Anu Ramanan’s initial plan was clear. The astrophysicist and data scientist came to the HEC Paris MBA firmly intending to transition into strategy consulting. After gaining experience in that field, her long-term goal was to land a corporate strategy role.
But once she started the degree program, Anu realized that she didn’t want to miss out on exploring other potential career paths. “One of the coolest things about the MBA is the exposure it gives you to a millions of industries,” she explains. “There’s company talks and treks and seminars and career fairs and workshops and networking events.” She decided to devote 60 percent of her career search to strategy consulting, and the rest of her time to exploring other options.
In the end, she had multiple offers. But one stood out. In June 2020, she began working as a strategic projects manager at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company in their Frankfurt office. She’d landed her dream role in corporate strategy – it just came a few years earlier than she’d planned.
Anu loves travelling, and has the language skills to match, speaking six languages (English, German, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, and French). She earned her MBA at HEC Paris alongside her husband, Keshav Reddy, and two cats in an on-campus apartment. She took an active role in all aspects of MBA life, serving as VP of the Tech Club, Ambassador and Case Trainer for the Consulting Club, and Advisor to the LGBT+ and Allies Club.
What were you doing before the MBA program?
By education, I am an astrophysicist. Professionally, I have 6 years work experience in data analytics and data science across three different industries. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics, I started my career at Google as an associate analyst. I then worked as a freelance data consultant, and as a data analytics lead for a German consumer goods company.
Right before the MBA, my husband and I co-founded a non-profit e-commerce startup called ‘NGO Marketplace’. The marketplace connected European customers to products from NGOs. We conceptualised a business plan and established relationships with three NGOs to supply quality inventory to customers based in Hamburg and Berlin.
Why did you choose the HEC Paris MBA?
I wanted an MBA to formally learn business fundamentals. My husband and I wanted to study together, so we took several factors into consideration. One of the most important was the program length – MBAs at American schools are too long, and some other European schools are too short, so 16 months at HEC Paris felt just right. We also considered the alumni network, and asked some colleagues who were HEC Paris MBA alumni some pointed questions. Contacting alumni is a great way to find out what an MBA program is actually like.
What do you consider your biggest achievement?
Of course, there’s other things as well, but I consider the fact that my husband and I quit our jobs at the same time to do the MBA a massive achievement. It took a lot of courage and was a real leap of faith. We both had great MBA experiences, and we are really pleased with the jobs we have started post-MBA. Neither of us had to compromise for the other to get ahead.
What would you say was the most valuable job-search skill you gained during the MBA?
Before the MBA, I didn’t know what it meant to network, how you went about doing it, and where you went to do it. Through a series of workshops and my own trial and error, I learned how. It helped me to think about it in terms of making a friend at work that you didn’t already know. All the professional rules still apply, but you are getting to know each other, and have something to offer of value to each other.
What was your MBA highlight?
My first highlight was the Off-campus Leadership Seminar. The experience of going away with the team, and being involved in army exercises for a few days, getting to know my peers doing something completely unrelated to the MBA was such an amazing opportunity.
My second highlight was the Strategy specialization, which I took in Term 3. I learned so much, and I never imagined the MBA to entail the exercises that I was exposed to. I now regularly use the concepts that I learned during the Strategy specialization, as they are so easily applicable and helpful in various aspects of my life.
My final highlight was the MBAT, the 3-day sporting event involving 1,500 MBA students from all over Europe. I have never seen such a well-put together student event on such a huge scale! The MBA can be so demanding and high pressure, so suddenly being able to let yourself loose in a friendly sporting competition with other top business schools makes it an awesome event.
How was it having your partner at HEC Paris MBA?
It was great going through the same journey with my husband, but it did have its challenges – time management in particular. For the first 6 months of the MBA we hardly saw each other even though we lived together, because our schedules were completely different. Eventually, we figured out how to make time for each other and keep our school life and personal life separate. We made a policy that when we shut the door, we didn’t talk about the MBA, and that worked for us.
I’ve had a few people ask me about whether they should do their MBA with their partner, and I always encourage them. I truly believe it pays off in the end.
Outside of the MBA program, did you acquire any new skills while living in France?
I love pottery and baking, so I had fun learning some French pottery techniques and recipes – desserts in particular. My two absolute favorite dishes that I learned how to cook are crème brûlée and tarte tatin! Besides that, I was able to gain an intermediate level in French, even though I didn’t speak the language when I started.
To learn more about Anu, watch this interview with her at the 2020 CentreCourt MBA Festival