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Real Humans of Texas McCombs’ MBA Class of 2023

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texas mba class of 2023Chamali Raigama, Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Houston, TX
Undergraduate Institution and Major: The University of Texas at Austin, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4 years, Brand Technical Sales at IBM (Technology – IBM Z/Mainframe Solutions)

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
After discovering the realm of retail brand management 2 years into my technical sales experience at IBM, I became really interested in pursuing the field, but quickly realized that most brand management positions required years of industry and marketing experience to be considered. I had a lot of interest and passion for retail, but had only been in the space as an avid consumer. I really wanted to switch into the retail industry and into brand management, but knew that I would need two things: A proper marketing and business education, and an effective and talented network of people to learn and grow with. So, I decided to apply to business school so I could start this challenging journey! 

Why did you choose Texas McCombs? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Simply put, Texas McCombs brings together a diverse group of people who are incredibly talented, collaborative, and genuinely looking to improve the world we live in. Whether that spirit lies in improving the program itself or seeking to challenge the status quo – McCombs MBA students always bring an undeniable sense of passion and collaborative community to the table in every way we carry ourselves. We look out for each other in the most honest way – and that makes for a great place to fail safe, aim high, and grow together.

As far as factors that truly mattered to me, I really cared to be a part of an MBA culture that carried a strong sense of community, values, and diversity within its graduating classes. On top of that, I also wanted a place that would challenge me to grow. After my small exposure to McCombs as an engineering student, I knew that the faculty and staff would truly provide a classroom experience that was fun, challenging, and memorable. Austin is also a great place to be a young adult and really experience food, music, and the “keep Austin weird” culture! I had the privilege of seeing that first-hand as an undergraduate student, but it has been really cool to share that with my new MBA classmates and see the wonder and joy of discovering a city as cool as Austin . I’m also a big fan of sunsets, great music, photography, outdoor culture, and foodie culture – so naturally the city of Austin has been a great fit!

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
One of my favorite experiences I have started at McCombs is the Mental Health Wellness Collective! We meet every week for 1 hour on our gorgeous 4th floor terrace where our group answers questions about mental health challenges, achievements, and lessons learned. The most rewarding part about moderating our group is to see the way our classmates have been so wonderfully vulnerable and open to learning from each other as this is truly a testament to the wonderful collaborative culture McCombs is all about. Everyone at McCombs has been so supportive and encouraging about vulnerability – and I really think that is a unique aspect of McCombs that I only truly got to understand once I got here – and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this place!

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I have a long history of involvement with the collegiate South Asian dance community! In my junior and senior year, I ran a national Bollywood fusion dance competition called Jhalak on the UT campus and joined a Bollywood fusion dance team my last semester as well. Both experiences really pushed me to grow as a leader and had a strong influence on my leadership style early on. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Brand Management in Retail/Fashion/Beauty

 Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would love to do my video essay again but this time, I would definitely be a lot bolder and more of myself because I think that would’ve actually helped my application and shown the admissions committee more of my outgoing, goofy, and fun personality that I currently bring to everything I do here .

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would have been more intentional about my application process. I wish I had made a longer runway leading up to my application where I took more classes to boost my undergraduate GPA and given myself more time to consistently study for the GMAT/GRE right after college graduation, instead of closer to my application deadline. I also would have joined the Forte Foundation sooner and wished I applied through the Consortium! For any incoming women in business and underrepresented communities, I highly recommend looking into both programs as they are both very helpful and have really supportive communities and resources available to you!

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have skipped doing too many virtual info sessions! Years ago, I envisioned that I would have visited campuses and done real tours on campus before committing to a program – but with the pandemic, that was the only way to really learn about each school and its culture. Looking back, I am glad I was more intentional and reached out to current students and alumni I really related to in each program and built relationships with my peers who were applying alongside me. It made the experience less lonely, and I got to meet so many incredible people who landed at fellow top business schools! It was a great feeling to see all of us succeed together and many of them were incredibly supportive when they learned I got into McCombs!

What is your initial impression of the Texas McCombs students/culture/community?
Resilient, persistent, courageous, collaborative, fun, creative, and perceptive.

What is one thing you have learned about Texas McCombs that has surprised you?
Even though I knew that the community at McCombs was incredibly warm and welcoming, there was such a heightened level of warmth once I got here. To add to this, our incoming class had an incredible response to COVID-19 masking and many of us actively got tested and effectively contract traced amongst ourselves to keep each other safe. The level of trust and security I felt knowing that an overwhelming majority of my classmates really cared to protect each other was really incredible. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Most definitely. I would confidently say that the pandemic really heightened my anxiety around taking the GMAT between June-September 2020. Despite these struggles, I was still encouraged to apply by the McCombs Ambassadors Committee and after a long wait (including time on the R2 waitlist) I was finally admitted into the program on June 1st, 2021!

I would also say that while the pandemic was rough on many of us, I think I personally was forced to really sit down and reflect on my life and what I really wanted to achieve in terms of my own personal legacy. All of this reflection time really showed in my McCombs application so in a sense, it did have a positive impact in terms of showcasing my personal and professional growth.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
As any first year would say – securing the internship! Luckily, we are all in the same boat, so it helps to have the support of my peers .

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Taking my first strategic branding class and hosting many of the upcoming events for the student body!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.