The Alumni Story: Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Praveen Suthrum, MBA Class of 2004 at Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, is co founder & President of NextServices, a healthcare management and technology company. His work spreads on a wide canvas from running operations to marketing to technology.

What are your most memorable moments at Ross?

The entire experience was memorable but here are a few specific ones that come to mind.

Working with Professor C.K. Prahalad outside of a classroom environment to create an experimental version of the Ross multi-disciplinary action projects (called XMAP). As students, we researched and wrote case studies that became part of the book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. The book was published by the time we graduated and is today a management bible.

Another memorable experience was MTrek where incoming MBAs join senior MBAs on a trek. We met in South Africa and went on a trek to Lesotho. My fellow trekkers became my greatest buddies throughout school. This was one of my first exposures to the University of Michigan.

What did you gain from your experience with Ross?

The classroom experience taught me structured thinking.I learnt to analyze problems by breaking it down and thinking through them in a more methodical way. It’s outside of the classroom that I had most of my learning through intense interactions with classmates and faculty (who are very good friends today). I also met my fellow co-founders, investors and advisors at Michigan and started our company NextServices. We did most of our initial work in the erstwhile student lounge. Ross shaped my thinking – it made me grasp the core of business and its role in changing the world.

Ross continues to influence my thinking several years after graduation. As an alumni, I conceived a technology convergence model for the book The New Age of Innovation authored by Professors C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan – the book was named one of best books on innovation by Economist and Business Week in 2008. Presently, I serve on the Alumni Board of Governors for Ross.

What is your advice for students aspiring to get into Ross & other top MBA institutes?

There are two things to keep in mind: to fit in and then to standout. GMAT rankings, GPAs, work experience help the school determine whether a candidate fits in and can withstand the academic rigor of Ross. Assuming those are in shape, applicants must identify how they standout and not hesitate to talk about the diversity that they represent. They must view the entire application, every interaction as a single whole that allows the school to understand them better. More importantly, applicants must be themselves and not worry about being a version that they think a school might want to see.

Indian applicants usually fit in – they have a sound academic and work background. They must work on standing out – not only from the wider application pool but also amongst themselves and other international applicants.