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This September, a Booth alumna and a current student found themselves back in the classroom—but this time, they were doing the teaching.

Both employees at management consulting firm Accenture, Vaibhav Saxena, a current Executive MBA student, and Shruthi Sriram, MBA ’18, MPP, ’18, met earlier this year when they each volunteered to teach in the company’s training program for incoming analysts.

They were paired up, and despite their distance—Saxena calls Washington, DC, home while Sriram is based out of the company’s Houston office—they instantly bonded over their shared Booth connection.

The duo quickly got to work, brainstorming their favorite lessons and experiences from their MBA program that they could pass along to 40 new employees over the course of their week-long class. They guided the new analysts through simulated cases and client sessions and helped them fit into the company culture—all with a very Boothie approach.

“We didn’t tell them, ‘Here’s the solution.’ Instead, we taught them how and where to look for answers, how to come out with the best answer, and how to develop a story around it—which creates an impact for your client.”

— Vaibhav Saxena

“We tried to walk them through how to go into a problem and solve it,” said Saxena. “We didn’t tell them, ‘Here’s the solution.’ Instead, we taught them how and where to look for answers, how to come out with the best answer, and how to develop a story around it—which creates an impact for your client.”

Saxena and Sriram recently chatted with Chicago Booth about their career journeys and their Booth experiences, as well as how The Chicago Approach™ is helping them add value at Accenture.

When you first met each other, what were some things you realized you have in common because of your shared Booth experience?

Headshot of Shruthi Subramanyam
Shruthi Sriram, MBA ’18, MPP ’18

Sririam: My favorite part was being able to build an instant connection and rediscover my Booth experience. Being able to talk with someone about my favorite spots in Chicago, or my favorite classes, actually made me nostalgic and really excited about the Booth experience again.

Saxena: When we first met, I felt that our wavelengths instantly matched. This was not surprising to me, because we both shared the same Booth experiences.

We connected right away about the coursework and reflected on how rigorous it is. We also wondered, “How do we bring our learning from the varied courses into our module?” One example of this was during the “Global Analyst Training.” Using what we had both learned during the LEAD [Leadership Effectiveness and Development] program, we asked participants to record themselves while presenting before and after having gone through the training content. This was a very useful takeaway from our LEAD experience, and we wanted the participants to see their improvement over time. We also incorporated concepts related to the “Power of the Situation” and inherent human biases, and how they can harness this awareness for continuous improvement.

Sriram: Another similarity we found is having a data-driven approach to inquiry and the work that we do, which we also found at Booth. That was a theme throughout the analyst training—really helping the new employees understand how to identify strong data for different analyses, build a story out of all of that, and then present it while thinking about who you’re delivering that story to.

Tell us about your own career journeys before you came to Booth. How did you decide business school was right for you?

Sriram: Before grad school, my career was in education. I taught in schools and worked at a behavioral science startup focused on applying research to improve outcomes for students and families. I found that social impact was what I was really passionate about, and I entered the dual-degree program with Chicago Booth and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. I saw Booth as a great way to really broaden my skill set into the leadership and management side of things. Now at Accenture, I’m part of our public service consulting practice, where we work with government, higher education, and nonprofit clients on a whole suite of projects, where I’m able to apply the business skill sets I learned at Booth and the policy expertise from Harris.

Headshot of Vaibhav Saxena
Vaibhav Saxena, Executive MBA student

Saxena: I started out at Fannie Mae, a financial corporation in Washington DC, and then moved on to a career in consulting. Presently, I’m a software engineering leader at Accenture. My role is to design and shape opportunities in the cloud and emerging technologies space, and to solve some of the most challenging problems for our clients. Having established a strong technical and consulting background, I wanted to get a deeper understanding of the world of finance and business. This will position me to facilitate executive-level conversations and build high-performing teams. So, I decided to pursue an MBA, and Booth was my first choice.

What advice would you give to other alumni who want to find ways to stay engaged with the school or with each other—especially when nearly everything is virtual right now?

Sriram: I would tell other alumni to tap into the driven, entrepreneurial nature embodied by our classmates. There doesn’t have to be a formal program to stay engaged or connect with each other, either on the Booth side or the company side. If you have an idea, run with it. Just go for it. Think of where you can shape opportunities like this at your place of work, whether it’s mentoring and developing one person or a whole team.

The opportunity to teach others is a great way to share what you have learned and reflect on your own professional journey.

Saxena: I had always thought about teaching at the Accenture Chicago training center, but never got a chance to take a week off from work, school, and family to do that. In these COVID-19 times, technology has allowed us to connect with anyone in the world right from our desk.

Facilitating this training has been a very rewarding experience on a personal front as well. I used the week to reflect on my career, the past year at Booth, and the evolution of my approach towards different aspects of my life. In the process, I may have also helped shape a few budding careers at Accenture!

I’ll leave you with Professor Wolcott’s advice: “Never leave serendipity to chance and always find ways to say ‘Yes’ to opportunities.”

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