Leavey School of Business Develops Skills for Career and Life Success
While working in a management rotational program at Xilinx, a Silicon Valley-based programmable SoC company, Sanjay Gehani decided to pursue an MBA. Sanjay admits he wasn’t sure how much value he would gain from a part-time MBA program, but he always valued education and found the application process with the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business exciting. He walked in with his application in hand and was able to talk to the Dean. Sanjay says, “we sat down and she just interviewed me on the spot and said, ‘you're in’. It was fantastic. I really loved that approach and the feeling that she gave me. I wanted to meet really amazing people and go to a solid part-time, local program, so Santa Clara was just a perfect fit for me.”
Sanjay started the program in 2007, not realizing how the skills and approach to thinking he learned would be invaluable when his career and life took some unexpected turns.
Building Lifelong Skills for Work and Life
After graduating with his MBA in marketing and leading organizations, Sanjay continued to find success at Xilinx, immediately putting his new business skills to use. “The finance and marketing classes at Santa Clara helped me with my business development plans. I was collaborating with companies in Europe and Asia that were developing solutions that my customers, who were buying chips from Xilinx, were using. I leveraged a lot of environmental scanning techniques about what was happening in the competitive space around me to document a plan, where we could demonstrate how those solutions provided more value, reduced costs, and reduced risk to those customers over time.”
These same environmental scanning tools were put to use when Sanjay went to look for preschools for his son. He approached finding a preschool the same way he would approach a business problem: “I'm not going to look at just one or two preschools. I'm going to look at 50 and then get an idea of what's going on here. There were things that I learned in Santa Clara that not only helped me in my career but also helped me shape my thought processes and how I approach problem-solving.”
An Unexpected Career Path
While Sanjay was finding great success in managing partnerships for Xilinx, he was frequently traveling to Europe and Asia. When his son was born in 2012, it prompted him to rethink what he wanted for his career and his family.
His experience looking at preschools encouraged him to leave his career in corporate America and get into the ownership and franchising of preschools with two business partners. With the skills he developed at the Leavey School, he was able to successfully make this major career pivot and now says, “I really feel like when I wake up in the morning and I come into the office, I'm not coming to work. I'm spending time on things that I am passionate about in an environment which allows me to stay connected with my family while not traveling as much as I was before. It’s been a great ride and it’s rewarding knowing how we are helping all the children that come into our preschools and our franchisees.”
Building Kidz School also helps children that don’t come through their doors. They dedicate 25% of their profits to underprivileged children at home and around the world. Through their non-profit arm, Building Futures Worldwide, they help orphaned and abandoned children, children with hearing disabilities, vision impairment, and donate to juvenile diabetes research.
Finding Passion in Elevating Childhood Education
Sanjay’s work has been so successful, that Building Kidz School was recognized as one of the Top 100 emerging franchisors by Entrepreneur Magazine for 2 years and has been recognized as a Top 500 Franchise for the past 2 years. Sanjay and his team look for franchisees that share their passion and belief in “helping children and creating wonderful environments, not only for children but also for the teachers that support and enable the entire curriculum to be deployed.”
Building Kidz franchisees believe in the mission and as Sanjay explains, “they want to be a part of helping our children in so many different ways. These amazing people choose to become franchisees so that they can live their dream of opening a Building Kidz preschool and leave a legacy of helping their communities.”
Sanjay credits Santa Clara with helping his business thrive. “Whether it's marketing or finance or business planning, there are a lot of things that were taught to me by exceptional teachers that weren't as much theoretical as they were practical. What was taught to me stood the test of time and a lot of the skills that I learned at Santa Clara, I’m now teaching to my franchisees.”
Education that Lasts a Lifetime
Not only were the skills that Sanjay learned at Santa Clara applicable to a range of industries, but the program also allowed him to create a network of exceptional colleagues and classmates. While he expected to complete his MBA and stay in tech for 30 years, his experiences and passions led him in a different direction, but one that he was prepared to take. “A lot of what I was learning at Santa Clara was really synergistic with my outlook on life. I was able to get a lot of that knowledge and build those relationships with my colleagues and with the professors.”
These skills and relationships also helped Sanjay when he decided to run for public office in Foster City. He went back to Santa Clara for support and collaboration. “I sat down with Professor Desmond Lo and said, “how do I apply some of the techniques that you taught me, like segmenting the market, to a campaign? In this case, I’m the product and need to figure out what I stand for. How do I tailor my message depending on whom I’m talking to without changing what I stand for?”
Applying Skills and Passion to Support Communities
While Sanjay never expected to serve as the first Mayor of Indian descent in the city he was raised in, he saw leadership and engagement challenges within the City Council. It was causing a divide in City Hall and in the community, and Sanjay says, “I didn't want to sit on the sidelines and raise my son in an environment where I wasn't trying to make a difference. And the only way that I felt like I could leverage my corporate American experience, my small business experience, and my personality was by running for City Council.”
Even though Sanjay had zero experience in supporting communities beyond being a Little League coach, he put passion into his platform, listened to the community, and won the election. He’s humbled to have served in local government where he was able to make decisions on behalf of his neighbors to improve the quality of life in Foster City.
Giving Back to the Leavey School
While his term has ended, Sanjay plans to stay engaged in the community and also carve out more time to spend with his now 10-year-old son. Despite his busy schedule, he is passionate about giving back to “an institution that gave me so much.” While he was at Santa Clara, he always found the energy and desire of his classmates to be a motivating force, and now he enjoys coming back to campus to share his story with current students. “It’s rewarding for me to be around highly intelligent people that are driven and have a passion for learning.”