It was a little over two and a half years ago that I got the call from Dawna Clarke. “Congratulations, Aditya! You’ve been accepted to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.” I packed my bags and set off to Hanover, New Hampshire with exactly zero MBA’s in my professional network (I worked in my family’s tea manufacturing business) and only a rudimentary understanding of what the journey would be like. Having received the coveted “piece of paper” just three days prior to beginning this post, in a spectacular, albeit rainy, ceremony, I feel compelled to re-live it one last time.
The First Year
It all started on a boat. One of my first (and most enduring) memories of Tuck is trying to sleep on a bed of oars inside a small sailboat off the coast of Maine along with nine other Tuckies and thinking, “Will I be able to do this?” Outward Bound was the quintessential pre-MBA, team building exercise and set the tone for my first year at Tuck. It taught me to embrace opportunities with two arms and a leg. The fall term was a blur of new experiences and I was ready; decision modeling, networking with recruiters, launching my venture, learning how terrible I am at ice hockey, and drinking Fireball at Murphy’s. I felt like I was being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. I recruited heavily for consulting as well as marketing. Coming from a family-owned business, this was incredible learning on how the corporate world worked. At the same time, I had linked up with three other Tuckies to launch “Roots,”a platform for Tuck students to share our love for tea. We automated the process of making masala chai (a source of amusement as well as appreciation) and sold it at the local coffee shop—it was great fun! With outstanding courses like GEM (General Economics for Managers) and the boiler-room pressure of recruiting to keep us busy, the winter term whizzed by. Spring 2015 had in store for me two main experiences; a Global Insight Expedition (GIX) to Georgia and Armenia with 20 other Tuckies, and my First-Year Project with ConAgra Foods. These experiential endeavors represent some of my fondest memories and resulted in some of the greatest friends I made at Tuck.
My recruiting efforts resulted in a summer internship at General Mills Inc., the packaged food giant based in Minneapolis. That’s right, I was going from Mumbai to Minnesota. Talk about change! But more importantly, my love affair with all things food had actually become a source of $$’s! Summer 2015 was one of the most enjoyable and professionally satisfying experiences I’d had. I worked on two main projects. The first one involved sizing and finding opportunities to formulate snacks for the quickly burgeoning Paleo and vegan markets in the US. The second one involved leading an actual product launch of a new line of energy bars—everything from ingredient sourcing to pricing and distribution. The icing on the cake was getting a full time offer to join them post-Tuck. To celebrate, I took a trip to the Salkantay Mountains in Peru for an exhilarating five-day hike and came back to Tuck refreshed and ready for second year.
The Second Year
If the first year was like a rock concert, the second year was like a Bach symphony—calming, reflective, and exceedingly enjoyable. With recruiting out of the way, I could take on projects, form relationships, and learn things that will hopefully live on well beyond Tuck. The first such opportunity arose at the end of fall when I was recruited to be part of the On-site Global Consulting (OGC) team for the American dairy giant Land O’ Lakes in Kenya. With 5 other amazing Tuckies (“Habari,” friends!), I spent two weeks in Kenya and we developed a market entry strategy for the company into Kenya’s dairy feed industry. It was a one-of-a-kind experience. The second such opportunity was the honor and privilege of co-leading the India Fun Trek along with my buddy, Rajeev, in spring 2016. We took 32 Tuckies across six cities in India and everything about it, from the planning (which started half a year in advance) to the last beer we all had together in Mumbai, was one big party. Apart from these two projects, I spent most of my second year learning how to ski (I’m proud to report that I can now ski blues), enjoying my elective classes (Negotiations with Prof. Feiler, best class ever!) and hiking the unrivaled New Hampshire wilderness.
The most valuable quality I have developed in the last two years is the ability to embrace my greatest strengths proudly and acknowledge my greatest weaknesses humbly. Tuck naturally does a good job of selecting grounded individuals (for the most part), but it is equally important to be able to own what you are good at. The first few months was an exercise in “imposter syndrome.” Rubbing shoulders with the kind of people I can now proudly call my friends (marines, literal rock stars, entrepreneurs and yes, consultants extraordinaire) was overwhelming, especially since I was the “baby” of the class from an age and work experience perspective. Living and working among them, being critiqued and appreciated by them, helped me get a clear, objective understanding of my skills and deficiencies. For example, I learned that I naturally excel at creating new opportunities and establishing networks. On the flip side, I also discovered that I have a lot to learn as far as managing/growing the day-to-day. This kind of learning, the learning about oneself, requires equal parts interaction and introspection. Tuck’s location in the woods of New Hampshire, provided me a great natural environment for this sort of internal growth.
With just a week left before I start my full time role in General Mills, Inc. as an Associate Marketing Manager, I am equal parts excited and nostalgic. As full and enriching as I felt my Tuck experience was, there were innumerable more skills I could have learned, resources I could have leveraged, and things I could have done in those 609 days at my disposal. However, I can take heart in the fact that I am now part of network of people that, long after the last slope has been skied and the last lecture attended, will inspire me to be the best version of myself I can be. Here’s to the outstanding faculty, peers, administrators and of course, the unmatchable pancakes at Four Aces, which made my last two years in Hanover, New Hampshire, truly special.
Aditya “Adi” Shah is a newly-minted Tuck MBA from Mumbai, India. Prior to Tuck, he worked in his family’s tea manufacturing and exports business in India and Russia. He is deeply passionate about all things food, and post-Tuck will join General Mills Inc. as an Associate Marketing Manager.