Medha Gupta (MG): What did you do before starting the MBA program?
Shravan Behal (SB): Prior to the MBA, I was working as a Field Technical Advisor with Honeywell UOP, a technology licensing company in the refining sector. My job involved visiting refineries and assisting clients in the start-up of newly installed refinery units. I also worked in R&D and Engineering departments within Honeywell for a short while. The best part of my job was that I got a chance to travel to different countries including the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and New Zealand.
MG: What motivated you to pursue an MBA and why the U of A?
SB: During my assignments at Honeywell, I started to look at the oil and gas industry from a business perspective. I started speaking to chief technical managers during my free time on site, to gauge how doing an MBA helped them combine their technical skills with managerial skills, and how it helped them grow in the organization as they started handling more responsibilities. I envisioned a similar enhancement to my career. With the oil and gas industry facing significant headwinds due to low crude prices, I realized that it is the best time to complement the technical skills with the business knowledge.
I chose University of Alberta as it is one of the highly-reputed universities in Canada. I had heard great feedback from the students at the U of A about the academic environment offering personalized attention and focus on team-work among students.
MG: How has your journey been so far? Any highlights you’d like to share?
SB: So far, it has been an amazing journey. Meeting people from different parts of the world and with different professional backgrounds has been a very rewarding experience. One of the most memorable experiences thus far was participating in the Katz Case Competition with 14 teams from the United States. Even though we did not win, it was a great opportunity to learn from the other teams. I had never participated in an external case competition before and this competition will always encourage me to participate in more. The other experience that I will always cherish is getting to know the sponsor of the scholarship that I received. The sponsor was so happy meeting me and knowing about my future aspirations. The coincidence was that the sponsor got married in India and was glad to know that I also hail from India.
MG: Do you have any advice for incoming students?
SB: Be prepared for a busy life but remember to have fun and enjoy this time of your life. The friendships and bonds that you will develop during the two years will go a long way.
MG: Which course have you enjoyed the most?
SB: The course that I enjoyed the most was SMO 500 (Managing People). Although I am not very fond of reading articles as I am a math person, every case and article in this course gained my attention. Coming from an engineering background, this course was completely new for me and gave me a lot of insight into organizational cultures and the art of managing people.
MG: What’s been the most challenging part about the program?
SB: Working in teams for every course is a bit challenging because everyone in the team is different – different educational and cultural backgrounds, different personality types, and different schedules. Even though this is challenging at times, I must admit that I have made such nice friends during these two terms that now working in groups is fun.
MG: What has surprised you most about the program?
SB: The different educational backgrounds of students pursuing MBA really surprised me. In India, I had never heard about joint MD-MBA or JD-MBA programs. I really appreciate the diversity in the class as this enhances the learning and makes the MBA journey even more enriching.
Interview conducted by Medha Gupta.