Real Humans of Google: Akshay Sriprasad, Columbia Business School MBA ’20, Product Management
Akshay Sriprasad is on a mission. Multiple missions, in fact. He believes technology can save the world–and you will, too, after reading his story.
For Akshay, business leaders have a responsibility to solve the world’s greatest problems and an MBA from Columbia Business School added some fuel to this work. In this Real Humans: Alumni, Akshay talks about the importance of a life/work balance, how CBS supported his dreams and why he has pursued product management at Google, along with a lot more.
Hometown: Chandler, Arizona
Undergraduate Institution and Major: The University of Arizona, Chemical Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Columbia Business School, 2020
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Five years in Management Consulting & Tech
Post-MBA Work Experience: Two years, Tech & Venture Capital
Why did you choose to attend business school?
My purpose and goals center around deploying frontier technologies to solve the hardest societal and systems challenges, including, but not limited to, climate change, human space travel, food supply and mental health. The limitations of our world governments have become clear, and for better or worse, entrepreneurs and the private sector must pick up the slack. I won’t claim to have solidified these views fully before choosing to attend business school (and they’re prone to revision); however, I certainly intuited as much and knew that the holistic experience of a top MBA would enable me to maximize my impact over the long arc of a career.
Why CBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My educational and, more significantly, my cultural background is rooted in tech. As such, I saw a tremendous amount of complementary value in immersing myself in an MBA program rooted in the ecosystem and cultural values of high finance and the capital markets. Of course, CBS has done a fantastic job of building competitive offerings in social impact, business analytics and entrepreneurship, but I was really drawn to the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of value investing from the absolute best.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
They say it’s really all about the ‘network.’ Before you go to business school, that sounds like a really abstract concept with questionable/subjective value. But once you experience it first-hand, it just clicks. There’s something incredibly unique about spending 2 intense years with similarly ambitious, thoughtful and energetic professionals that all want to do great things in the world. Fostering those relationships catalyzed my VC/Angel Investing, spawned an enduring ‘support group’ of dreamers and, I’m sure, will continue to bear fruit as our careers progress. I’ve even been fortunate enough to build some really wonderful relationships with amazing faculty that have been immensely valuable.
I’m also kind of a huge nerd and truly cherished the in-classroom learnings. I was riveted and in-flow during every single session of Security Analysis (Mauboussin), Business Analytics II (Guetta), Finance & Sustainability (Usher) and even the basics like Accounting (Harris). It got to the point where a classmate started taking tallies of every time I participated in class (i.e. asked a question or responded to a prompt) and built a respectable (albeit, hilarious) visualization to share in front of the class on our last day. Definitely proud of that one.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I was incredibly fortunate to get to work at X, The Moonshot Factory, accelerating business development and go-to-market strategy for a (then confidential) project called Tapestry focused on unlocking access to clean, reliable and affordable electricity worldwide by providing greater insight into the increasingly dynamic and complex electricity system.
My primary takeaway from this intense experience was how technically complex the problems I care about are and that it would behoove me to get as close to product as possible. I think the secret is out on this ‘insight’; last I heard, they added another section to Canetti’s Product Management course at CBS, and it’s still waitlisted!
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I’m currently the acting Product Manager for the Transportation vertical of Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer. We build tools and products that help cities reduce their carbon footprint. Simultaneously, I’m an active angel investor and syndicate deals with a few partners in impactful frontier technology startups alongside world-class institutional investors. In both cases, it’s all about the people. I’m challenged every day, learning from sharp, mission-driven peers and building great foundations in company/product building and capital allocation. If you told me five years ago that I’d get to be doing this today, I would not have believed you.
How has COVID–19 impacted your industry/career plans?
I’ve been kind of spoiled by the shift towards remote work. For instance, surfing in Costa Rica, sampling tacos in Mexico City and strolling the canals of Amsterdam have been just a few of the after-work activities I’ve gotten to pursue. Though I still love NYC dearly, I’ve become a bit unshackled from that mentality. My portfolio companies are geographically distributed and increasingly remote-first, and our Google teams were already distributed across global offices. I believe there are a lot of benefits (e.g. mental health, holistic life balance) to a thoughtfully-designed hybrid/remote strategy.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Your network wants to help you. You just have to tell them how! I got my X/Tapestry role by sharing my goals with everyone, and ultimately, a friend of mine serendipitously introduced me to the project team after I shared my climate passions.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have started experimenting much earlier. Business school is one of the only times you get to do that, and your access to experiences in NYC is unique. I ran my first angel syndicate (with a CBS classmate!) nine months after graduating and participated in Harlem Capital’s Angel Investing Fellowship shortly after that. Those are all the sorts of things you can (and should) do while in school.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Google is pretty methodical and has well-established processes. There isn’t really a big secret here, but I believe that the internship process has the highest odds of application conversion.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Walk your own path. You’re going to be pulled in a 100 different directions, and if you aren’t thoughtful about your purpose and your values, you’ll end up serving someone else’s ends. FOMO is a waste of time and energy. Make peace with the reality that you can’t do it all; you can only do you!