Vishaka Sriniwasan

Vishaka Sriniwasan
Class Year
Mumbai, India
Areas of Interest
Previous Education
BS in Computational and Systems Biology (minor: Global Studies), University of California Los Angeles

Prior to starting, what were you expecting the program to be like? How was it different than your expectations?

Having a class size of over seven hundred students might lead you to assume people will be competitive and cut-throat – this cannot be further from the truth, both in academics and recruiting activities. I have found the students at Columbia Business School to truly be so supportive, down-to-earth, and genuine. Even the second year students continue to make time for mentoring first year students during their own full-time recruiting process and plan events like club welcome and kick-off. Despite being in a city where many have already lived for years, Columbia Business School remains an integral part of our social lives, too, leading to a close-knit community with opportunities to bond across our clusters. After months in the pandemic, it is so refreshing to get to know my fellow ’23ers who are intelligent, humble, and inclusive.

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

I placed a high emphasis on location and school culture while narrowing down my list of schools. Columbia Business School was top of the list for a multitude of reasons – New York City location, access to the city’s startup ecosystem, renowned adjunct faculty that took time out of their jobs to teach at Columbia Business School, and a robust healthcare program. I also have family in the city and wanted to try living in a new region of the US. Two months into school, I definitely made the right choice – NYC is a great place to be an MBA student and leverage what both the city and the School has to offer.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?

I spent my entire childhood in Mumbai before I emigrated to California at the age of 18 for my undergraduate degree, and then worked there, too; this has widened my perspective on cultures and lifestyles. Additionally, I come from a very scientific and technical background – having worked both in research lab settings and in information systems at a biotech company. While this means I struggle a bit in an accounting class, I believe my critical thinking skills and analytical approach to problem solving honed by these experiences has equipped me to share interesting insights in classes.

Which faculty members(s) influenced you the most, and how?

Professor Matz who taught my LEAD class and Professor Keum who taught my Strategy class have influenced me the most. The LEAD lectures were a great way to start off my first week of classes at Columbia Business School – we learned about being inclusive and inspirational leaders while engaging with cluster mates in deep and reflective conversations. Professor Matz created an environment that made everyone open to being vulnerable and sharing their personal experiences when we were all still getting to know each other. She made us reflect on what our values were and what kind of leaders we hope to be. Professor Keum challenged us in a different way through the Strategy class – we had to read a case before every lecture and form our opinions in response to a poll question. Professor Keum led very interactive class discussions on each case and drew out everyone’s diverse perspectives that allowed us to connect theory to real-world experiences. He reminded us that strategy is a very nuanced subject and most times we would be working with others to solve challenging business problems. I will remember both their teachings as I hone my leadership skills and whenever I am in a difficult situation. I look forward to taking more electives recommended by both of them, such as the Managerial Negotiations class.

What has been your most memorable experience at Columbia Business School so far?

The orientation week was definitely my favorite Columbia Business School experience so far. It was a hybrid of limited in-person social events and online lectures/activities led by professors and the second-year peer advisors. As the School was transitioning back and learning how to welcome students during the pandemic, everyone was energized and adaptable. The lecture by Professor Sheena Iyengar was incredible and set the tone well for the second-year journey we were about to embark upon. Meeting my diverse and welcoming classmates through the orientation week, and getting to know my cluster mates, made it for the most memorable week and inspired me to be a part of my cluster board.

What was the most challenging part of the program, and how did you handle it?

I am anxious about prioritizing the right things at the right time – between academics, recruiting, campus clubs, and getting to know my classmates. Although I had been warned I would be busy in the first semester, the reality of the number of activities drawing on my time has been shocking and overwhelming. I am getting better at balancing it all but definitely have not mastered it yet!

What advice would you give to a new student coming into the MBA program at Columbia Business School?

Be ready for a diverse, fast-paced, and stimulating environment. Be ready to not be the smartest in the room and prepare yourself for a lot of growth and learnings. Reflect on what you hope to gain out of the MBA and keep coming back to that through your journey. Immerse yourself in the experience and have fun!

How will you apply your learnings to a post-COVID world?

I think the post-COVID world will leave us all to be more empathetic and understanding of everyone’s personal struggles. Through the MBA, I hope to build my EQ and leadership skills to be a value-based and ethical leader in the post-COVID world. This new world will also challenge us to be adaptable and open to change, a skill I hope to develop through the MBA by consciously pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

What does the new Manhattanville campus mean to you?

The move to Manhattanville signals Columbia Business School’s focus on building a tighter MBA community across all its MBA programs by facilitating a space for collaboration and interaction among students. It was made possible by the generous alumni donors and reflects what it means to be a lifelong member of the Columbia Business School community. I am excited to see what being an MBA student on the new campus looks like in a few months!

Post-MBA career interests?

I am interested in pursuing a career at the intersection of technology and healthcare. But first I need to supplement my experience with a broader understanding of the industry and its challenges. I am interested in recruiting for management consulting during my MBA with a focus on healthcare and strategy.