Many recognize the phrase “you get what you give,” understanding that the effort given often pays off in the end. Neeraj Mathur, a “double Bronco,” gave his all to Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business while earning two degrees – his master’s in information systems (MSIS) (’08) and his MBA (’10). Now leading Product Management and User Experience at Bluebox, a mobile data security startup in San Francisco, he has no trouble describing the ways Santa Clara reciprocated the dedication to his education, influencing both his personal and professional life.
Neeraj began his journey at Santa Clara in the MSIS program to advance his technical career as a rising software engineer. However, during the program his employer moved him into more managerial roles. As his career veered away from technology and toward management, and he started his own business on the side, Neeraj realized he needed more extensive business knowledge, and decided to finish his MSIS then start his MBA.
While earning his two degrees, Neeraj dedicated extra-curricular time to SCU. During his MSIS program, his technical background prompted him to look for a way to connect technology with business. Consequently, he founded the IS Connexion – a network for graduate students that bridges the gap between “technologists and business folks” at the Leavey School of Business. He planned events for IS Connexion, attended events put on by other groups, and stayed late to enjoy drinks and share ideas at The Hut with his peers. Even as an alumnus he stays actively involved, attending lunches with other MBA alums, and keeping in touch with the Leavey School of Business. “I have almost never declined a request to participate in anything, whether it comes from a professor or the business school staff. There is an urge to give back that comes from being a part of Santa Clara.”
While staying involved is important to Neeraj, he does admit it takes a lot of effort. “Because of that,” he says, “you have to make the best use of your time while you’re here.” Neeraj spent much time networking, and there is no doubt in his mind that the effort paid off. “For a lot of people networking is all about finding the next job or having access to a potential customer, or sale, or what have you,” he said. “I look at networking very differently. For me it is a set of people who are experts in their domain, and therefore I have access to a library of information I can tap into, as and when needed.”
You might wonder what motivates Neeraj to stay involved at the Leavey School of Business; the answer is simple: “There is a sense of belonging here. Santa Clara has fostered a community where I feel I belong.” It’s no wonder he can’t get enough. In a place where he consistently finds himself valued why would he stay away? “I have walked away with a few very interesting things that I value besides the sense of belonging,” Neeraj commented. “First, the people. Once you go through a program, especially through Capstone – and I went through two – you make life-long relationships. And second, the knowledge. One of the advantages that people don’t realize when they come to Santa Clara is the professors have real-life experience; you are learning from people who have lived through what they are teaching and now you get to benefit from their successes and failures.”
The sense of belonging, personal connections, and knowledge gained are not the only things that Neeraj appreciates about the Leavey School of Business. The time he spent here allowed him to meet his goals of being a better educated person with the knowledge and skills to advance his career. He was awarded the Dean’s Leadership Award, an acknowledgement that he is very proud of. “Both the MSIS and the MBA programs allowed me to hone my leadership skills, which I believe I need now more than ever,” he explained. “We were also exposed to a different way of looking at problems and coming up with innovative ways to solve those problems. Santa Clara provided the tools to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as others.”
Contributing something that makes the world a better place is often a goal of many but gets overlooked. Santa Clara brought that idea back to the forefront of Neeraj’s mind, “My personal philosophy isn’t just about building something that will make me money. It’s about making sure that what I provide adds value – for business as well as people.” Ethics often get overshadowed in business as well. The Leavey School of Business’ focus on ethics inspired Neeraj to make ethics an integral part of the way he does business. “I firmly believe people don’t do what you ask or tell them to do. They do what you do. So making ethical business decisions and modeling that behavior is hugely important,” Neeraj explained. “So is understanding the impact of the decisions you are making on your environment, not just customers and partners, but the larger global environment, while at the same time knowing how it will affect the lives of your employees and their families.”
When asked how the Leavey School of Business influenced him, Neeraj had many things to say. “My experiences at Santa Clara have allowed me to be a better human being, in addition to fueling my entrepreneurial spirit.”
— Ali Reimer