Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
My name is Shaifali Aggarwal and I am the Founder/CEO of Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consulting company that provides personalized and customized services to clients applying to MBA programs (full-time, part-time, deferred, and executive MBA programs). I received my MBA from Harvard Business School and have benefited greatly from the management skills I gained and the relationships that I developed; it is therefore extremely rewarding for me to help others achieve their higher educational goals as well. Ivy Groupe's mission is to help clients tell their story to business schools so that they can achieve their dreams and impact the world – we are passionate about authenticity, leadership, success, and impact.
At the core of my work with clients is a very strong emphasis on authenticity – this comes from a deep-rooted belief that every single person who is applying to business school has a unique story to tell. I like to think of myself as a master weaver who ties together the unique threads of candidate's stories to help them craft the most authentic and compelling applications possible to maximize their chances of admission. This philosophy has enabled me to help clients craft differentiated applications that stand out resulting in acceptances to the MBA programs of their choice, such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, Yale, and Haas, among others.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
The collective wealth of experience and knowledge of Ellevate members is just amazing. I have been a member of multiple Ellevate Squads, attended numerous events like the Innovator breakfasts/lunches, and listened to various jam sessions. The advice and suggestions that I have gotten with respect to building my business and managing my career have been invaluable. For instance, during one Ellevate Squad session, a fellow member, who is an Executive Coach and Trainer, walked us through the elements of a great one-line pitch in order to describe what we do and immediately catch the attention of the other person. This has helped me to concisely and impactfully convey my company’s value proposition to others. In another example, during an Innovator lunch, a fellow Ellevate member suggested that I share my expertise by writing an article for a media platform focused on the next gen. I reached out to the platform, and my article was published!
How would you define your professional mission?
I view my clients as the future leaders of the world; my professional mission is to help them gain the knowledge and holistic business/management skillset that they need so that they can achieve their dreams and impact the world.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
Beyond launching and growing my own business, one of my most rewarding projects was while working for an educational non-profit in India focused on providing educational opportunities for underprivileged children. The project entailed strategizing new ways to reach out to more children with limited resources; as part of this process, my colleagues and I had to do a deep dive into the current organizational strategies in place, understand the landscape by immersing ourselves in the field, and analyze new strategies to make sure they were cost-effective and viable. Being able to contribute to the organization by providing actionable recommendations to educate more children is something that I am proud of.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
With respect to my background, I am a graduate of Harvard Business School (HBS) and Princeton University. I started my career in finance before going down an entrepreneurial path, which is why my rich and multi-faceted career across industries and functions makes me extremely well suited to understand the varied backgrounds of my clients who are applying to business school. I spent most of my initial career as a finance professional on Wall Street, where I worked in the investment banking and asset management industries at leading companies like JPMorgan and Neuberger Berman. I also have experience working in the educational non-profit sector and as an entrepreneur, founding an online media company. Although my career is very multi-faceted, I have always had a strong passion for education and feel very lucky to have had the opportunities that I did, which led me to launching Ivy Groupe and to where I am today. I have spent many years successfully coaching hundreds of MBA applicants from all over the world to the top MBA programs. Right before starting Ivy Groupe, I was Executive Vice President of Business Development & Strategy and a Senior MBA Admissions Consultant at another admissions company. At HBS, I also had the unique opportunity to gain perspective on what the top business schools are looking for in candidates when I served as VP Admissions of the Women’s Student Association; in that role, I collaborated directly with the HBS Admissions Office as a bridge between current students and prospective and admitted students.
For me, Ivy Groupe is a complete win-win – I have the opportunity to directly impact others while building a business!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Working closely with clients to understand their backgrounds and help them craft authentic stories. I love learning about what has shaped someone into who they are today, what they have accomplished in all areas of their lives, and what drives and motivates them. And when clients and I collaborate to translate their stories into a compelling application narrative and they get accepted to the business school(s) of their choice, that is extremely rewarding as well.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
There are two facets of my job that make it the absolute right fit for me. The first is the personal connection that I have with each and every one of my clients and the direct impact that I am able to have as they pursue both their educational and professional goals. The second is the entrepreneurial aspect; I love the challenge as well as the joy of building an organization from the ground-up.
What would you say your personal superpower is?
Storytelling and helping people “connect-the-dots” when it comes to their multi-faceted experiences. Essentially, what you have gone through in your life – in school, personally, at the workplace – is what makes you YOU. There is no other person in this world who has walked in your shoes, had your exact experiences, and seen the world from your eyes. As part of this process, I really enjoy encouraging people to think about their values and why certain experiences have been instrumental in shaping them. This ability is extremely useful in my role since Admissions Committees at MBA programs want to understand the living person beyond the two-dimensional application.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I love being an entrepreneur and helping my clients maximize their chances of admission to the MBA programs of their choice. However, as an entrepreneur, I'm never really off the grid, which is why I try to focus a lot of attention on work-life balance and wellness!
The no-fail tactic that I use to create balance is blocking off some much needed “me time” every single day. This can entail working out at the gym, going outside for a walk, meditating, and engaging in activities that I enjoy such as catching up with family/friends or reading a thought-provoking book.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
The best career advice I have ever received is to be persistent. Challenges and obstacles (and yes, failures!) are a part of life; persistence is what can help you overcome them and succeed.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Shaifali received her MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Princeton University. At HBS, Shaifali served as VP Admissions of the Women’s Student Association; in this role, she collaborated directly with the HBS Admissions Office as a liaison between current and prospective/admitted students. At Princeton, Shaifali interviewed prospective students for admission as an alumni interviewer. Through these experiences, she has had the unique opportunity to gain... Continue Reading
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