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A global citizen's journey in leadership and innovation at MIT

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An MIT SFMBA Roundtable Discussion: Do entrepreneurs need mentors?

MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program

From Colonel to MBA: One veteran's journey of transformation in the MIT SFMBA

Inderpreet (IP) Singh, SFMBA '23, joined the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA after more than two decades in the Indian Army, retiring as a colonel in 2022. With extensive experience in strategy formulation, operations, organization design, global supply chains, and project management, IP has led active combat missions and is a decorated war veteran. He also assumed a critical role in advising India's top security echelon and played a key part in expanding the Indian military’s global footprint.  

After a distinguished career in the Indian Army, you’re transitioning out of the military. Why this giant leap? 

Inderpreet (IP) Singh, SFMBA '23

I served in the Indian Army for more than 20 years and had an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding career, but I reached a point where I wanted to explore new avenues. Reflecting on my life during the pandemic, I realized that I wanted to broaden my skills, take on fresh challenges, and make a positive impact on the world in new ways. I come from a culture that values hard work but is risk averse. I wanted to be a role model for those who might be considering a career change later in life. 

I believe that military veterans like me have a wealth of skills and experience to offer the business world, but we need a program like the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA to truly learn how to apply those skills to civilian careers. For me, investing in this program was a crucial step towards preparing for the next chapter of my life. I didn't view it as an expense, but as a pivotal investment in my future. Ultimately, I hope to inspire other veterans to pursue their dreams and make the most of the unique skills and experiences they've gained throughout their careers. 

Why did you choose the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA in the first place?  

After carefully considering my options and seeking input from colleagues, I decided to pursue an MBA as a means of enhancing and adapting my current skill set. I was drawn to the MIT SFMBA for its particular blend of business, industry, and technology. When I chatted with alumni, I was impressed by the positive and transformative impact the program had had on their careers. Also, I’d previously participated in a program at the National War College in Washington and developed a fondness for the East Coast. My wife and daughter shared the sentiment, so choosing a program here was a family decision. 

One of the most distinguishing features of this program is the diversity. What was it like to learn in an immersive environment with that level of diversity?  

A professor of mine once said, “If everyone in a room is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” The program’s commitment to diversity sets it apart from other business programs. The Class of 2023 includes over 110 Fellows from 31 different countries—a truly extraordinary environment for learning. Although initially it can be daunting to connect with so many people from diverse cultures, geographies, genders, ages, and industries, those differences quickly become gateways to amazing friendships. The Fellows in my cohort grew into an extended family. 

The diversity actually proved to be a significant learning tool. I was struck by the level of curiosity and sharing that took place in every classroom. Hearing my classmates' experiences was so instructive. I often found myself thinking, ‘Oh, wow, such-and-such can be done this way instead.’ The diversity of viewpoints provided a wealth of perspectives, leading to new insights and a broader understanding of many complex problems. In any group discussion, we might all arrive at the same solution but offer entirely different approaches. 

The MIT SFMBA is a transformative experience that challenges students to innovate, collaborate, and think critically. Learning happens both in and out of the classroom, during meals, team projects, and social events. The diversity of the cohort is a vital component of that experience. We graduate fully prepared for the global business world. 

During the program, some Fellows discover capabilities they never knew they had. Was that your experience? 

Definitely. Finance, for example, was a new and invigorating discovery. I used to run away from numbers, but I came to realize that if you can understand finance, you can understand the pulse of an industry. In fact, finance is key to any business strategy. I decided to dive in, leave my apprehensions behind, and make it a part of my comfort zone.  

The other revelation was entrepreneurship. In my Mobility Ventures class, we had to develop an idea into a viable startup. I’ll never forget how excited I was when my team’s concept turned out to be the best in the class. I’d never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I took to it immediately. That’s what can happen in this program: you find you have natural abilities that surprise you. I went into the program without any formal training in finance, accounting, system dynamics, entrepreneurship, AI, or data analytics, however many of the skills required to excel in these areas I had developed as part of my military duties. I’ve actually gained greater self-assurance and a deeper appreciation for the true value of my own experience. 

What is your feeling about the immersive one-year experience?  

The attention I wanted from professors, the connections I wanted to make within the MIT community, and everything I wanted to give and get back, could have only come from an immersive, full-time experience. One year gives you the space and time to make lifelong friends and really invest in your own development as a person and as a professional. It also gives your family time to get acclimated, make friends, and feel at home.  

And have your wife and daughter settled in? 

Yes, they love it. My daughter is playing basketball at this very moment. My wife, who owned her own Pilates and yoga studio in India, is offering classes to the Fellows and their spouses as a way for them to de-stress. This is my family’s adventure as much as it is mine. And, like me, they’re making the most of every moment! 

For more info Tom Little Marketing Coordinator, Executive Degree Programs