We recently zoomed with Technology Management MBA student Ashima Jain to learn how the TMMBA Program has impacted her career and how she has managed an 18-month accelerated program with two small children. Ashima is graduating this month and is the valedictorian of her class.
Why did you decide the Technology Management MBA program was the right fit for you?
I have an engineering background and I have a passion to apply technology to solve real-world problems. My recent work at Uber is to transform the way people transport, especially in developing countries.
While I was working on the technical front to build a solution, I wanted to learn all aspects of business. I was looking for a work-compatible program with a great reputation.
The TMMBA 18-month format was something I knew I could commit to, unlike a part-time MBA that would take much longer. Plus, I had a manager that went through the TMMBA Program, and I saw how the program impacted his leadership, communication, and strategic thinking skills. TMMBA checked all the boxes.
Tell us about your current role. How has TMMBA helped you in your role?
I have been at Uber for almost four years. For the first couple of years, I was a Sr. Software Engineer. Around halfway through the TMMBA program I transitioned to an Engineering Manager role.
My main responsibilities include building and leading a diverse engineering team, defining strategy, and driving execution. The TMMBA Program has prepared me to become an empathetic inclusive leader. Most importantly it has helped me realize the value of empathy or social intelligence. Before the program, I had a bias for action and emotions took a backseat when getting things done. I’ve learned from the leadership content that empathy and social intelligence are critical for a leader.
It allows me to be more aware of people on a human level, to build connections with people – which in turn directly impacts performance. People tend to want to go above and beyond when they feel heard, understood, and supported.
I am not sure I would have focused on this before the program.
Did you utilize TMMBA Career Management resources?
Absolutely! When I began thinking about a transition, I worked quite a bit with Susie Buysse, the Director of TMMBA Career Management. In the beginning, I was not sure if a transition made sense, and Susie listened and offered sage advice and constructive ways to think about my options. Once I decided to apply for a management role in Uber, Susie helped me navigate the application process and then the transition process. After securing my new Engineering Manager role, Susie went above and beyond by providing resources that would set me up for success during my first 90 days.
How has managing the program with two young children been for you?
I have two young kids, so it has not been easy. I am grateful to have had the support of my parents, family and friends. My husband is super supportive, and we talked through expectations so that we would be in alignment when the program started. He knows my calendar of commitments – it is on the refrigerator – so there is no mistaking where I need to be and when.
Also, I talked with my kids about the calendar, and we discussed how I would need to study, just like them now. I feel like I have set a good example for my kids. My son often remarks on how dedicated I am and how I’m getting my work done on time. I let my kids know that I was not going to have a lot of time, but that I would find ways to make time for them. One thing has not changed: I read to them before bed each night. 10pm is their time.
How do you structure your time? When do you meet with your study group?
On Sunday night, I look at my week in terms of school, work, and other to-dos. Then I typically time box activities on my calendar, which helps me stay on track. During the week, I have made it a practice to start my day at 5:00am with exercise. Afterward, since the house is quiet, I can focus for a while on reading or other school activities. Then I get ready for work and breakfast and start my workday, which is from about nine to five. After work, I spend some time with my family and then go back to studying, attending class, or meeting with my study group. This has worked well for me.
My study group meets twice a week, and then we work together in between as needed. Mondays and Saturdays are class days. After Monday class we meet to catch up and plan for the week ahead. Aside from meeting, we use Slack, WhatsApp and SharePoint to collaborate.
What is one “a-ha” moment you experienced over the past 18-months?
There have been many, but one that stands out was during the Negotiations class at the Program Immersion. One of our assignments was to go out and collect 10 nos. I had to go out and ask for things until I collected 10 nos. This was very hard for me. Growing up I was a bit spoiled, and I had no experience with being told no. I asked the professor why I would want people to say no to me? I’ll never forget her response. She said, “if you are not hearing enough nos, then you’re not asking for enough and you are leaving money on the table.” I used to think I was a good negotiator, but what she said opened my eyes and I took it to heart. The assignment was hard for me, but it helped me build that muscle. Now I do not hesitate to ask, if I get a no, it does not bother me in the slightest – at least I tried!
What is next for you?
My goal is to eventually lead a cross-functional organization. Being a woman in tech, I think I have had a lot of moments where I felt I was at a disadvantage compared to my male counterparts, but I no longer feel that way. The program has prepared me for new challenges and has shaped the leadership journey that I’m on right now.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
The program has provided me tools and skillsets I needed to become a global leader. I am looking forward to applying these in action. In the short term, I am looking forward to taking a break and spending some time with my family.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of applying to the TMMBA Program?
There will never be the right time and life will always be busy, but 18-months is not that long, and it goes by quickly, so invest in yourself. You will not regret it. I have learned so much and the experience has been transformative professionally and personally. Lastly, You get what you put in, so put in your 100%. If you are going to do this, you might as well make the most of it!
What is one word that describes your TMMBA experience?