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4 India-born CEOs Who Excelled with Foreign MBA

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“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” ― R. L. Stevenson


Adobe, Google, Microsoft, and PepsiCo. All four of these multinational brands have CEOs who were born in India. People who left a comfort zone as big as their motherland to make a mark. Their career stories help us realize the importance of creating the conditions to succeed, even if it’s about going abroad.

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google Inc.

Pichai was an ace student at school and captained his high school cricket team. After earning a degree in metallurgical engineering from IIT Kharagpur, he won a scholarship from Stanford University to study material sciences and semiconductor physics. Much of his parent’s savings were spent on buying his air tickets to Stanford.

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google Inc.

Revising his plan of pursuing an academic career, Pichai dropped out of his Ph.D. at Stanford. He joined a Silicon Valley semiconductor maker, Applied Materials, as an engineer and product manager. In 2002, he graduated in MBA from Wharton School and joined McKinsey as a management consultant. While trying to convince a colleague to not move to Google, he realized that it might be the right company for him.

Read the full career story of Sundar Pichai.

Shantanu Narayen, CEO and President, Adobe Systems Inc.

Narayen went to Hyderabad Public School and pursued electronics engineering from Osmania University, India. He then pursued his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and an MS degree in computer science from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. Till then, it was a usual immigrant story.

Shantanu Narayen, CEO and President, Adobe Systems Inc

Narayen began his career with Apple Inc. and then moved to Silicon Graphics before starting up his internet photo sharing company, Pictra Inc. In 1998, he landed a job at Adobe as Vice President while trying to sell Pictra to them. Narayen was named President and CEO of Adobe Systems in 2005.

Indra Nooyi, CEO and Chairperson, PepsiCo Inc.

Nooyi attended school and college in Chennai, India before pursuing her master’s from IIM Calcutta. Then she worked as a product manager for Johnson & Johnson and Mettur Beardsell, a textile company, before deciding to pursue a foreign MBA. Her parents used to believe that she won’t get a business school admits from the USA, so they’d permitted her to apply.

Indra Nooyi, CEO and Chairperson, PepsiCo Inc.

Nooyi got through Yale School of Management with a scholarship. She worked as midnight receptionist to buy a formal suit for her first job interview. After getting rejected, she wore a saree to the next interview and landed the job. Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and played a major role in the diversification of its brands, earlier focused on just soft drinks. She became its CFO in 2001 and CEO-President in 2006.

Read the full career story of Indra Nooyi.

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft Corporation.

Nadella too attended Hyderabad Public School, then graduated in electrical engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology. He wanted to be a professional cricket player during childhood, but his interest in science and technology was overpowering. He got through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA to pursue his MS in computer science. After graduating in 1990, Nadella joined Sun Microsystems.

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft Corporation

Nadella shifted to Microsoft in 1992 and attended the Booth School of Business, the University of Chicago on weekends. He used to commute from his office in Washington to his B-school in Chicago to complete his MBA. In 2014, Bill Gates rejoined Microsoft to mentor Nadella, who was named the company’s third CEO. Perhaps the game of cricket taught Nadella a lot about teamwork and leadership

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