Bring your entire self to business school

By Jenny Clare

For Pranjali Vadlaputi, MBA 26, and the program manager of Pediatric Telehealth at UC Davis Health, three things guide her career choices and her priorities in life: community, creativity, and social impact. Although still early in her career, Pranjali has already made several pivots; her evening and weekend MBA studies at Berkeley Haas are preparing her for another.

Pranjali has known since childhood that she wanted a career in healthcare. “As a child living in India, that meant one thing: being a doctor. So, I got my undergrad degree in biomedical engineering in preparation for med school,” she said. “I took the MCAT and applied to schools without really taking the time to be introspective and consider other career paths in healthcare.” Dismayed by the ultra-competitive nature of med school, Pranjali explored other aspects of healthcare and took a research coordinator position at UC Davis.

She worked with a professor, who became a mentor, on research into congenital heart disease, with the goal of developing a device to improve early diagnosis and treatment. “She introduced me to the business side of healthcare and clinical research. I’ve always liked creating things, plus I was intrigued by the business and implementation aspects of product development.” That combination opened Pranjali’s perspective up to include business and entrepreneurship in healthcare as a career path. At Berkeley Haas, she has learned that innovation is not about having “one wild and crazy idea, it can be incremental, and entrepreneurship requires stamina.”

As her career outlook has broadened, Pranjali remains focused on her ultimate objective to improve patient care, only now her curiosity extends to “finding ways to improve care across entire communities, rather than one patient at a time.”

Core classes are providing the fundamental business knowledge Pranjali needs, alongside lessons in leadership and, Pranjali is happy to note, insights into social impact. “It’s exciting to see professors weave social impact into the most unexpected subject matter, like Accounting,” she said. “In Microeconomics, Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein used research findings related to the wage gap and minimum wage to showcase where theoretical supply-demand models can break down. I really appreciate hearing the Defining Leadership Principles integrated into professors’ thinking and their teaching.”

Now that she is planning which electives to try for, Pranjali admits that “who is teaching is more important than what they are teaching. I’m looking for recommendations from others for the best professors they have had at Haas, regardless of the subject. I’m in the mode of soaking up as much knowledge as I can.” But again, Pranjali’s three lodestars have an influence. She hopes to take Business Models for Social Impact and Start-up Disco, as well as classes in the School of Public Health that will count toward a certificate in Health Management.

Pranjali is thrilled to have found collaborative communities at Berkeley Haas. “From the very first get-together, before I had even decided to enroll, I was impressed with the people and how welcoming everyone was,” she said. “For one thing, I was happy to see that not everyone was from the tech sector! And so many faces and their life experiences reflected DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion. I didn’t feel like a fish out of water.”

When Pranjali signed up for that welcome event, she noted that the form included a space for her to register her partner as a guest. “The form asked upfront what my partner’s pronouns were. That impressed me so much. We couldn’t believe it when we arrived and saw that her name tag introduced her as ‘partner of Pranjali Vadlaputi.’ That told us immediately that we both would be welcome here—irrespective of gender or the nature of our relationship. It means a lot to be accepted without needing to explain. Those name badges are still stuck on the fridge in our kitchen.”

Pranjali’s commitment to ”bringing her entire self to the table,” led her to volunteer as the Q@Haas EWMBA-VP. Among her classmates, Pranjali encourages allies to “work alongside us and represent us where we aren’t otherwise represented.” That work, she says is often, “a matter of helping allies find the right words and phrases to improve awareness in their social circles. The more queerness is seen as part of everyone’s normal lives, the better it is for all of us, queer and not.”

Whether in the classroom, on the job, or in the community, Pranjali is committed to a purpose larger than herself. The personal growth she has achieved at Berkeley Haas is satisfying, she said, but it is not a point of personal pride. Rather, “it is a platform for me to bring my privilege to bear in creating more equity in the communities that need it most.”

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Posted on June 21, 2024
Jenny Clare
Jenny is Senior Associate Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals. She hopes these blog posts provide you with useful insights into the Berkeley MBA experience and answer questions you may have about the MBA in general.