Alumni stories

Connections and Careers in the WHU MBA Program

Alumna Sayalee Shende on never underestimating the power of the network.

With a background in finance but finding herself looking for a career change, Sayalee joined the WHU Full-Time MBA Program in 2017. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, she lived and studied in Mumbai for the first twenty years of her life. “I was working in financial reporting and at the time, I didn’t see myself doing anything else. But no matter how lucrative a career it was, I was convinced that it was not where I was headed.” Now a product manager for German start-up Metalshub and a mentor for the WHU Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge (a weeklong leadership event), we talk to Sayalee to find out more about her MBA journey and how the network supported her career path.

Changing location and careers.

Working within the financial reporting and risk management sector, Sayalee felt stifled by the industry. Looking for new experiences, she tested a career change with a short stint in the US stock market. “I thought it would make for an interesting story to go onto a trading floor with no experience whatsoever. And yes – it really was like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. But to me, the US did not seem a viable market as an immigrant and while my brother has lived there for 15 years, I could see more potential in Europe, in particular Germany.”

“It seemed a smart move to gain an MBA to help diversify my skill set and explore new industries. I was always interested in Germany as I studied the language when I was younger. Financially it made sense; the economy is strong and there are more job opportunities. In terms of selecting a school for my MBA, choosing the WHU was a no-brainer. Partly due to its position in Düsseldorf and the international network, but also because the staff was so responsive and friendly in their communication.”

The network and entrepreneurship in the MBA.

“When you study in India it is very isolated: you do not interact so much with other people. I wanted to work with lots of diverse people and experience a different environment in Europe. WHU was a safe space for me to do that. Because of the MBA, I am now much better at dissolving conflicts. I negotiate better and I am less rigid in my expectations of people. I adapt more easily and adjust – I understand now that some people are wired differently and have different work processes.”

During the MBA Program at WHU, students have the opportunity to join several student-run clubs to expand their network and engage in business-related topics. The Entrepreneurship Roundtable is one of these clubs, providing a platform for students to discuss ideas, connect to start-ups and founders, and receive expert advice. Sayalee started by running their social media and later joined as a board member. “I really did fall in love with the initiative. I met a network of people who are passionate about start-ups and now I cannot visualize myself working in a corporate environment ever again.”

“I endorse the WHU network whenever I can. Whenever I meet new students, I tell them to look at the person next to you not as competition but as a potential connection. You never know what careers these people are going to find or where it will take you in ten years. Even the people you meet in the corridor on campus, whether it is someone writing their thesis or an exchange student. The power of the people you meet during the MBA is limitless and you should harness it in every way possible.”

The start-up ecosystem at WHU.

After graduation, Sayalee found her first job through the Entrepreneurship Roundtable with HOSPITAL.digital as a product manager. “For the first time, I found what I really like doing. I have no background in tech software, I just like building digital products and that’s what they helped me realize. However, I already knew of Metalshub when I was a student and I was interested in the company, but for some reason, I never applied. A year into my role at HOSPITAL.digital, my career was not going in the direction I had hoped. I started looking for new jobs and saw Metalshub again. I reached out to the Entrepreneurship Roundtable to see if anyone knew them and I joined the company in April 2020. Now, I am leading product development and work closely with the leadership team who are very passionate about the product. I feel like I have found the right fit for my career.”

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