Did you ever dare to keep going even when you needed a break? Did you ever step out of your comfort zone to try something new? Did you ever dare to tell your ‘authentic’ story to a stranger without the fear of being judged?
Not many of the readers could answer ‘yes’ to all the questions above; but I know someone who would. In an MBA program, in which the ‘community’ is so important, one obviously gets familiar with the names of the active members and contributors, and that’s how I got to know Sheyda Bautista-Saeyan. A Student Life Fellow, an Admissions Fellow, and a proactive member of different clubs and affinity groups, Sheyda’s story will not fail to inspire you. I had the opportunity to hear about the thrilling Wharton journey of this ‘Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony Student Speaker’, over a short interview, an interview which reinstated my faith in the culture of the Wharton community in which we trust each other with our personal stories and expose our vulnerable side, only to emerge stronger.
“We took a huge leap … but it was absolutely a risk worth taking”- Sheyda Bautista-Saeyan.
Being in the top Business School is a great achievement and opportunity, but it is an impeccable challenge, nonetheless. There are risks at every step, and you cannot avoid these. The risk-taking game begins right when you decide upon pursuing an MBA, and it continues through post-MBA goal(s) selection, relocation, curriculum designing, recruiting, connecting with the community, leveraging leadership opportunities, and every single class and group discussion. It is daunting, exhilarating, and even tiring; but most importantly, it is rewarding at the end of the day.
“I used to think that risks were scary and overwhelming, but at Wharton, risks became exciting, and I found myself over the two years looking for ways to stretch myself”, said Sheyda, and we believe that this is the very attitude that made her what she is today … one of the most well-rounded Whartonites and truly one of the ‘MBA Best & Brightest’.
Sheyda mentioned that a lot of her inspiration is derived from her mother, a native citizen of Iran, who had to flee from her homeland during the 1979 revolution, at the tender age of eighteen … a huge risk to ensure that she herself, and her family, had a better life and future in the United States.
“She (Sheyda’s mother) could no longer dress how she wanted to, or study what she wanted to in school, and once she and her family realized that they will never return back to a state of normalcy or back to a place that they once called “home”, they packed up their things and started a new life in America”, Sheyda mentioned. Sheyda’s mother had to learn new skills and raise her family in an unfamiliar place, but looking at Sheyda today, we know that it was a risk worth taking.
Sadly, Sheyda’s mum passed away, unexpectedly, two days before she was scheduled to start college. Now, Sheyda was eighteen and had to take her own risks and make her own decisions without the greatest support system in the world – her mother. She had to choose between deferring college for a year, to seek comfort around her other relatives, and starting a new chapter in her life, risking breaking down into tears amidst strangers. A courageous daughter of a brave woman, Sheyda obviously chose the latter option, destined to become a great source of inspiration for a much broader community.
“I learned from my mom that these challenges are worth overcoming, and because of her I pushed forward and started school not knowing where I would land”, said Sheyda.
After being a Biology Major during her undergrad, and completing an internship in Hospital Management, Sheyda recognized her interest in the intersection of Healthcare and Management. Managing operations and facilitating strategic growth in the Healthcare industry intrigued her. To understand the thought process of executives, Sheyda went into Consulting, post undergrad. She worked for four years at a research and advisory firm at Washington DC. At this firm, she got exposure to executive decision-making, and she wanted to crystallize her management acumen at a business school. So, Sheyda decided to pursue an MBA and risked leaving the workforce. At Wharton, Sheyda is a Healthcare Management Major. After Graduation, she will be working at DaVita in Los Angeles. Sheyda will help increase access and quality of at-home dialysis.
At Wharton, Sheyda always tried to find way to develop, professionally and personally. She was immensely impressed by the offerings of the McNulty Leadership Program Office. She participated in the Executive Coaching program and the P3 program, and recalls them to be the best formal ways of self-reflection, a skill she did not expect would be such a big part of the business school experience. She also mentioned travelling to ten countries in first year itself, including Cuba, Mexico, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Chile, and Philippines, to augment her international understanding.
“The Wharton community reinforces risk taking by always being there for one another and pushing each other to grow”, Sheyda recollected, “I think about this time when I let my friends convince me (that) I should jump off these ten feet cliffs to these huge bodies of water in the Philippines; I am terrified of swimming, but they were always in front of me, cheering me on when I had the courage to jump”, Sheyda recalled, “I am only one story, and I am consistently impressed and inspired by the risks our classmates take”.
Sheyda’s story encourages us to take risks, to leap forward head-on, and to lead in unprecedented uncertainty. Today, more than ever before, we need people like Sheyda, people who show us that it is okay to suddenly find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, it is okay to feel scared, it is okay to be unsure, and it is okay to take risks, not knowing what the future will be like. Today, we do not know what the world will look like tomorrow, the entire equilibrium is shaken, and in these unpredictable times, the only thing that we can do with certainty is take risks. Today, the risks we take, for a better future and the good of the entire human race, are the risks worth taking.