The power of not being content and choosing to lead by example

By Jenny Clare

Priya Govindaraj, MBA 24, leads by example in every facet of her life.

She was the first female in her large, multi-generational family to go to college, leading the way for her siblings and cousins. She set another example when she chose to keep working after her marriage. And after she became a parent. But when she told her parents that she intended to get an MBA, they were shocked.

“That was a real eye-opener for me,” Priya said. “They had supported each of my earlier decisions. But now, they wished that I felt content with my good job and my family. They didn't want me to rock the boat.”

But she wasn’t content. She wanted a career that allows her to give back to society and to inspire others to follow their dreams. Now, a year into her Evening & Weekend MBA program at Berkeley Haas, she is thriving at work, in her classwork, and at home.

Her husband and “best buddy does more than his share at home,” Priya said. “Nonetheless, he is inspired to get an MBA of his own. It will be his turn next.” (Priya is already talking up the Berkeley MBA for Executives program as “perfect” for him.)

And while their six-year-old daughter has had a harder time “sharing mommy,” Priya has set clear boundaries that reassure both mother and daughter. “I do most of my schoolwork in the early morning before she is awake She is a bit young to understand what I am doing, but she is very smart, and she recognizes I am doing something important for me. She also is extremely kind, even to me when I can’t give all my attention to her,” Priya said. “I am in class all day Saturday, but Fridays and Sundays are family time.”

When she talks with prospective students about parenting during her MBA studies, Priya emphasizes the need for strong time management skills and acknowledges that there will be trade-offs: “You cannot have it all, all of the time. There will be occasions when you have to let something go.”

She also appreciates Berkeley Haas as a “safe space where I am not afraid to be vulnerable, to admit when I need help. People—especially my study team—are always there to lift me up. I love that every member of the team contributes their strengths and welcomes help in overcoming their weaknesses. We teach each other.” She recently took on a leadership role at Haas as an Academic Rep of her cohort.

In her role as a Principal Software engineer at Yahoo, her conversations with stakeholders once were mostly one-way: The stakeholders telling the engineers what they wanted. Now that Priya understands and speaks the concepts of essential business disciplines like strategy and operations, finance and accounting, she finds herself better prepared to take a more global view. She is more comfortable Questioning the Status Quo on topics outside her immediate sphere. “I am asking more informed and relevant questions about topics that once were foreign languages to me. I am having real, meaningful dialogues with stakeholders that add so much value to what we can do together,” she said.

Classes like Leading People have helped Priya look at her team and her organization differently. Now, she said, “I have a better understanding of the influence our leaders have on us as a team and what that means for how we all work together.” She has noticed that her co-workers and managers are taking note of her newfound confidence and knowledge. Priya takes even more satisfaction in her newfound “growth mindset that has broadened my horizons and the way I think about my career.”

And her parents’ opinion? Priya said, “It melted away when they saw me grow more confident and assured. Now they are excited for me and for all that I will be able to accomplish. They are spreading the word in the family about how valuable an MBA can be!”

Interested in making an impact through your own career? An MBA from a top business school can help you grow your network and leadership skills so you can take the next step toward a fulfilling career.

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Posted on September 15, 2022
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.