Parnali Sen- McCombs School of Business- UTexas
Name: Parnali Sen
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Education: (undergrad): University of Texas at Austin
Current MBA program:
University of Texas, Red McCombs School of Business
Parnali was raised in Houston, Texas and attended The University of Texas at Austin for her undergraduate studies. During her time at Texas, Parnali was on the university’s national Bollywood dance team, Texas Mohini with whom she was constantly travelling around the nation and winning a number of dance accolades. During her Junior Year at UT, Parnali was selected to participate in Cornell University’s Pre-Law Program in New York City, where she spent a summer taking classes and interning with esteemed lawyers in Manhattan. Upon graduating with a degree in Corporate Communications, Parnali decided to pursue her passion in advertising and move to Washington D.C. to work on the McDonald’s account. After a few years of devising McDonald’s TV commercials and in-store campaigns, Parnali wanted to get involved in the digital advertising space and was soon deemed the Account Manager for Hewlett-Packard. After managing HP’s digital work (online videos and TV commercials) for two years, she realized it was time to obtain her MBA and pivot her career into the strategic marketing space. After she was granted admission into her dream school, UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business Parnali set off to Austin for two years to see what was next!
Describe a typical day as a MBA student:
I’d say the typical day as an MBA student definitely varies (and gets easier) as you work your way into second year from first year. I’ve broken it down between the four semesters of school:
Y1 – Semester 1: McCombs curriculum is such that everyone has a pretty rigorous first semester as the entire class is registered for “the core” which includes classes such as finance, statistics, marketing and career management. Classes are held from 8:00 AM to noon, after which most of the afternoon is spent on campus working with your various groups on group projects or prepping for exams. This first semester is certainly the largest amount of work as there is quite a large learning curve (for those who do not have a background in finance or statistics).
Y1 – Semester 2: The second semester becomes a lot more flexible, as you are able to choose two to three different classes based on your own post MBA interests (entrepreneurial trajectory vs. marketing vs. finance vs. consulting, etc.) While there are still a few “core” classes that everyone takes, because they are balanced out with your own electives, it is not too bad from a work standpoint. Instead of being done at noon, your elected classes may be later in the afternoon so the time you are on campus certainly varies a lot more second semester of first year. The group project work also becomes less as you are no longer submitting homework assignments with your group every week (overall, much less time spent on campus) and quite a bit of your down time spent on recruiting for your summer internship.
Y2 – Semester 1: Second year in general is significantly better than first year as your schedule is 100% dependent on your selected classes. I chose several marketing classes as I not only wanted to really delve into marketing, but also wanted to spend quite a bit of time networking for full time jobs. Further, I selected classes where there weren’t many group assignments so that I could work on my own time and on my own schedule (group assignments take a lot more time and coordinating schedules is often quite difficult). Second year is certainly enjoyed by many as they are focusing on their concentration and not taking 8 AM classes (mine were more in the afternoon hours so I could really spend the morning working out and finishing assignments).
Y2 – Semester 2: Though I haven’t yet experienced second semester, I am very excited about my semester as I will only be enrolled in three courses that I have high interest in (digital marketing and economics courses), because the final two are being taken care of at different points of next semester (South Africa in March and Washington Campus in January). Given the many outside opportunities we have our second year (many of my friends are also going to LSE or other study abroad programs), our time is spent really enjoying our final semester and selecting a final job.
Where did you work before enrolling in business school?
Before enrolling in business school I worked in advertising for about four years. I had begun at an agency in Houston working on the Shell Oil account, transitioned out to Washington D.C. to work on the McDonald’s account and finally ended up back in Houston on the Hewlett Packard account as a digital account manage.
Why did you choose this business school?
McCombs was the obvious choice for me given its location (Austin, Texas) and its culture. Out of the top twenty business schools McCombs was unparalleled when it came to the collaborative and welcoming culture I wanted. Every alumni I had met from McCombs was so outgoing, responsive, supportive, and above all – loved McCombs (there wasn’t a single person that didn’t say “it was the best two years of my life”). The students, faculty, and admissions committee all carried this very charismatic nature that I hadn’t come across at any other top twenty school. The very competitive nature of the remaining nineteen schools was certainly a turnoff for me. Secondly, the location of the school was very enticing. Austin is such a vibrant city, full of an entrepreneurial spirit and several fortune 500 companies – Google, Facebook, Apple, Dropbox. I knew that between the opportunities Austin had to offer, and the surrounding cities (Dallas and Houston), the location would prove very fruitful for an MBA experience.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?
I would really advise talking to at least three or four people at McCombs (and attending an information session + live class) before applying or deciding to go. McCombs fosters an incredibly friendly, collaborative and supportive culture that is unlike most top institutions. While the academic rigor is there at McCombs, the competitive and aggressive nature of most top institutions is not. McCombs is right for a very particular type of person – if you do not instantly connect with the students you meet (or alumni, faculty, etc.) I would reconsider. Your time at McCombs can be absolutely incredible if you are one who embraces the collaborative culture and thrives off an entrepreneurial, vibrant city like Austin.
What is/was the most enjoyable part about business school?
The most enjoyable part about business school was meeting the diverse groups of people who have become close friends. Whether they are from India, China, South Africa or America, every individual I met came from such an admirable background and has so much to offer. The veteran who served in Iraq, the actress from New York, the entrepreneur from Mexico City have all become my close friends and have changed my perspective on life entirely. Hearing my classmates’ upbringings, learning their future goals and witnessing their drive have been the most incredible and inspirational parts of business school.
What is/was the hardest part of business school?
The hardest part of business school was the first semester because of the number of unfamiliar subjects in which I was in – statistics, finance and operations to name a few. Not only are you in these classes (many of which your classmates are experienced in), but you are also expected to perform up to par with those who have a strong background and are in your study groups. Those of us who lacked a background in these quantitative classes had to work twice as hard to get up to speed on the subjects on our own time so that we could equally contribute alongside our study team members for weekly group assignments that we had to turn in.
Where will you be working after graduation?
Though I am unsure of where I will be working after graduation for now, I worked at Hewlett Packard over the summer in a marketing role related to virtual reality.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career or at your school?
In my professional career I am most proud of how I approach job interviews now that I have attended business school and really understand how to attack various business problems. McCombs has taught me how to think about things from multiple angles which in turn leads me to now assess problems from a very comprehensive viewpoint. Now that I am confident in my abilities to tackle business problems, I often follow-up with my interviewers and send them 3-5 slide presentations with additional thoughts (as interviews are timed) that certainly gives me an advantage alongside other candidates.
Favorite MBA Courses?
- Strategic Branding
- Managing and Marketing in a Global Economy
- Strategies for a Networked Economy
Fun fact about yourself:
I’m an avid Bollywood dancer and a certified Bollywood Fitness Instructor!