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Diverging careers and shared experiences

Alex Blain and Ketan Rahangdale

When Poets & Quants featured UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA@UNC students Alex Bain and Ketan Rahangdale in their annual Best & Brightest Online MBA series, it came as no surprise to their cohort and professors, who watched the two rise in their classes.

The pair have forged decidedly different career paths: Alex in the military, working for the U.S. Army Inspector General’s office, and Ketan in entrepreneurship, as CEO and founder of Unitea, Inc., the largest engage-to-earn social platform connecting artists, fans and brands. Their plans to apply what they learned through the online MBA program were also divergent: Ketan aimed to find perspective on how operations work at scale so that he could incorporate this into his start-up business; Alex wanted to bridge his military background with the business world. Yet they were both focused on making the most of their MBA@UNC experience, embracing both the flexibility and interactivity of the virtual experience.

“As a CEO of my own company and board member of multiple different organizations, an online MBA program was the only way I could physically have proximity to my teams while attending school. I enjoyed the flexibility of my schedule and felt the smaller class sizes helped me retain information,” said Ketan.

Likewise, Alex felt that online learning required him to be more responsible in managing his time effectively to complete class work and submit assignments on time while also balancing his work, family and personal life. “It was incredibly beneficial as a working professional. It provided me with the freedom to complete coursework on my own schedule, which was crucial for me as military personnel who could be deployed at any moment. Secondly, the MBA@UNC program has a concentration in strategy and consulting, which aligned perfectly with my career aspirations.” he said.

Alex and Ketan also reveled in the collaborative environment of MBA@UNC. “I loved the group projects and interacting with my classmates and learning things together,” exclaimed Ketan. Likewise, Alex noted, “The best part of the program was undoubtedly the chance to collaborate with talented classmates from all over the world. I was able to meet a diverse group of individuals and exchange ideas with them, building my hard and soft skills.”

Faculty support also figured into their ability to thrive during their courses. “I enjoyed the weekly live Zoom sessions with my professors, which provided opportunities to delve deeper into course topics and engage in meaningful discussions,” noted Alex. “They were understanding of the fact that we were working professionals juggling a 40+ hour workweek with schoolwork.”

Both also agreed that immersing themselves in all the MBA@UNC program had to offer was key to their success. Ketan and Alex agreed that one of the highlights of the program was the opportunity to attend Summits in Chapel Hill, which provide an enriching in-person experience with classmates and faculty. “Another benefit was the chance to take elective classes, attend an intensive class at the Washington Campus, and participate in a global Doing Business In (DBI) program with the full-time MBA students after completing core classes.

“The program equipped me with the skills to navigate future challenges in the business world while leveraging my military experience to offer a unique perspective and valuable contributions to any organization.”

Alex purposefully stepped outside of his comfort zone to ensure his success in the program. “As vice president of the Student Advisory Board, I volunteered and gained valuable mentorship and career advice from other students while navigating the program,” he said. “It was also gratifying to help upcoming students navigate the uncertainties of an online MBA program and provide feedback to the school administration.”

MBA@UNC has had a beneficial impact on their careers, allowing each to successfully apply what they learned. “The program equipped me with the skills to navigate future challenges in the business world while leveraging my military experience to offer a unique perspective and valuable contributions to any organization, noted Alex. “I have gained skills in financial forecasting, economic impact analysis, streamlining operations, data analytics, and negotiations that have enabled me to analyze and solve complex problems quickly and effectively.”

Alex received annual raises during and after the MBA program and was able to shift from one functional area to another within his organization because of his new expertise.

Ketan, who dreams of having his own venture capital fund investing in sustainable, cultural and environmental solutions globally, has also bolstered his career as a result of his MBA experience. “I gained recognition from Yahoo Finance and Forbes for my company’s work in helping multicultural youth in America,” he said.

Most important, perhaps, was the lasting personal impact. “I learned more about my personality index of being a relational innovator,” said Ketan. “I’ve forged relationships with my classmates that I shall cherish for life.”

Read Ketan’s Poets & Quants profile

Read Alex’s Poets & Quants profile