Current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, is credited with turning the culture of Microsoft around, to a “growth mindset.” The tech giant’s mission statement is now, “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Similarly, business school is a pressure cooker for development. From the classes and cohorts, to career services and skills, every aspect of an MBA program is designed to make you a better business leader. Devna Shukla, NYU Stern MBA ’19 and business development manager at Microsoft, chose the New York City program and her post-MBA employer precisely because of such concentrated opportunities to grow. Read on for her story in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni.
Devna Shukla, NYU Stern ’19, Business Development Manager of Monetization
Hometown: Germantown, Maryland
Undergraduate Institution and Major: UCLA / Political Science
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 7 years (journalism and non-profit)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Tech (6 months)
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Since high school, I’ve always wanted to go to business school. I was drawn to the opportunity for elevated and formalized lessons on leadership. Like many other pre-MBA professionals, I wanted “more.” I wanted more responsibilities, leadership opportunities, access to upper management, and ultimately to have more of an impact on the business decisions and drivers that move companies forward.
I also wanted to work in big tech, and knew that an MBA would help me leverage the skills I had refined over many years to succeed in my post-MBA profession. I am so grateful that going to Stern helped me achieve my goals – while helping me grow personally as well.
Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Living in New York City, it is impossible not to notice Stern and Stern’s impact. Whether I was walking downtown and passed Stern on my way to a meeting, or worked with an NYU professor for my previous job in journalism, Stern is an integral part of New York City and business.
I wanted to be a part of the action at NYU and at Stern. I couldn’t imagine going to business school outside of downtown New York. Important companies like IBM and Facebook are just steps away from Stern. I could meet an alum for lunch and then come back to class so easily. Combined with the dynamic diversity and culture of New York City, Stern stood out from the start.
I also really connected with the school’s mission to build and cultivate great leaders. The emphasis on crafting strong interpersonal skills and EQ was important to me. I didn’t want to go to a school and remain the same version of myself. I wanted to be pushed toward self-improvement emotionally and intellectually.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
I wholeheartedly believe that my Stern experience opened the doors for my career at Microsoft today. Our amazing alums in tech guided me throughout my two years and were genuinely invested in my success. Even Sternie alumni in the C-suite always made time to talk, strategize, and ultimately to build a lifelong relationship. Now, I’m so grateful to call some of those champions my co-workers!
I feel similarly about our Office of Career Development. These coaches really went above and beyond to create opportunities for me to meet and learn from leaders in big tech. They were proactive, supportive, and assured me when I needed encouragement.
I also find myself looking back at books, lectures, and even emailing some of my old professors to lean on what I learned while in business school. Classes from amazing professors like Dolly Chugh and Nate Pettit are incredibly relevant to the professional world and have prepared me for a career at Microsoft. Going to Stern is very similar to working at Microsoft in that both institutions care about your results, but first and foremost care about the decisions and values that drive those results.
I also had a variety of leadership experiences at Stern. As co-president of the Stern Technology Association, I had a front seat to workshops, lecture series, and technical classes that prepared me for my role today. I was also Vice President of Allyship for the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS). This responsibility gave me the space to have conversations about allyship in and outside of the workplace and build a plan for how I want to be an ally. At Microsoft, we care deeply about diversity and inclusion, and being allies with each other, and I’m grateful that I found a company where those values matter.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I was a senior product manager intern at Amazon in Seattle for my summer internship. This was a pivotal point in my business school career for many reasons. First, I found that I loved working in a big tech firm because it was fast paced, and I had the opportunity to work on big, important challenges.
Second, I found that while I loved New York, Seattle was an incredible city where I could not only live in, but where I could thrive. Whether I would meet a Sternie for lunch or go to yoga classes together, I found during my summer and now today that there is a sense of belonging in Seattle thanks to how tight knit the Stern community is around the world.
Third, I learned about the power of culture. I spent a lot of my time meeting people in different organizations in Amazon as well as from other companies in Seattle. I ultimately found that the culture at Microsoft along with the growth opportunities would be the best for me. I returned to Stern for my second year with a deep conviction that I could move to Seattle, and ultimately truly shine at Microsoft.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
There are truly hundreds of reasons why I am thankful to work at Microsoft each and every day. It was important for me to find the best company to build my career – and not just simply have a job. I remember the interview process being so different from all other interviews I had while recruiting.
At Microsoft, people asked me a question, and cared about what I thought. They wanted to see how I could think outside of the box, and how I could challenge my team members in a productive, respectful way. While interviewing, the team took time to really learn about what I’ve done and who I am. I still find myself amazed that the ideas I openly shared with my interviewers (now team members) were immediately implemented. They not only listened, but heard me. I walked away from my interviews learning so much about Microsoft and their business instead of just advocating for myself.
Another incredibly important differentiating factor about Microsoft is the ASPIRE program. ASPIRE is the two-year development program for MBA hires. It is complementary to my full-time role in business development. Over the course of two years we have workshops, speaker series, and career and personal development opportunities. Last fall, Microsoft brought all 400 MBAs from around the world together for a weeklong conference.
We talked about Azure and our values, and built lasting friendships. This summer, we will meet again to learn about the latest in Microsoft innovation as well as continue our career development plans. I am amazed that a company as popular as Microsoft cares so much about investing in their employees, and specifically MBAs individually. I also wanted to work at a big tech company that has achieved success by lifting others up as well. Microsoft’s mission to “Empower every person & every organization on the planet to achieve more” truly emphasizes why I want to work in big tech.
Finally, a major reason I wanted to work at Microsoft was because of Satya Nadella, our CEO, and his commitment to a growth mindset. I still remember reading Satya’s book, “Hit Refresh,” and how he says that the “C” in “CEO” stands for culture. I was blown away by how Satya has impacted Microsoft’s culture and value system in only 5 years, while also strengthening our position across many different verticals. I knew that with Satya’s leadership from the very top, my experience would be molded by managers and directors who wanted to be better each day, and be successful and impactful while doing it.
Advice to MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I spent time building relationships with alumni and recruiters in my field, and plan to maintain those for the duration of my professional life. The world, Stern, and tech are very small, and I’m glad I spent time asking thoughtful questions and listening to what people said throughout my coffee chats. Recruiting in tech is not a numbers game, but rather a test of deep relationships with people who will cheer you on regardless of what company you work for. I also remained committed to working in big tech, and am glad I wasn’t distracted to venture out into other verticals just because the recruiting process might seem easier.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
One of my classmates used in-semester internships to fill a “gap” in her resume. While it can be challenging to balance classes, extracurriculars, and an internship, I admired how she was thoughtful in using her time in school for professional experiences so that when she went to an interview, she could highlight how she has experience in a certain role. Perhaps if I had the chance, I would have done an in-semester internship, or tried to get an internship the summer before Stern to particularly learn that there are amazing jobs in tech outside of product management.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Given that Microsoft is a large company, I was surprised to have the most responsive recruiter who was on my side, advocating for the best role and compensation package possible. I was also surprised that Microsoft moved quickly in its decisions and making people available so that I could talk to them to learn more about the company and the role. The process was transparent, and people at Microsoft wanted to make sure I learned something from each conversation.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Some of the “best” jobs aren’t posted until May, June, and July! Success isn’t defined by when you get your job – but what you are going to achieve and do with that opportunity. In the end, as long as you have the best stepping stone for you after business school, the timing of when you get that opportunity becomes irrelevant. I am so grateful that I worked hard, but also didn’t settle for a job that wouldn’t benefit me personally and professionally.
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
As mentioned before, there are so many reasons why Microsoft is incredible. I truly value the opportunity to work with smart, kind, and thoughtful people each day who want to have the biggest impact, together as a team. I am excited to see where my career goes knowing that I have managers and mentors already who want me to be at my very best.