An Interview with Siddhartha Sen

Siddhartha Sen graduated from the University of Mumbai in 2003 and then worked as an analyst at J.P. Morgan & Chase from 2004 to 2005. Afterwards, he joined KPMG as a consultant between 2005 and 2007 and decided to keep advancing his career by pursuing an MBA at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management. He currently works as the Director of IHS Markit, focusing on the oil and gas industry. Business Today had a chance to sit down and discuss insights from his professional career. The conversation primarily focused on the benefits of having international experiences and in working for global firms.

Business Today (Amy Wang): You graduated from the University of Mumbai, and then received your MBA at Rice University. Can you describe how your international experiences contributed to your ability to interact with clients?

Sen: I got the opportunity to join KPMG as a consultant for the implementation of enterprise risk management solutions for clients across various sectors and companies in [India], so I got the opportunity to travel and to interact with people from various backgrounds, various specialities, various streams of knowledge and it gave me a decent understanding of how people living in different cultures think. It was a very good [educational] platform for me, where I could interact with people from business leaders and understand what their needs are and try to fulfill it doing my project.

While I was engaged in all of this work at KPMG, I thought there was a great opportunity to advance my career by chasing an MBA. Some of the best institutions are in the United States, and so I applied for Rice University and came [to the U.S.] to do my MBA. While doing my MBA at Rice, I did get the opportunity to go to Rwanda in 2009 on a trip. It was a collaboration between Rice MBA and Rice 360. [We] were being asked to figure out ways to market or commercialize medical products which could be delivered cheaply and effectively to the local communities that we visited. I always try to understand international issues and challenges because it creates a better understanding of challenges around the world and creates a high level of empathy within yourself. So you understand what your clients require and you try to solve it. You also become a better listener because you are trying to understand what exactly are the pain points of these people from different cultures and try to provide solutions.

BT: Throughout your career, you’ve held positions at different companies including JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, and IHS, just to name a few. What do you look for in an institution when you made the decision to work there? Is there any advice you would give to students just now entering the financial industry?

Sen: All of the companies [I have worked at] are multinational. The companies have a presence around the globe. They have people from different countries and states working and trying to provide global solutions to clients. I [have] always [been] interested [those] companies. If I am doing some work, I might be able to get a platform where I can share my views not limited to a regional audience, but a global audience. If I write a report or do an analysis, my clients are going to be based in the US, Latin America, India, Asia, Europe, different regions of the world. That is always something that drives and excites me because I can have that global reach by sitting on my desk and doing my work.

Also, global companies give you more opportunities to transition and keep developing as an individual and as an employee … You can move between teams, move between groups, move between functions, move between responsibilities, so it gives you a lot of flexibility. And in different points in your life, you’re going to want to do different things. When you’re part of a global organization, it gives you the flexibility to move through different roles.

At the same time, Sen elaborates on the benefits of working for small and local organizations.

Sen: Some people are not happy with a global organizations. For them, it is better that they transition to a company where they feel they are more recognized, heard, and their views are considered. It depends on the individual and what the individual wants to do. Do they want to be impactful globally? Regionally?

BT: What career decision did you regret the most in your professional career (however small or large)?

Sen: There have been mistakes, but I don’t think I regret any decision. That would not be a good place to be. A good approach to it is if there is a mistake, that you try to move on. And you start to look at the options that are in front of you, instead of looking at the last point. There is no reason to go back to it.

There were some opportunities which have come up in my career, where, for whatever reason, I thought I was not fully capable of doing those roles and let it go. In hindsight, it's better to take a role and then bring yourself up to the skills needed to fully deliver. If you can fulfill 60 or 70% of the role, you should go for it and stretch yourself for the remaining 30, 40% and develop into the role and make it your own.