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Student Blog: Navroop Singh Sehmi, SFMBA ’21

Navroop Singh Sehmi, SFMBA ’21

Founder of and VP of product for a digital healthcare company out of Vancouver, Navroop has been advising tech startups from inception to scale for 15 years. The Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship has just awarded him the Patrick J. McGovern, Jr. ’59 Entrepreneurship Award for making a significant impact on the quality and overall spirit of entrepreneurship at MIT.

It’s been a crazy year. Working on startups while digging into coursework while working on the Orbit project with the Martin Trust Center while working with teammates on projects while working with faculty on my own new ideas. But you know what? Somehow, it all worked. Crazy, yes, but crazy wonderful.

Throughout the process, I learned many things I didn’t plan on learning—organizational skills, flexibility, being open to other points of view, new ways of doing old things, recognizing where my strengths lie, and delegating aspects of projects that work to the strengths of others. I came to understand—and feel comfortable with—my own limits. And I learned to leave perfectionism at the door. If everything had to be perfect this year, I wouldn’t have accomplished much. At the same time, I learned how to make the most of every situation, how to go about solving a problem, and I was able to adapt coursework directly to real work challenges as well as a new business I’m developing. It’s been a blessing in multiple aspects of my life.

No Sloan Fellow left behind

Being embedded in this program for a full year with the most resilient, smart, and diverse people you can imagine was the greatest learning experience of all. My classmates could have deferred this year because of the pandemic, but they chose to make it work in spite of the limitations. This class of Fellows was a very special group of intrepid people with exciting backgrounds and experiences—from all over the world and from almost every industry. This year-long immersion gave us a powerful sense of camaraderie, the feeling that we’re all in this together. (Insider tip: even those who don’t like to ask for help feel comfortable doing so because the “No Sloan Fellow Left Behind” ethic is very real.) 

Onboarding for this program was actually one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Right out of the gate, I felt part of the community. They really welcome you and take care of you here. You immediately feel the energy of being part of a remarkable community. My wife and kids love it, too. Originally, we weren’t sure that my family would move to Cambridge with me, but Raj reached out to the Significant Others group and received all the support and information she needed to feel good about coming along. Loved ones are very much a part of the Sloan Fellows experience, and I live within walking distance of campus, so I can often go back and have lunch with the family. It has been a year of bonding on so many levels.

As for the one-year immersive format, I was accepted into multiple MBA programs offering a variety of formats, mostly involving weekends only. I chose this program because I wanted to take a sabbatical. I wanted to take a step back, resharpen my toolkit, and get the chance to focus—really focus. One year gives you that rare and precious commodity “time wealth.”

The Cambridge factor

Then there’s the Cambridge factor. I was born in Brunei Darussalam and have lived in five different countries over the course of my life. Cambridge in not like any of them. I have absolutely fallen in love with this city and its amazing energy.

As far as entrepreneurial ecosystems go, MIT is definitely the best school. You have so many resources. You have legal advisors and mentors sharing insight into how you can accomplish your vision, guiding you on the right path. No one here ever says no to an idea. You learn to embrace the journey as you figure out your game plan, because the journey is absolutely crucial to the success of your vision. I have been able to work on some new startups that I’ve had in my head forever…and the classes are helping me build a structure around those ideas. As an experienced entrepreneur, I have found that I can help others with their startups, too. This has given me a sense of giving back.I’ve had so many ah-ha moments here—in classes, talking to peers, in conversations with faculty—but that’s what MIT is all about. It’s a chance to dream. Most important, it’s a chance to forge a clear path to realizing that dream. MIT has unlocked a more creative side of me that has allowed me to drop pre-existing boundaries and be open to the unexpected. If I were to sum it up, I’d have to say that this year has been one big, incredible adventure for me. One year, as the program staff often say, with a lifetime of value.

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