer help. Learning happens both ways in this program and the supportive environment helps build relationships.
Yash Arekapudi, WG’19
Program Manager, Supply Chain Transformation, Google
The University of Michigan, MS in Industrial and Operations Engineering; Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, BS in Tech Production and Industrial Engineering
Choosing Wharton: I’ve been an operations program manager for my entire career, so I came here to develop broader perspectives to help transition from middle to upper management. I liked how Wharton provides a structure for students to connect and build relationships through the schedule and residential requirement.
Student Bonding: It’s much easier than I thought it would be to connect with classmates. People are friendly and approachable. Once you take classes and work on projects together, it’s easier to have conversations with people who are experts in their fields.
Carpool Time: We all come from diverse backgrounds, so we formed a great sounding board for each other. I got so much out of my time in the car with them. If an exam was coming up, we would discuss the class and help each other prepare. Or we would talk about what was going on in our personal lives. We bonded on many levels.
Maximizing Time Together: I tried to meet up with classmates even on non-school weekends in the Bay Area. I’m part of a small running club, so we tried to meet during lunch or on weekends. And during school weekends, students usually spend time together on Friday nights. Wharton organizes events to facilitate networking for the entire class.
Advice for New Students: Find ways to celebrate your time together in the program. Pace yourself and maximize opportunities to connect. It will enrich your experience and you’ll enjoy it.
Nima PourNejatian, WG’19
Developer Relations – Global, NVIDIA
Sharif University of Technology, BSc, MSc, and PhD in Electrical Engineering
Choosing Wharton: I moved to the U.S. from Iran two years before coming to Wharton, so my priority was networking. I had a strong network in Iran and wanted to build one here too. I looked at many MBA options, including full-time programs. I learned that it’s not about the quantity of the network or class size, but rather the quality. I could achieve a higher level of networking with classmates who also had 10 years or more of leadership experience. I also liked how Wharton EMBA students aren’t competing with each other for jobs because we are already successful in our careers.
Networking: You start making connections with your assigned learning team, but then you work with more students on group projects. You also start reaching out to classmates to learn more about them. And if you have knowledge in a particular area, you offer help to anyone who might need it and vice versa. The opportunities for group travel were good for making connections too, not only with students but also with professors. During the program, I considered a career change. My classmates helped me secure interviews, and my carpool buddy Karthik connected me to my current role at Nvidia. Wharton Career Director Steve Hernandez was also instrumental in preparing me for my career change.
Maximizing Time Together: This is a case where one plus one equals three. We are all tired from a hard week of work, but when we are in class on Friday morning and see each other and talk at lunch, we get extra energy. Socializing and networking is part of the culture of this program.
A Supportive Environment: Many people go through some sort of personal challenge during the program and reach out to classmates for help. Students share similar core values and want to help each other. So it’s important to open up to your classmates and share your challenges as well as your ideas and perspectives. It enriches your time in the program so much more.
Advice for New Students: You can’t go back and get this same two-year experience outside of the program. Make sure you prioritize your time to benefit as much as you can from this opportunity.
— Meghan Laska
Posted: May 28, 2019