Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Achal Shah, Yale SOM


“A lifelong learner is excited to be at the intersection of business, technology and New Haven pizza. “

Hometown: Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: I passed the moonwalk for the first time when I was 15 years old. This sparked a passion for dance that continues to this day.

Undergraduate and major school: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati; IT and Engineering

Most recent employer and job title: Amazon, technical program manager

The Yale School of Management is viewed as a goal-oriented program. What is your mission? How will your MBA at Yale SOM help you fulfill this mission?
Quite simply, my mission is to be a leader in business and technology where the work I do is meaningful to me and useful to society. One of these issues, which is close to my heart and essential for the betterment of society, is access to health care. In the long term, I want to build a tech company that can partner with governments, hospitals and patients to expand access to affordable healthcare. With its mission to train leaders for business and society, SOM has the perfect combination of culture, community, and resources to help me become the type of leader I want to be.

Which word best describes the Yale SOM MBA students and alumni you have met so far and why?
Humility. All of the students and alumni I have interacted with so far are passionate about what they do and come to or have successful careers. At the same time, everyone is genuinely interested in knowing, supporting and celebrating each other.

Apart from your classmates, What was the key element of the Yale SOM MBA program that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was drawn to SOM’s emphasis on communicating from a variety of perspectives. More formally, this comes in the form of an integrated core curriculum in first year that teaches business organizations from the perspective of their stakeholders (e.g. client, investor) versus traditional business disciplines (e.g., finance, marketing). More generally, this variety of perspectives comes from interactions with a global and diverse peer group. As someone who has mainly worked in engineering roles, getting this exposure is very important to me.

What class, club or activity are you most passionate about at Yale SOM? Voice. It’s a weekly tradition at SOM where two or three speakers (students and sometimes faculty and staff) share their personal stories in an intimate gathering. We have only had a few such events so far, but each time I have felt a strong connection with the speaker, and I look forward to getting to know other members of the community as well. SOM.

Describe your greatest achievement in your career so far: Extend Alexa’s “self-learning” conversational AI technology to 14 international markets in 8 languages.

For context, before SOM, I was on the Alexa AI team in Seattle as a technical program manager. The team had developed technology that allowed Alexa to automatically learn from its own mistakes and, as a result, better handle user requests. When I joined the team, the technology was only operational in the United States and I was responsible for the product / project management to expand it internationally. Over the next year, I worked with engineering, scientific, and business partners across the globe to successfully launch the technology in our target markets and languages. It was a great accomplishment for me as it was a huge cross-functional project and very rewarding as I got to learn from so many different perspectives.

How has COVID-19 changed your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 has been difficult. Yes, it is a reminder of the uncertainty of life, but for me it is also a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of communities. Professionally, I am encouraged to be harder and take more risks in pursuit of my goals. Personally, I have been able to reconnect with many people I had lost contact with, and I am now more aware of making the effort to reach out regularly.

What drew you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after you graduate?
Right now my goal is to become a leader and learn how to run a business. While my experience at Amazon was incredibly rewarding and I learned a lot, I felt that earning an MBA was the best way for me to work in three key areas: understanding the (many) aspects of management of a company that I had not been exposed to, formally train my leadership and soft skills, and develop a wider network beyond the tech industry. As for post-graduation plans, I continue to discuss coffee and explore SOM’s career coaching resources to determine how I can best prepare myself to build a long-term tech business.

What other MBA programs have you applied to? Stanford, MIT, Wharton, Booth, Colombia

What advice would you give to help potential candidates gain admission to the Yale SOM MBA program? Talk to SOM students and alumni. I spoke to many people before and during my application process and also had the chance to attend an event in person before the COVID-19 lockdown. They were all very responsive and helped connect my story to resources and facets of SOM beyond what I had found online. By the time I was submitting my essays, I knew that SOM was a perfect fit for me, and maybe that interest showed itself.


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