Before he embarked on an MBA at France’s HEC Paris, Gautham Nallavari was happy residing in a land of familiarity.
He was a consultant at Tata Consultancy Services, working between India and the US, before becoming a project manager for the firm in Boston—the reason for this move, he says, is that his brother and friends lived nearby.
“Comfort zone was my main thing,” Gautham admits, “but that comfort zone didn’t exist for me once I was at HEC Paris. My MBA experience taught me to travel and to understand the world better, like my classmates.”
Indeed, the experiences Gautham had during his MBA added to a love of history that had been ignited by the stories his father used to tell him in his native India. This prompted a desire to travel after graduation.
Gautham spent the six months after the HEC Paris MBA travelling the Silk Road from Greece, into Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kurdistan, and China, before finishing in Hong Kong—he was even presumed to be a spy and arrested in Turkmenistan!
He used his experiences to transform his consulting career after his journey—he speaks fluent Turkish, and now works as a consultant for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Istanbul.
“If you had asked me before my MBA, I would have had no idea how to do that,” he says.
The adventurous, daring spirit enacted by Gautham may have been brewing for a while, but it was truly released when he was immersed in the global MBA classroom at HEC Paris.
The HEC Paris MBA intake is 92% international, giving students the opportunity to develop their understanding of myriad personalities, industries and cultures. For Gautham, that was the catalyst he needed to pursue his life-long dream.
“I didn’t have to go to Uruguay to understand Latin America, and I didn’t have to go to Japan to understand the cultural differences,” he says, “I learned them all here [at HEC Paris]."
For Gautham, the history of the Silk Road is not too unlike the experience of an MBA. “It was a highway of information exchange,” he explains.
“The HEC Paris MBA taught me how people think, and what the economic and cultural differences are that affect people’s lives. It gave me a lot of tools to assess how countries operate; how businesses operate.”
Alongside the core MBA curriculum, MBA students at HEC Paris study problem solving and communication—developing the soft skills applicable to everyday scenarios—as well as ethics and sustainability, providing deep insights into how to develop business strategies with a conscience.
It was this vast development of people skills and worldly understanding that encouraged Gautham to explore the Silk Route. He caught the MBA bug and wanted to gain a true understanding of the people and perspectives that make up the world we live in.
He stayed with MBA friends and friends of friends throughout his journey, which led to an authentic experience in each country. In fact, he wrote a book about his travels. Entitled Seyyah, a Turkish word meaning ‘a traveler who travels to seek knowledge’, it recounts the conversations he had with individuals along the way.
“I have the confidence to travel the world,” he now admits, “and I now understand that every part of the world is not too different from where you come from. I can only argue that after the MBA.”