From a MBA to Amazon: Hari's journey in Supply Chain Management

Life is much like a supply chain. Both are about taking raw materials and managing their evolution into a finished product. Both also need adjustments along the way to reach their goal. For Supply Chain Management student Hari Padmanabhan, he recognized that to reach his goals in life, he had to make some adjustments of his own.

Despite knowing very little about Supply Chain Management (SCM) after finishing his undergraduate degree, Hari began to learn more about the industry during the first four years of his career. The knowledge he gained was enough to convince him to start looking for an MBA that incorporated SCM into its curriculum.

“As I started my work experience after my undergrad, I always had a thought of doing my MBA [at] some school which can offer me a good blend of Supply Chain and Analytics,” he explains. “To be honest, I really did not know what Supply Chain Management really meant after finishing my undergrad, and through my first four years of work experience, I wanted to learn more about what the field is.” (01:18)

With its mixture of Business Analytics and SCM, the MBA program at Whitman School of Management turned out to be the perfect program for Hari. He was moving to the next stage of his supply chain – from his hometown of Hyderabad, India to Syracuse, USA.

“They (Whitman School of Management) have a specialization which caters specifically for Supply Chain Management and Operations Management in general. It blends well with the Business Analytics courses they have,” he adds. (02:17)

Managing the transition to a new country

Life will always present new challenges – it’s how you overcome them that matters. In Hari’s case, his move to the United States represented an opportunity as well as challenges, a totally different culture and way of life among them. Despite this, he saw the move as a chance to grow and mature as a person.

“It’s like transitioning to another world! You don’t know anything. You’re just coming to a foreign land, barely knowing anyone, maybe the language is a barrier too. But there are a lot of things you’re surprised at when you arrive here,” he says. (09:54)

“Your life is new, and that’s part of the challenge,” he continues. “It gives you an opportunity to mature as a person when you go to a foreign land…as you go through the process, there are a lot of people – including the university’s international help center – that can help you figure out everything from housing to things to do outside of campus.” (10:21)

Whitman’s extensive alumni network meant that help was never far away for Hari. He sought all the advice he could get to ease the transition into a new country, allowing him to make the most out of his experience.

“You can also leverage a lot of alumni who have obviously been here for a while and gone through similar experiences,” he suggests. “Take some input from them, and reach out to any contact you feel can help you out inside or outside of college.” (11:00)

The value of a two-year MBA

MBA programs in the United States tend to be two years. The standard length found in other parts of the world is one year. Although this can mean a bigger financial burden for students, Hari highlights the additional internship opportunities in a two-year program. They can help you apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations and vice versa.

Hari says, “The two-year program was intentionally chosen because there is an opportunity to do a full-time internship between the first year and second year. It helped me leverage the learnings from the first year of B-school.” (03:39)

“It definitely adds value to both your b-school experience and your post-MBA job applications, when you have to showcase what you learned during the internship.” (04:26)

For Hari, the opportunity to secure an internship after his first year was particularly valuable. He managed to land one at “the world’s best supply chain operations company.” (06:10) Amazon was calling.

How Hari’s MBA landed him the job of his dreams

An internship allows you to apply the knowledge gained in your MBA to real-life situations, but it also has the potential to be converted into a full-time position after graduation. Hari’s internship at Amazon soon became a career at Amazon – something he admits would have been the stuff of dreams before his MBA.

“I would have only dreamed of being part of such a large organization before joining the b-school. I’m always thankful to the professors during my first year, who helped me ease into the field and ease into the management degree,” he says. (07:09)

A path that has taken Hari from Hyderabad to Amazon, via Syracuse University, was never going to be straightforward. But by making changes when required, listening to advice from others, and taking opportunities when they presented themselves, Hari has kept moving through his own journey – even if he’s not quite the finished product at the end of the supply chain just yet.

“What you realize is that it will not be an easy path, but if you’re willing to put in the effort and if you’re willing to take the time…you will definitely reap the rewards,” he reflects. “Your b-school experience is something you definitely won’t regret.” (13:50)

Hari has since moved on to another dream job at Target, where he is working as the Lead S&OP Analyst – Digital.