• Nirali M

An interview with Nirali M. | Q&A with a Career & College Admissions Counselor

Updated: Jun 17

1. Tell us something about yourself (inform the readers who you are and how can you help them) including your Education Credentials. Also, if possible, share your career journey as you have got an interesting career graph. I have always believed in the power of good narratives whether it was used to help highlight students’ strengths as they chalk out their career paths and apply to colleges abroad (which I do in my current role as an academic advisor) or whether it was used to create positive messaging for clients (which I did in my role in Marketing and PR in NYC and India) or using powerful narratives to sell ‘the importance of education’ to street children (which I did in my role as a Teach for India teacher) or using narratives to build a brand (which I do as a co-owner of a family fashion brand). I believe in the power of good narratives and how a powerful perspective make a difference in your life and the world in which you live.  I have cross-functional industry and academic experiences which I use to add value to my role. I hold a Bachelor's in Economics from St.Xaviers College Mumbai and an MBA - Marketing Degree from New York City’s Fordham University.  I love doing what I do. I LOVE getting to know a client, understand their journey and work with them on showcasing their true and authentic story in the best light. Over the years, my clients have gotten through some amazing universities across the globe and in diverse educational areas.  2. You are an academic counselor and a co-owner of a fashion/retail brand. How do you manage two such different roles? How do you divide/allocate time towards these two different roles? The fashion B2B brand is an extension of my family’s business. Academic advisory is my own baby.  I am able to effortlessly juggle between the two with clear demarcation of my role at each place. Additionally proper planning and effective allocation of my time and energy helps me get the best of both worlds. Interestingly, I have also found that both these roles from a macro standpoint have been complementary and have provided value addition to each other. For example, by being in the heart of a buzzing national level business and overseeing various verticals within it, I am kept in the loop of the most relevant skills and advances needed to run a successful and profitable organization. Thus, as a recruiter also I am aware of the practical needs of a business environment and thus intrinsically understand how the relevant educational background can act as a bridge towards meeting the two. Hence, when I provide feedback to my clients on their essays, I understand how to filter the important practical skills which a good educational institute would look for and help my client focus on showcasing those within their resume.  3. You spent a decent time in the PR & Communications vertical. How was your experience? Yes! So I worked in Edelman’s New York Office and at Adfactor’s Mumbai Office. For the former, I worked in the Financial Communications team and for the latter in the Political Communication field. Working in these different verticals in different cities gave me a rich, diverse, hands-on and comprehensive experience in the industry. It was fun and exciting learning ground.  4. Could you please share a few pros & cons of PR/Advertising career? It would be hard to put aspects of any career in the narrow brackets of being a ‘pro’ or a ‘con.’ This is because the answers would be so subjective to a person’s: 1. Interest in that field  2. Aptitude to do well 3. Preference of lifestyle -> Tied to their inclination of work-life ratio, preference of pay scale and willingness to travel vs a desk job.             However, if I had to make a general statement about this field, which would also be subjective to the company’s location, ranking and candidate’s capability, this is what I would say – For this field, it helps if the candidate is proactive, creative, street smart, social, has high interpersonal and communication skills and is flexible working with his/her preference of working hours and locations. A decent amount of research and analytics skills is also useful as one begins to move up the ladder towards more strategy based roles in this field.  5. Why did you choose to opt for an MBA abroad? Was family business expansion a primary trigger for you? Having lived a sheltered life in Bombay I knew my real education would be incomplete until I had learned to not only survive but also thrive on my own in a new environment. An education aboard was my perfect opportunity to grow more as a person and to learn to be more independent, especially in my early 20’s. An MBA degree fit that criterion and also aligned with my future educational and career goals of being a successful businesswoman. The program structure allowed me to get an umbrella overview of different fields within business in my first year and post that make a specific specialization in my second year.  6. Please tell us about your MBA in the USA experience. It was an amazing experience filled with a lot of learning. From learning to adapt to a new culture to managing on my own. The best was being able to study an international curriculum in a global environment with people from various nationalities. The experience broadened my world view and brought me on par with the best global practices in business. It truly gave me the wings to fly and go confidently and successfully in whichever direction I wanted to. 7. You have got a Bachelor's degree in Economics. What prompted you to shape up your career in such a different way (Financial Services - PR - Management - Fashion - Family Business - Career/Study Abroad Advisor)? I am ruthlessly eclectic and I am so glad that my journey has reflected this. It made space for me to explore different areas, each of which gave me knowledge and space to grow. In school, I was drawn towards liberal arts. Once I went to St. Xaviers College I learned about Economics and was fascinated with it. Coming from a business family, I found this course helpful in understanding trade and business better. As a part of Xavier's social work program, I had to teach underprivileged kids at Akansha (an NGO) for 3 years. Thus, Teach for India post-college was the perfect platform to continue my work. Following this stint, I resumed my plan of understanding business and took up the MBA course. Since communication was always my area of interest and aptitude, I took up roles in Marketing and PR. After having gained experience outside I felt confident in being able to contribute to my family business which is in B2B apparel. Simultaneously, having just moved from NYC, I had a lot of friends and family approach me on assistance with their applications to international universities. As I worked on numerous of those, I began to take professional assignments. Overtime this began to feel like a destined path with just the sheer amount of joy and fulfillment it brought to my life. 8. How do you enjoy your time when you are not working (hobbies and interests)? Reading! I am the co-founder of a book club so inevitably I have a book by my bedside every month.  This habit allows me to immerse myself in different worlds and ideas of the time – an important source of inspiration for a career counselor who inevitably has to work with clients on building strong narratives with powerful ideas. Apart from that, I love to travel and immerse myself in unique experiences that allow me to deepen my understanding and engagement with the world.  9. What would be your advice for the folks who are considering studying abroad (especially MBA abroad aspirants)? A piece of major advice I would give is, to be honest when you answer your ‘why’ for considering study abroad. Many times it is easy to get influenced by parents or friends or society’s expectations of why one should go abroad to study. By taking the time to understand your main reasons, you have clarity when you make a list of universities you wish to apply to. Additionally, this clarity would also help once you get into the university to prioritize from an array of available opportunities and you would be able to smartly devote your time. 10. What kind of admissions counseling cases do you enjoy working on (MS, MBA or UG)? All! I LOVE working with all kinds of clients irrespective of which stage of their education life they are in - from Summer Schools to Under- Graduate applications, from Graduate to Post- Graduate applications.  For me, it is always about the beautiful journey of getting to know the client, understanding them and their strengths and being able to build a strong narrative to help showcase them in the best light.  Thus MS or MBA or UG – it is just as exciting and fun! 11. Why did you decide to go with Stoodnt.com platform? I think it’s a great platform to connect people from different locations. By utilizing technology, students get access to the best options for assistance available.  12. Any career advice for the high school kids (and their parents)?  Dive into as many things as possible. Don’t worry so much about how well you are doing it as long as you are doing it. The more you explore and expose yourself to different things, the more knowledgeable you will be about your likes, dislikes, abilities, and weakness. The clearer and self-aware you are, the easier it would be for you to set goals and work towards figuring the best path to achieve those.  13. There are many other career and study-abroad counselors in India (and Mumbai). How do you plan to add more value to study abroad aspirants? I strongly believe my USP lies in there things: 1. Personal attention and accountability from the first meeting till the last. – The client will always have a single point of contact. 2. Network – I have a wide network of alumni/current students from top universities across the globe. I share this network with clients who wish to tap into this to make an informed choice. 3. Recent and updated information – Given that I too just got out the system less than a decade away, I am more in the loop of new applications criteria, offerings by the universities and the international study and work environment.  To book a session with me, send me an email on niraliadvisory@gmail.com (This article was originally published on Stoodnt)

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