Name: Sudheer Poluru
Nicknames: SUDS, SUDZ, BIG Z, SUDRO, SUPO
Originated From: Chicago, IL
Undergrad Institution: Harvard University
Major: Economics with a focus on Psychology (Fascinated with Behavioral Economics)
Job Before Booth: Economic Development in Brazil and Colombia, Diversity and Inclusion Consulting in the U.s. at Jones Diversity
okay…now for the good stuff:
Prior To Booth
My parents immigrated to the US from India in the early 1990s in pursuit of the American Dream. Out of my entire family, only my parents, my sister, and myself live in the US. Like many immigrants, the idea of sacrifice now to reap the benefits later is how they live their lives.
My mom is lighthearted and playful, but very motivated and serious about work. I call my Mom the original hustler because: her teaching license was not recognized in the US, she didn’t speak much English, and she didn’t have a way to make money – but she found a way to make it work. She would babysit to make money during the day, while taking classes at the local community college at night. My mom still works 7 days a week and holds down two jobs – she motivates me to work as hard as I do now.
My dad comes from a long line of farmers and a humble background. My father had an unspoken rule for each step of schooling – if he couldn’t afford to pay for school he would come back and run the family farm. Luckily, he received a scholarship at each stage, which allowed him to continue his studies and eventually earn his PhD. He received a postdoctoral fellowship in Chicago, which brought my family to the US.
My sister Kavya is intelligent, ambitious, and charismatic. I’ve always been surrounded and supported by very strong women of color who have had to navigate biases every day of their lives. Because of these biases, women often tend to self select out of really challenging careers – Kavya wanted to show that it can be done. She has a deep love for the human body – embodying the concept of body positivity. She ended up getting a full scholarship to medical school and is now studying to be a surgeon.
So, I had big shoes to fill, high expectations to meet. I went from Chicago Public Schools to Harvard, where I met the love of my life – Bridgette Slater.
In college, I came to realize that:
There is a wealth of resources out there in the world, you just have to figure out how to mobilize them.
If you have an idea and can mobilize people around it, then you can create positive change in the world.
After graduating from college, I pursued my interest in international economic development to work in Brazil and Colombia. During my time in South America, one farmer asked me: “Why are you here? Is your city so perfect that you have to travel around the world looking for problems to solve?” Those questions hit me hard and I decided to return to the U.S. to look for impactful work in my hometown of Chicago.
Through serendipity, I started working at Jones Diversity, a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) consulting firm. At Jones Diversity, I started seeing the world through a D&I lens. The two most important lessons I learned were:
1. Define diversity broadly. It is important to have a broad definition of diversity that encompasses age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, LGBT, nationality, religion, socioeconomic background, veteran, and more. Understanding the intersection of these various dimensions of diversity can provide a more holistic view of a person.
2. Inclusion requires intentionality. Diverse representation alone does not lead to an inclusive environment. Each person in the community needs to make a conscious effort to build an inclusive culture, in which everyone can be their authentic selves without feeling pressure to conform to the majority group.
Outside of work, I coached a little league baseball team in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago striving to strengthen relationships between police officers and the communities they serve. I also volunteered as a youth prison mentor to help young men who are incarcerated make a plan for a life after release.
With all of these experiences, I came to understand that:
You can have good plans in place. But, if you don’t have the financial resources to implement them – no progress can be made.
I want to get a better understanding of the financial flow of dollars, how investors think about risk, and how return on investment is measured. I want to speak the language of investors so that I can increase the flow of funding to underserved markets. That is what motivated me to get an MBA and led me to Booth.
If You Didn’t Have To Work What Would You Do:
Even if I weren’t being compensated – I would still be doing work that is important to me.
Do You Think That Aliens Exist?
Not sure – but would love to travel to space to find out!
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
What do you think made you unique in the MBA application process?
I emphasized my desire to be a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the classroom and the workplace. Booth clearly embraces diverse perspectives and a collaborative atmosphere.
What App Needs To Be Made:
An app that connects people across lines of difference (e.g., age, gender identity, race, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, professional background, etc.) and carves out time in each of their schedules for a meaningful conversation. We have a lot more in common than meets the eye, and conversations are one of the best ways to uncover that.
Favorite Disney Movie:
Aladdin. Old school VHS tape, of course!
What’s The Hardest Lesson You’ve Learned Thus Far?
In order to create change, you have to listen a lot more than you talk .
Favorite Booth Memory Thus Far:
I loved the Winter Formal at the Field Museum. My partner, Bridgette, was in town and got to meet a lot of my Booth friends. So many people made an effort to meet her and make her feel welcome as a Booth partner who is not based in Chicago. (I finally got to meet the infamous Bridgette who is currently receiving her JD/MBA at Harvard over zoom! ).
What Is Special About The Place You Grew Up?
Chicago is incredibly diverse in terms of racial and ethnic background and Chicago has many diverse neighborhoods with rich histories from Humboldt Park to Pullman to Bronzeville to Chinatown to Boystown, and more! I want to encourage everyone to explore all that the city has to offer. In fact, I’m happy to give a tour of the city as an unofficial city ambassador.
What Job Would You Be Terrible At :
I would be a terrible personal stylist. My sister and Bridgette dress me for all events. (In Sudheer’s defense, he is always well dressed.)
What Age Do You Want To Live Until:
If I got to 80, I would be quite happy. As long as I’m doing good work and not reliant on other people to take care of me and am not burdensome, I want to live and contribute as much as I can.
Favorite Place To Eat In Chicago:
Taylor Street – right near my house, there are great places to eat
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Chicago. I love this city. That being said, being part of a dual career couple means making decisions with my partner, so I’m open to discussion.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Mastering The Game: Strategies For Career Success. I coauthored a book of the same title with the CEO of Jones Diversity, Sharon E. Jones. It’s a guide for diverse professionals to navigate the unwritten rules of U.S. workplace culture.
What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?
Find a way to pay for a million students to go to school with scholarships not loans, so they don’t have to worry about educational expenses.
What Do You Wish You Knew More About:
Graphic design and data visualization.
Who Are Your Favorite Writers?
I’m a big fan of Bryan Stevenson, Malcolm Gladwell and Jhumpa Lahiri.
What Trip Is At The Top Of Your Travel Bucket List?
Travel with Boothies to their hometowns in Thailand, Japan, Chile, Nigeria and Ghana.
What Fictional Place Do You Dream Of Going To?
Wakanda from Black Panther
It’s representation in film of incredible society showed how you can make technological advancement while keeping cultural traditions. It could and should be a model for our future.
How Will The World Be Different Post COVID-19?
I hope people will make more time for meaningful, in-person interactions.
What Is Worth Splurging On Everytime?
How Will You Make Your Life A “Good Life”?
Support and empower other individuals to achieve their dreams and life Follow Arthur Ashe’s wise words: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Most Memorable Gift That You’ve Ever Received?
My parents worked numerous jobs and helped me pay for college. Because of the generous financial aid I received, college was thankfully affordable. In addition to the 3 campus jobs I worked, my parents pitched in to show their continued investment in me, which I’ll never forget.
What Lifestyle Changes Are You Trying To Make?
Developing a home fitness routine for the new world that we live in
If Magic Was Real, Which Spell Would You Try First?
Free education for all
What Do You Think Makes A Good Friend – How Much Do You Live Up To Your Standards?
A good friend: loyalty and honesty.
Loyalty – when a person has your back in good times and bad.
Honesty – tells you the truth and gives you constructive criticism to help you become the best version of yourself possible.
I strive to be loyal and honest in all my relationships. One area that I’m working on is actively reaching out to people during the current social distancing measures.
What Do You Want To Get Out Of B-School?
Technical finance skills, leadership soft skills, and meaningful life-long friendships.
Best Trip Of Your Life Thus Far:
The Europe trip with my family was incredible and Bridgette was able to join us. Over the course of three weeks, we traveled to 6 countries (France, England, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland).
What Is A Random Goal That You Have?
I want to learn a language from each continent. (He is already proficient in most of these which is unbelievable – I need to do better! )
Europe : German
South America: Portuguese & Spanish
North America / Australia: English
Asia: Telugu – my states language and what my family speaks
Africa – Swahili
Who Do You Go Out Of Your Way To Be Nice To?
Everyone. You don’t know what’s going on in the course of peoples’ day and it costs you nothing to be nice.
What Really Makes You Angry?
Unnecessary food waste.
What Industry Do You Think Will Be Revolutionized Soon?
Healthcare – The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inefficiencies in healthcare systems and supply chains around the world. There are a lot of people on the front lines working hard to save lives. In the future, more technology and human capital will enter the healthcare industry to create even better outcomes for society.
Guacamole and chips
What Would Your Last Meal Be?
My moms cooking: idli and chutney, brinjal (an eggplant based dish) and carrot cake
What’s Your Favorite Booth Course So Far:
Surpassingly so far two core classes have been me favorites.
Accounting with Anastasia Zakolyukina and Operations with Yuan Zhong. Both professors made their classes fun and engaging. I appreciate it when professors tie what we’re learning in class to current events.
How Would You Describe Your Booth Experience:
It has been even better than I could have imagined. The people here (students, faculty, and staff) are incredibly kind and driven. When all of the work is done and recruiting is set aside and you can have a convo about life, or a heart to heart – these moments of connection have been incredibly valuable. I know that 2 years can fly by quickly, so I’m focused on making the most out of each day.