Student Q&A: MBA@Syracuse Residency in India

In January 2016, the MBA@Syracuse residency took place in Delhi and Mumbai, India. We caught up with Jennifer Noone, a second-year student in the Syracuse MBA program, to get an inside perspective of the residency experience.

What was your most memorable experience in India?

My most memorable experience in India was visiting the Dharavi Slum. Deepa Krishnan was one of our last presenters at the residency. She runs Magic Tours of India, which takes you to see the Dharavi Slum firsthand. She helped a few of my classmates and me prepare for the tour. One of our young tour guides commutes two hours to and from Mumbai from his village every day. He is determined to succeed and change his life. He is a hard worker and one of the lucky ones to have gotten out of the slums.

Visiting the slums of Dharavi was one of the most amazing moments and one of the saddest moments of my life. The community is hard working, and they earn profits each year by making and selling pottery, aluminum, and leather. They all help one another and have grown to be a happy community even though they have so little. They don’t beg or ask for money and are instead humble, hardworking, and determined. They are young entrepreneurs who are trying to make money by working hard every day in hopes of one day leaving the slums and supporting their families. They were born into unfortunate conditions and extreme poverty. The movie Slum Dog Millionaire gives this amazing community a bad name and is far from the truth. Coming to India has changed me forever, and I am thankful for this amazing experience that I will never forget. I will always be grateful.

What companies/speakers did you hear from, and what did you learn from them?

In India we had two speakers from the U.S. Embassy. They were very informative and shared some very interesting facts with us. The population of India is 1.27 billion people, which is one-sixth of the world’s population. Three hundred million people living in India, about the entire population of the United States, are without electricity. Six hundred million people living in India don’t have working facilities to shower or a running toilet, so they go outside. Only three percent of the entire population in India pays taxes. Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. India has grown so much over the last several years, but based on these facts there is still work to be done on the infrastructure of the country. Many steps have already been taken to turn India around. In Delhi they adopted an odd/even license place rule: On odd days only people with odd number license plates can drive and vice versa. This is to try to clear out some of the thick smog that is lingering over Delhi.

We also heard from a very talented panel of women in business. The speakers included Meena Bhatia, VP of marketing and operations, Le Meridien, New Delhi; Subha Rahan; Sheema Vohra (tourism); Geeti Bhgagat (NGO); Ritu Verma (HR); and Rinku Madam (journalism). All of these women had great attitudes. They were all very positive about the empowerment and progress of women, and they came from very supportive families that treated them as equals to men. This is not always the case for Indian women, so the panelists stressed how their fathers, husbands, brothers, and all other male figures in their lives helped shape them into who they are today. They told them that they could be anything they wanted to be as long as they put 100 percent into it and that they were just as capable as any man and to remember to never give up. This was very inspiring to hear as every single woman on the panel was very successful. Our moderator Subha spoke about how she and her family moved to India after surviving the Lebanon War. Her husband, who at the time was a banker, was injured, leaving him unable to work. She became the breadwinner in the family. They lost everything and had to rebuild their empire from the bottom. She now travels the world and has met with several world leaders including President Barack Obama and the Clintons. She is an inspiration to all and has shown us that if you really want something, go out and get it—don’t give up!

Outside of the itinerary, did you do anything fun with your classmates or have any fun bonding experiences?

My classmates and I went shopping at several of the local markets to get a taste of both Delhi and Mumbai. We would walk around every night and hit the local restaurants to experience the true culture of India. I think it is very important to take everything in when traveling, and the only way to do that is by exploring the cities on your own. The food in Delhi and Mumbai is very different, so it was great to be able to experience the different kinds of food each place had to offer. The food in Delhi was spicier than the food in Mumbai. We went into McDonald’s in India, where they serve a McSpicy Paneer. It is a balanced blend of freshly caramelized bread, tender and soft crispy-coated paneer (which has spicy and dairy notes), fresh crisp lettuce, and creamy tandoori mayonnaise taste. This is served instead of a Big Mac as most people are vegetarian in India, and McDonald’s has conformed to fit with the culture. It is a very popular item, and one of my classmates, Nick, was a huge fan and had to have one. I also was lucky enough to get henna drawn on my hand by one of the local artists in Agra outside of the Taj Mahal. My henna was amazing, and many locals gave me compliments on how beautiful it looked.

My classmates and I had the pleasure of visiting the Taj Mahal, which is one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” It lives up to its name as it is one of the most beautiful tombs I have ever visited in my life. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I am thankful for the experience to have seen it in person. It is a wonderful tribute to the love and bond between two people, and it has grown to be one of the most amazing places to visit in the world. We also had a wonderful tour guide who took us around for the whole trip. Her name was Priyanka, and she was very sweet and told us the history behind each of the cities we visited in India. India was her home country, so she was very proud and happy that we had come all the way from the United States to see it. I enjoyed having her take us around and learning about the amazing culture that India has to offer us.

How does the India residency compare to other residencies you’ve attended?

I attended the Seoul, Korea residency in July. In Seoul we went to visit companies while all of the speakers came to us in Delhi and Mumbai. The premise behind that was that they wanted to make it more conference like for the India residency. While I had a great experience during both residencies because I learned so much from the wonderful speakers, I liked visiting the different companies in Korea. I believe the only way to really experience new places and learn their culture and day-to-day life is to see it live. I learn best from seeing things firsthand, so the tours of Hyundai, Samsung, Amore Pacific, and many more companies in Seoul really gave me a feel for their day-to-day business operations in those facilities. In India we were presented with several PowerPoints and live speakers, which I learned so much from, but I would have loved to have seen them in action by visiting their company headquarters in person.

What advice would you give to a student considering the international residencies with MBA@Syracuse?

The international residencies that the MBA@Syracuse program offers are one of my favorite parts of the program. Not only do you get to visit awesome places that you probably wouldn’t go to on your own, but you also get to experience new cultures. Embracing new cultures and learning their way of life is very interesting and exciting. Trying new foods and exploring the history behind each of these cities were such amazing experiences for me. I also bonded with a lot of new classmates that I did not know well prior to the trip. I have made some great friends during the residencies, and I had many memorable times.

Special thank you to Jenny Henderson and Professor Raj for organizing such an amazing trip to India. I have had the pleasure of going on two international residencies with Jenny and I have had the best time on both. She is such a wonderful leader and has made both residencies super fun. Thank you for all of your hard work planning these wonderful residencies Jenny they have been some of the best experiences of my life!

About Jennifer

Jennifer Noone is a second-year student in the Syracuse MBA program. She resides in Long Branch, New Jersey, and is in her eighth year at Morgan Stanley as a senior client service associate for The Noone Group. She handles all administrative and operational requests and plays a critical role in assisting clients on a day-to-day basis with banking, credit, and personal needs. In addition, she works on marketing The Noone Group by delivering several events throughout the year for current and prospective clients. The Noone Group is a multi-generational family wealth management practice within Morgan Stanley. The team realizes the diverse challenges that its clients face and leverages distinct and complementary capabilities, perspectives, and experiences to provide tailored solutions. Clients represent a cross-section of backgrounds, professions, and life stages, although the primary focus is on multi-generational wealth planning for a select group of families, individuals, and business owners. A major focus is placed on understanding all clients on a personal level so that they can become essential partners in their client’s lives.

Noone graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in 2007. She has been a huge Syracuse fan since her undergraduate experience. When deciding to pursue an MBA, she immediately set her sights on Syracuse. Noone says, “The Whitman School has always been well known, and their new online MBA gave me the opportunity to get a great education while being flexible with class times since it is all delivered online. I am now in my second year of the program, and I couldn’t be happier.” She has taken part in two international residencies while in the program—in Seoul, Korea, and in Delhi and Mumbai, India.