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Real Humans of MycoWorks: Nina Sabharwal, Stanford GSB MBA ’23, Strategic Advisor to the CEO

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In this installment of our Real Humans: Alumni series, Nina Sabharwal tells us how her need for reflection on and realignment of her career path led her to an MBA at Stanford GSB. Sabharwal credits the GSB’s curriculum and programs for making her venture outside her comfort zone and giving her the freedom to focus on internal motivators. GSB’s impressive network afforded the opportunity to make more effective outreach to organizations and individuals and build relationships. Read on to learn more about her transformational journey through the Stanford MBA program and her post-MBA career success.

Nina Sabharwal, Stanford GSB MBA ’23, Strategic Advisor to the CEO at MycoWorks

Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Columbia University, B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and minor in Music
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Strategy Consultant at ClearView Healthcare Partners, 2017 – 2019 (Industry: Consulting); Manager of Commercial Strategy at Biogen, 2019 – 2021 (Industry: Bio-Pharma)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Strategic Advisor to the CEO at MycoWorks, 2023 – Now (Industry: Biotech x Climate Tech x Luxury Fashion) 

Why did you choose to attend business school? 
I liked the career path I was on before business school, but I didn’t love it. I wanted to allow myself the time to take a step back and ask myself some harder questions about whether the path I was on would continue to give me energy or if there was a change–a realignment–I could make towards something more personally fulfilling. Business school seemed like the best vehicle for me to do this type of career reflection. 

Why Stanford GSB? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was fortunate enough to be deciding between the GSB and HBS. Having spent my post-college career in the biopharma hub in Boston, I knew HBS would be an incredible experience to further myself down that path I had been on pre-business school. But going back to why I wanted to attend business school, my gut was telling me there was something missing for me in that path. GSB’s curriculum and programs seemed more outside of my comfort zone and more likely to give me the freedom I needed to focus on my internal motivators rather than be influenced by my surroundings. 

What about your Stanford GSB MBA experience prepared you for your current career? 
I can think of a couple big ways the MBA prepared me, both professionally and personally. Professionally, my MBA experience allowed me to test my big hypotheses on what would make me feel more fulfilled. I took full advantage of my status as a student to do hours-on-end of cold outreach to people I found inspiring both within GSB and externally. This cold outreach resulted in multiple opportunities of part-time work and internships which let me test out roles and types of companies I found interesting. Getting people to actually respond to my outreach was no doubt (at least in part) a function of my attending GSB and the incredible network that comes along with it. 

Personally, I strengthened my ability to build and sustain relationships–which as a fairly shy person was a muscle I lacked beforehand. And probably the biggest change I noticed was my confidence. It’s hard to say exactly what it was from the MBA experience that caused this confidence boost–the countless cold calls, being surrounded and supported by exceptional classmates and professors, the (in no way an understatement) life-changing class Interpersonal Dynamics–there are many contributing factors. But I did (and do) feel more confident than I have previously, and this has truly helped me in my career.

What was your internship during your time at Stanford GSB and how did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Looking back, I had three “hypotheses” on how to realign my career to a path I would be more passionate about. And I ended up doing internships and/or part-time work in all three to test it out. 

(1) Different Function in Bio-Pharma: I wanted to try out working in a corporate strategy / business development role in the Bio-Pharma space to compare it to my previously more commercial-oriented role. I interned at Denali Therapeutics in Corporate Development. 

(2) Bio-Pharma Start-Up: Instead of mid-to-large-size Bio-Pharma companies which I had been used to, I wanted to try a “wear-many-hats” role at an early-stage Bio-Pharma company. After meeting an incredible scientist through the Nucleate Bio Program, I ended up working part-time during the school year on his seed-stage gene-editing startup, Amber Bio. 

(3) Biotech meets Fashion?: This was the most wildcard hypothesis. I discovered halfway through my MBA the application of biotech in the fashion and beauty industries (e.g., bio-based materials and ingredients). I have always had a personal connection to fashion, so learning about the intersection of these two worlds was a big aha moment for me. I spent my Stanford-sponsored internship in a foreign country working in Strategy at Fashion for Good, an innovation platform and investor in deep-tech innovation in the fashion industry.

All three of these experiences were vital in shaping my opinion on my “ideal” post-GSB career. I learned I loved working at earlier-stage companies, I loved “wear-many-hats” roles where I could maximize exposure to all parts of a growing business, and I loved the application of biotech in fashion. 

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
It came down to values for me and why I decided to go to business school in the first place. If acting according to our values is what makes us feel more fulfilled, I knew I wanted to work somewhere which clearly shared my values. I value creating and scaling beautiful things with biology (I know, very niche), and MycoWorks shares this value. 

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
All of the cold outreach I did was tiring and sometimes cringey, but it was by far the most important thing I did throughout my two years. I listened only to myself and what I intrinsically found interesting and reached out to other people who found the same things interesting. I wouldn’t have gotten any of the opportunities I had during my time at GSB if I hadn’t taken the chance and sent those emails. 

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
I think I could have done a better job at expressing my gratitude to people once I finished the job search. So many people helped me either in the form of advice, moral support, or even other job opportunities. I spent a lot of time once I finished the job search sending notes to people who helped me, but I don’t think I even remotely covered everyone. I would have loved to be more organized about this. 

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Not really. Providing a work sample was a relatively new thing I had experienced during recruiting, which was also a part of my current employer’s recruiting process, but it wasn’t totally surprising. 

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA? 
It was destabilizing to realize that the path I was previously on was maybe not the right path for me. But being honest with myself about my values became such a clear “north-star” for me. I think my advice for people who are going to business school to potentially change paths (and not everyone wants this!) is to spend the time upfront thinking out loud about what you truly value. Talk about it with people, journal about it–at least for me, I was able to refine what I thought I knew about myself by doing all of this reflection during my first year. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.