Nalisha Patel, promoting business education for all

Nalisha Patel
We sat down with Nalisha Patel to discover how she is promoting business education and to find out more about her role at GMAC

As the Regional Director for Europe at the Graduate Management Admission Council, Nalisha Patel heads up GMAC’s overall European strategy for research, market intelligence and engagement with the graduate management sectors. We sat down with Nalisha to discover more about her role at GMAC and the path that led her there.

Hi Nalisha, tell me about yourself and your role at GMAC

Hello! I am a travel, music and arts-loving strategy professional in the Higher Education sector, specifically in Business Education living in North East London. I am originally from Shropshire, UK with a heritage in India.  

I have spent a number of years designing and delivering Master’s programmes for London Business School teams before joining GMAC last September as Regional Director for Europe. The purpose of my role is effectively to promote business education and support people on that journey to business school.  

We do that by working with business schools (our members) and directly with consumers (potential students). Many people will know us for our entry exam test GMAT, but as a global organisation, we have many facets.    

Why is it important for you to widen participation for under-represented groups within European graduate management education?

The world is complex, and there are many facets of diversity and countless intersections. That means in order to make decisions for groups of people – communities, customers, clients – there have to have many different considerations.  

You can only really truly make good decisions if the decision-making entity has a diversity of thought and representation. The more people’s needs are considered, the better the output for business and society. Although that’s very simplified, given this concept, the more we widen participation in graduate management education, the more opportunity we have to create, innovate and lead businesses into the future to benefit more people.

What have your greatest career achievements been?

A recent highlight has been launching the GMAC Talent and Opportunity Scholarship. We recognise and celebrate that there are many fantastic scholarship opportunities being offered by business schools to underrepresented groups, but there is a lot of work which goes into the journey even before application, including the GMAT test itself. So, we created a scholarship which awards 10 winners the test, preparation materials, a Fortuna admissions consultant and access to a wellbeing app for free. 

We had an incredible response to this from people from many different backgrounds – it was truly unique. We had applicants from a wide range of nationalities, genders, the LGBTQIA+ community, different sectors, and different socioeconomic upbringings, so it made me incredibly proud. We are about to launch the winners so watch out on our website!

Likewise, what have been your greatest challenges?

Taking on a role to lead a team of 56 and a student body of 2,500 virtually during COVID. The other elements of the job were based on decision-making, collaboration and solution-focused operations, which were tough, but the experience helped navigate me. While it was challenging, I gave it all my energy, time and commitment and I made it through that difficult time. I learnt a huge deal from it and I know I will draw from it for the rest of my life. 

What advice would you give to young girls at the start of their careers? 

Give yourself the chance to learn from as many perspectives as you can. In work, understanding what other people do and listening to the wider picture, even if it doesn’t directly impact your role right now. It’s important to do this outside of work too – whether that’s sports, arts, literature, or people you connect with. It all adds to your ability to connect dots and connecting dots makes things happen.  

What would you say has been the secret to your success?

I guess it depends on how you define success! To me, success is being a good leader to people, being authentic, and creating safe spaces for different types of people to thrive. That can happen in many different contexts. For me, it's best in an environment where I can be creative and find opportunities to improve things. I think therefore the ‘secret’ is to do work which utilises your traits in a positive way and have values that are important to you

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