2020 Best & Brightest: Tanusri Balla, Wharton School

Tanusri Balla

The Wharton School At The University Of Pennsylvania

Design thinker and technology lover. Fast talker and fast walker. Accident-prone, but avid boulderer.”

Hometown: Stamford, CT

High School: Academy of Information Technology and Engineering

Major: Computer Science (SEAS); Entrepreneurship, Marketing & Operations Management (Wharton)

Minor: None

Favorite Business Course: MGMT 238: Organizational Behavior w/ Professor Adam Grant

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Wharton Council (Co-Chair, Resources Chair, Programming Chair):

A Wharton Undergraduate Division-sponsored organization that is focused on improving co-curricular life at Wharton through clubs and community events. My main focus has been on transforming the club recruitment experience to be less overwhelming and more enjoyable for new students.

Teaching Assistant (WH101: Business and You):

TA and mentorship role for younger students during their first class in Wharton. I’ve had a chance to facilitate group discussions, provide guidance on client projects, and get to know 75 different students personally through the job over the past few years.

Teaching Assistant (MGMT 237: Management of Technology):

TA role for the M&T Program-specific course, taught by Professor Saikat Chaudhuri. The course focuses on the strategies and frameworks applied by large tech companies over the years and culminates in a consulting project for an innovative modern-day tech firm.

Kite & Key Tour Guide:

Volunteer tour guide for Penn Admissions, touring prospective students around the university on a weekly basis.

Where have you interned during your college career?

Program Management Intern at Microsoft (Seattle, WA):

Worked with Azure Compute to pilot Azure Networking’s transition to framing engineering work in the context of customer pain. Developed a customer scenario profile for Azure ExpressRoute to highlight customer pain based on a dataset of 200 support cases. Built new metrics and data model to quantify each scenario and easily track 11 root causes of customer-facing product failures.

Explore Intern at Microsoft (Seattle, WA):

Worked with two interns to do user studies on 25 participants, identifying the user issue of inadequate answers to security questions. Designed, developed, and shipped 3 new search features for Windows Security across all Windows 10 devices (using C++). Participated in the 2018 Hackathon to build a platform to match CS teachers with clubs for Girls Who Code (using Typescript, Angular).

Product Management Intern at Posse Productions (New York, NY):

Created pitch deck, revenue model, UI/UX designs, and tech spec for an idea-stage startup client to raise initial funding. Worked with CMS for the Hamilton: The Musical app. Redesigned Posse’s website to showcase recent projects and target clients in related industries (e.g. other musical productions).

Where will you be working after graduation? Program Manager at Microsoft (Seattle, WA)

What did you enjoy most about your business school? I have most enjoyed the emphasis on group projects and collaboration at Wharton. I cannot remember taking a business class that did not involve a hands-on project with other students, and I am so grateful for such experiences. These projects have always helped me understand concepts from the classroom in the context of a real client or case. Beyond enriching my learning, they have also shaped how I interact with different people and have introduced me to many of my closest friends now.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Take more than just business courses. I value my business education so much because I did it alongside computer science and engineering classes every semester. As a result, I was constantly thinking of what I learned in business or engineering in the context of the other field. I would encourage anyone looking to study business to also explore their other interests in a few classes every semester to see how they can customize their business education and take it into other fields they may be passionate about.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? The variety of personalities necessary for success. Prior to coming to Wharton, I was concerned that I would be entering a male-dominant, outspoken, and overall intense environment. What I learned upon arriving, however, is that a variety of personalities come together at the school to produce amazing ideas and projects. I learned that I belong in business school and beyond, as do all the other students I’ve met from various backgrounds and with a diverse set of personality traits.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of my work with changing the club recruitment process at Wharton during my time at Penn. I joined Wharton Council as a freshman specifically to eliminate the negative impact of club recruitment on students’ mental health. As a sophomore, I helped analyze first-year data to learn about what they need most from new policies. I then brainstormed radical policy changes with a team on WC, finally choosing a delayed recruitment timeline and the requirement of open events designed to make new students outside the club feel more included.

We received major pushback from clubs when presenting our ideas, but we modified our timeline to account for all our stakeholders. I then led the implementation of these changes as the chair of a committee during my junior fall, coordinating policy enforcement and discussing repercussions for clubs that were more reluctant to change. The number of freshmen who feel like the recruiting timeline was too early has since decreased by 10%, but we’ve also seen data from this past year suggesting the experience still needs improvement. I’m proud to see what I’ve done since joining WC achieve some success and I’m still working this semester on a larger change effort to hopefully have an even greater impact on club recruitment after I have graduated.

Which classmate do you most admire? I most admire my former co-chair on Wharton Council, Robert Sim. I worked very closely with Robert during my second semester as co-chair and was constantly impressed by his dedication to the organization and his compassion for its members. Part of our role as co-chairs included staying aware of every member’s contributions to WC and stepping in where they needed help. Robert was very good at noticing when a member was struggling with other aspects of life and was quick to check in with them, letting them know they had someone to talk to and that it was alright for them to ask for help with their work on WC. I strive to have the same level of awareness that Robert does about other people, and I’m always looking to learn from him.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I most want to thank both my parents. At every step of my education and career, they have demonstrated a level of understanding that I am so grateful for. As immigrant parents, they have opinions on what a safe career would be for me and what academic excellence looks like. Even so, they have let me try new things, understand my passions, and make mistakes along the way. I’m always nervous about disappointing them if I change my mind about my interests or if I don’t excel in a class, but their reaction is always focused on understanding and helping me grow. College and the career search has been difficult, but I’ve been able to get this far because I have been able to go to my parents for advice and an understanding ear at every turn.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to work in a different country and I want to work at a mental health tech startup.

What are your hobbies? I love bouldering, hiking, and going to the theater.

What made Tanu such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Tanu Balla has made a profound impact on the Wharton student community during her four years. On the Wharton Council (WC), an umbrella organization for student clubs, Tanu has led several committees, served as co-chair, and is now playing an active part in reforming WC club-recruitment policies. Many Wharton clubs have stringent recruitment processes that can cause a high level of competition among applicants, leading some students to feel excluded. Tanu has a unique perspective and insight on the competitiveness of club recruitment through her role in the WC and also as a TA for Wharton 101, the required first-year course. As a result, Tanu has decided to take an active role in changing the way students join clubs and how the clubs can be more inclusive. These issues are complex, but Tanu is dedicated and passionate and intent on making positive changes to ensure club inclusivity. Tanu is well respected among her peers, which serves her well as she works on changing Wharton club-recruitment policies. True to her character, Tanu cares deeply about improving the Wharton undergraduate experience, and, rather than relax during the spring semester of senior year, she is busy at work trying to make a lasting difference and build a stronger and more inclusive community for all students.”

Lee Kramer
Director of Student Life,
Wharton Undergraduate Division


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.