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Georgetown University MBA Alumnus Deepak Sahay Shares His Wisdom

Posted on Dec 21, 2018
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Hope is Not a Strategy: Advice for International Students Seeking Work in the United States

Deepak Sahay is Vice President and Principal Product Manager for Core Banking Applications and Liquidity Management at Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon). A native of New Delhi, India and graduate of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Sahay shares his advice for international students interested in pursuing an MBA.

When I was first considering an MBA, I had been working as a small-time entrepreneur in apparel manufacturing for six to seven years and was looking to make a switch. I was determined that I wanted to work in corporate finance for a global company. Math is my strength and finance seemed to be a natural focus for me. Another primary goal of mine was to work in the US. Earning an MBA in the US was the best way to make sure I would be a competitive candidate for such a career. For those of you considering an MBA with the goal of working in the US, below are some thoughts on navigating an MBA and obtaining a post-MBA career based on my experience. As Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Dean Paul Almeida taught us, “Hope is not a strategy.”

Position Yourself for In-Demand Careers

When I entered Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Program, the U.S. economy was doing very well, everything was humming along. By the time I graduated in 2008, there was a significant economic crisis – we were on the precipice of a historic financial collapse and the U.S. economy entered its worst-ever recession. It was clear to me one year into my MBA that I would have trouble getting sponsorship as an international student in corporate finance. Working in the US, though, was still of significant importance to me.

Capital market business was at a standstill. Cash management was a thriving business even after the crisis, and banks would be more willing to sponsor my work visa if I was willing to be flexible about my career goals. Banks have cash management products and services tailored to companies to manage their operational cash, to facilitate any transactions to their suppliers and vendors, to receive payments from consumers or other businesses, as well as to manage huge deposited cash, including short-term investments in money markets to support working capital.

I was fortunate to get into the Management Associate program at Citibank and get the ball rolling in my new field – product management in financial services, a new role back then that was an intersection of finance, business and technology. Today I manage BNY Mellon products through the entire product lifecycle, from inception and design to execution. If working in the US or another country is among your top professional goals, make sure you are pursuing in-demand roles and gaining the marketable skills needed.

Take the Advice of Career Coaches, Mentors, and Network!

Key to securing that initial job in the US was utilizing all of the opportunities available to me via the Georgetown MBA Career Center and faculty members who were so willing to mentor us. As an international student, I definitely needed more help than most. The coaching provided was essential for me to develop a narrative that would help me tell my story to prospective employers. As I was switching careers, it was important that I be able to communicate effectively why I was interested in banking and to make connections in the field that could help me navigate applying for a summer internship and the whole recruitment process.

Not even a month into the MBA program, I began to feel the competitive pressures for securing an internship. There are so many events and people to meet, you can get really lost without a mentor. Georgetown MBA Career Center was able to help me make connections with McDonough MBA alumni in my field of interest, as well as with representatives from target companies I was exploring. You have to cast your net wide because as an international student you do not have an existing network in the US.

Take the advice of career center coaches and the connections they help you make. You go the extra mile while balancing your academic objectives if you want to secure an internship. The people who guided me were particularly helpful in helping me identify opportunities in the much-depressed economy. This mentoring is why today I would recommend the Georgetown MBA to anyone who might have similar goals.

Get Involved in Student Organizations

I had some personal hurdles to overcome as well. I was very shy at first and had difficulty with conversation, in part because I did not understand well American culture, what people were talking about, and many references in the news and industry publications. Joining student organizations, such as the Finance Club, Graduate Marketing Association, Georgetown Consulting Club, among others, really helped me to get more comfortable socially and professionally, but also helped expand my networking opportunities and knowledge of global business.

These clubs would schedule treks to Boston and New York enabling us to meet McDonough MBA alumni working in our fields of interest. It is very important to get off campus to meet people in your field, to put a face to your resume. Again, networking is so important; I cannot tell you enough. The competition can be very intense. As a student, you should take all of these opportunities seriously, to maximize the resources to your advantage.

Know Why You Want an MBA and Come Prepared

Pursuing an MBA is a fantastic thing. The ability to understand why you want an MBA is a very important part of that journey. It sounds so fancy to have an MBA from Georgetown University, but putting the fanciful aside, you have to understand the ground realities of what you are trying to get into. An MBA is a big investment of money and time, and if you are not prepared – such as for the quantitative rigor – it can feel overwhelming. 

Knowing early on what you want to get out of an MBA helps you not only be a competitive MBA applicant and but it can pave the way for that two-year immersion in an MBA program. If you come into an MBA program prepared, knowing where you want to go, you will better be able to manage most of the challenges you encounter because you have a clear focus on your goals.