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‘Live a life you wish to live’ — For a Broad College MBA alum, that meant becoming one of the world’s leading female engineers

By Omar Sofradzija

Live, lift, and learn.

Not only are those solid words of wisdom – shared by Broad College MBA alum Priya Balasubramaniam to newly-minted graduates during fall 2017 commencement exercises – but they are also the values that have put Balasubramaniam among the top female engineers in the world.

Apple Inc. executive and Broad College alum Priva Balasubramaniam
Apple Inc. executive and Broad College alum Priva Balasubramaniam at Fall 2017 Commencement ceremonies. Photo by Matt Dae Smith.

Balasubramaniam, vice president of iPhone operations at Apple Inc., was recently honored by Business Insider as the fourth most powerful female engineer just ahead of International Women in Engineering Day in June 23. That is up one spot from her rank the previous year.

“For all the arm waving about the lack of women in STEM professions, the truth is, there are some powerful role-model female engineers having fabulous careers and creating tech used by millions, if not billions of people every day,” Business Insider wrote in releasing its list. “These are women with engineering backgrounds who are running big business units at important companies, are building impressive up-and-coming technologies, or acting as leaders and role models in the tech communities.”

Additionally, Balasubramaniam “continues to set new benchmarks of accomplishments and success for Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business alumni,” said Sanjay Gupta, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean of the Broad College of Business.

“She is the quintessential role model for all those looking to bust the stereotypes, whether it is about women in STEM professions or people of color in leadership positions in corporate America,” Gupta said. “Priya is a trailblazer and we are proud to count her as one of our Broad Spartan alumni.”

Apple Inc. executive and Eli Broad College of Business alum Priva Balasubramaniam and Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean Sanjay Gupta pose at fall 2017 Commencement ceremonies. Photo by Matt Dae Smith.
Apple Inc. executive and Eli Broad College of Business alum Priva Balasubramaniam and Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean Sanjay Gupta pose at Fall 2017 Commencement ceremonies. Photo by Matt Dae Smith.

Balasubramaniam, who earned her MBA in supply chain management in 2001, told graduates last winter that living the life you wish to live; lifting up yourself and those around you; and learning from your life and others are critical to unlock your potential and purpose, as she did.

She recalled once being rejected for a mechanical engineering job and was told she “should switch my career to a field where I can get a job that a girl can handle … Far from being disillusioned, I reflected upon his words and all the other rejections. I was passionate about continuing to find work in my chosen field of engineering. I learned from that interview that I’d have to work very hard to get to do what was essentially considered a man’s domain.”

“Today I stand here as proof that girls can manage factories,” Balasubramaniam told the graduating class. “Every one of us will face situations like this where others seem to know what is better for you. If this happens to you, don’t change for the sake of others. Live a life you wish to live. Know yourself, your capabilities, motivations, and limitations.”

Balasubramaniam launched her career with Apple straight out of the Broad MBA program. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported she was instrumental in negotiating a new deal to manufacture Apple products in India, one of the world’s fastest growing smartphone markets.

“Building a career requires a growth mindset. The foundation for a growth mindset is your ability to acknowledge that imperfections exist,” she told graduates. “You must take responsibility for your mistakes. Room for improvement does not translate to failure. It means you can do better. Don’t let missteps bog you down, and don’t be too giddy with success. If you succeed, learn from success and better yourself. If you make a mistake, accept it and learn from it. Never, ever give up.”


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