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Bharad Ramakrishnan, Weekend MBA student, Corporate Strategy Manager at Cummins

Why did you choose to pursue an MBA? Why Chicago Booth?

I had been in a variety of engineering roles within Cummins. Six years into my time there, I decided I wanted to switch from an engineering to a business role and do something that had a higher level impact on the company as a whole. A number of colleagues spoke highly about Chicago Booth. I wanted to choose a school with a very strong alumni network and world-class faculty, and felt that Chicago Booth was the right place for me.

How does your MBA impact your day-to-day work?

When I was still in my engineering role, my learnings at Booth had an impact on my presentation skills, my interactions with colleagues, and the way I organized my thoughts more clearly. Now in my current role, the MBA is directly applicable because I can take almost everything I learn in class and apply it to my projects on a day-to-day basis. My MBA has helped me with analyzing market opportunities, competitors and investment opportunities, and thinking through ambiguous problems to come up with actionable recommendations. Chicago Booth played a major part in helping me transition smoothly from an engineering role to business strategy.

What other activities have you been involved with at Chicago Booth?

I’m part of the Booth Consulting Club. While I did not have time to take a leadership position, I volunteered for some activities like the Booth Consulting Club Symposium to make sure I could give back to the community. I’m also part of the Booth Social Impact Club and am working on a project for nonprofit YWCA. My group is evaluating a market opportunity for a product that would provide US citizens traveling abroad tips and resources to avoid and respond to instances of gender-based violence.

When you were considering an MBA, what was the decision-making process like for your family?

When I was applying for MBA programs, I made sure that my wife was completely aware of the process and that she understood what the time commitment and travel would look like. My oldest daughter was two at the time and my youngest was not born yet (she is now 9 months). My wife and I traveled together to Chicago Booth for an information session, so she could really see what the experience would look like. My biggest question was would it be worthwhile to drive to Chicago every weekend for my MBA? It was my wife who said she would take care of the family fully on weekends so that I could get a degree from a top institution. She pointed out that if I was going to spend the time getting an MBA, it should be from a leading business school, so she was the one who pushed me and gave me the confidence to do this. 

What did your travel schedule look like?

On Saturdays, I would typically be away from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. I would drive from home and make it right before class and then start back directly after class. Fortunately, there is a carpool group in Indianapolis, so a group of us would drive together. It’s a long day but it’s totally worth it. Even the carpool was productive as we’d chat about classes and interesting topics. I always looked forward to returning home as my daughter would wait up to see me and that is what kept me going.

MBA student Bharad Ramakrishnan and daughters

"Two years ago I wouldn't have believed I could manage my MBA and take care of two children...Pursuing an MBA from a top school and becoming a father to two beautiful little girls have truly been the best experiences of my life."

— Bharad Ramakrishnan

What advice do you have for prospective students with families? 

Communication, coordination, and time allocation are the most important things. You have to have really good communication with your spouse and set clear and appropriate expectations before you start an MBA. You need to discuss how much time and effort you will need to put into the program. 

Coordination is really important. We talk about our schedules and make sure to communicate clearly as I have many calls related to coursework, clubs, or projects, sometimes on a daily basis. Make sure to allocate time for the MBA, your job, and also be sure to allocate time for your family. If I have evening calls, I don’t get to spend that much time with my kids, but then I will make sure to spend a few hours with them the next day and push my MBA-related work later in the day after their bedtime. I try to set expectations with my older daughter so she knows when she will have time with me. Attempting to strike a balance is really important to me.

Family time is essential. If I am stressed from work or the MBA, being with my kids helps alleviate that stress. Two years ago I wouldn’t have believed I could manage my MBA and take care of two children. I can confidently say that if I have learned to do it—as long as folks out there get the right support from their family—they can do it, too. As humans, we underestimate our capabilities, but you can do it. During this journey, I‘d lie if I said that there were no stressful times, but I kept moving forward telling myself that I was finally doing what I love. Pursuing an MBA from a top school and becoming a father to two beautiful little girls have truly been the best experiences of my life. If I have to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it in any other way.

Are you able to allocate time to yourself?

That’s been really difficult. I try to spend all my free time with my kids and spouse because they have given up quite a bit in this process, so I try to devote my extra time to them.

What is your favorite part of being a father?

Playing with my children, spending time with them and making them happy. If I’m a part of their happiness, I’m happy. I truly believe that they have made me a better person and they have shown me how to appreciate the little things in life.

What are you looking forward to most once you graduate?

Spending time with my family. My older daughter now takes classes in piano and I’d love to sit with her and learn as well. When I graduate, my younger daughter will likely be walking, so I’m looking forward to that. My wife and I enjoy traveling so we plan to resume this as well.

Chicago Booth has been an amazing experience. The way I think and the way I approach  problems is different. Chicago Booth has played a major role in my career transition and I’m confident my MBA will help me achieve larger goals in my life.

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