Student Voices: Meet Harkiran Kaur Sodhi, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA Class of 2021

By: Janice Endresen
photo of Harkiran Sodhi

Harkiran Kaur Sodhi, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA Class of 2021

A former tech consultant who aims to combine her technology background and passion for social impact with a focus on entrepreneurship, meet Harkiran Kaur Sodhi, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA Class of 2021.

Prior to enrolling at Cornell, Harkiran worked at Deloitte as a tech consultant. Before that, she was the assistant director of college counseling at a preparatory school in Texas. She holds a BA in psychology and Near Eastern studies (Islamic civilizations) from UC Berkeley.

As a Johnson Cornell Tech MBA student, Harkiran took core classes over her first semester, last summer, with students in Johnson’s residential, Ithaca-based One-Year MBA program. She and her Johnson Cornell Tech MBA cohorts are continuing their degree program based on the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, working on cross-functional teams with engineering, law, and computer science students. Learn more about Harkiran in this Q&A.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA? What career goals will it help you achieve?

At Deloitte, I worked as a technology consultant across software development life cycles. In my last role, I worked in project management to deliver technology implementations, upgrades, and mergers. Simultaneously, I led a pro bono strategy consulting chapter for local nonprofits. While I enjoyed both roles, I wanted to bring them together. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household, I wanted to bridge my technology background and passion for social impact together with an entrepreneurial focus. A Cornell Tech MBA seemed like a strong fit.

Why did you choose the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program?

The Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program encompasses business and technology to drive impact. The applied learning has enabled me to collaborate with peers who aspire to improve the world for the better.

What aspects of the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program do you most value?

Social impact is at the center of Cornell Tech’s mission. This key differentiation plays a huge role in our training and collaborative school environment. Cornell Tech’s entrepreneurial focus was a key factor as well.

Did you have second thoughts about starting your MBA now, during the pandemic? If so, what tipped the scales in favor of starting now?

I had accepted my offer before the pandemic hit. I believe the pandemic further encouraged me to do my MBA now. The world is going through an accelerated time of change and the experience of observing the corporate world from the windows of school has been a refreshing retreat as I determine my next steps.

What, if anything, surprises you about your virtual classes?

When we started the summer virtually last year, I was really taken aback by how well I got to know my cohort, even though we had never met each other in person. The women in our Johnson Cornell Tech MBA group began connecting weekly before classes started and eventually had a “walk the hallway session” after class every day to replicate the experience of walking out of class together and debrief informally. By the time I met them in person, in New York City, it felt like I already knew them so well. I really did not expect to feel such a strong sense of community when we were all across borders and time zones.

Are you connecting with people and making new friends in spite of virtual classes and social distancing?

Definitely! Many of us live in the House at Cornell Tech or are local to New York City. As a result, we take required classes together in the main classroom from our own devices. Although we have only met a few professors in person, we’ve been able to mimic regular school to some degree. We’ve also been able to meet students across programs and go on walks or do distanced meet-ups.

I got married in the middle of the semester and many of my classmates joined us on Zoom and virtually attended our wedding from a classroom on campus. Definitely one of my favorite memories of my time at Cornell Tech: waving to my Cornell Tech friends who hosted a distanced watch party for my wedding.

Have you joined any student clubs? If so, which ones?

Yes, I joined CornellTechWomxn, a safe space for women across programs organized on Slack. One of our members, Sam Lee, MEng ’21 (Computer Science), created a version of the Donut app and we’ve been able to meet many amazing classmates across programs that way. We’ve also hosted virtual happy hours and other events.

I am an Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) Fellow. Founded at Johnson in 2010, EMI provides thought leadership on the role of emerging markets and emerging market multinationals in the global economy. The institute brings together preeminent practitioners and academics from around the world to develop the next generation of global business leaders. I am one of several EMI Fellows who serve as chairs for the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program, and we have focused on assessing diversity in the Cornell Tech curriculum and programs.

I am a volunteer with Clinic to End Tech Abuse (CETA), a clinic on campus dedicated to providing support to survivors of domestic violence. Clinic volunteers are graduate students and professionals who have expertise in fields such as computer security, human-computer interaction, and computing for underserved communities. They receive special training on detecting technology-related abuse and working with people who have survived trauma. We provide our clinic services through a collaboration with the New York City Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence.

What’s one thing you’ve learned so far from your Johnson Cornell Tech MBA experience?

There are no limits. One of my goals with my MBA was to regain a boldly freeing approach to the world and this program has helped me do just that. Entrepreneurship is about a logical but fearless state of mind, where anything is possible, and I’ve realized the only limits I feel are those imposed by myself.

What have you most enjoyed about being a Johnson Cornell Tech MBA so far?

I really enjoy the non-traditional approach to business school. While we learn the traditional core, our business experience is much more catered towards our goals. I truly enjoy the ability to take courses in other programs, such as the master of laws (LLM) in law, technology, and entrepreneurship or Cornell Information Science, and learn from peers to gain a more diversified approach to technology.

Last but not least, our program is very professionally diverse and I enjoy learning from everyone’s experiences and perspectives. The atmosphere in the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA is very collaborative and entrepreneurial and I truly believe I can rely on this support system for years to come.