MSx Student

Sasha Gidwani

MS ’24
Sasha Gidwani, MSx ’24
Sasha Gidwani, MSx ’24
It is important for me to find a way to support other women through their career journeys.
February 1, 2024
By

Sasha Gidwani refers to her propulsive decade-long career at Bank of America as the result of “happy mistakes and detours” rather than a carefully chosen career path. But the global pause during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic gave her time to wonder if maybe she’d missed her true calling.

“It got me thinking about how to upskill myself and learn something new,” says Gidwani, whose family is Indian but who was raised in the Philippines. “I ended up circling back to business school and decided to give it a try.”

She plans to graduate from Stanford’s MSx program next spring. While she’s still puzzling out exactly how she wants to direct her talents and ambitions, she imagines a future in a role where she can empower other women to rise into leadership.

“I’m not entirely sure what I’d like to do,” she says, “but I know I’d get a lot of joy from helping lift up other women.”

Did you know from an early age what career you wanted to pursue?

When I was younger, I actually wanted to be a doctor. I was a pre-med student for most of my undergrad [education], but then realized I didn’t want to spend life in a hospital. So I pivoted and somehow ended up in banking. I don’t think I imagined being where I am sitting when I was younger.

Tell us more about that first career pivot.

I was a pre-med student for three years in undergrad and did a lot of volunteer work at hospitals. I eventually realized I didn’t want to be a doctor but didn’t have any mentors from the healthcare industry and didn’t know what other jobs I could do in the industry. My dad is a businessman and encouraged me to explore financial services. Working at a bank seemed like the logical thing to do with a finance degree, so I joined Bank of America after graduating and ended up staying there my entire career. I got to do a lot of interesting and different things during the decade I was there, but I felt that I didn’t actively choose that career path. It sort of just happened. So I wanted to come to GSB and explore other industries, other roles, and find my real passion in life.

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“I realized that there are many different types of leadership styles, some of which resonated with me.”

Who do you count as your most important influences?

I have two younger sisters who I’m extremely close to; they’re my sounding boards for everything. They both live in New York, and I was living with them right before coming to GSB. I think I would find it very hard to make big life decisions if I didn’t have their support. In terms of career mentors, it’s been tough because in the financial services industry there are not a lot of women I saw as leaders at the top, and definitely not a lot of women of color. It was always hard to find people to look up to in which I saw myself.

Why does the idea of empowering other women appeal to you?

It has a lot to do with the culture I grew up in. When I was younger, building a successful career wasn’t the main focus of my life or what was expected of me. The main “goal” was to get married and have a family. In the last five or six years, I realized that it’s important for me to build a successful career outside of whatever is happening in my personal life. I think there are a lot of women who face that same kind of societal pressure, which is why it is important for me to find a way to support other women through their career journeys.

Was it difficult to pivot again after nearly a decade into a successful banking career?

I had wanted to come to business school earlier in my career, but at that point I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of business school. Whenever I stopped feeling challenged in my role or wanted a change, I was able to do that within my organization. I got a new role, got promoted, and even moved to Singapore for a few years. So I never felt the need to leave to do something else. But during COVID, I had a lot of time for introspection and realized this was the right time for me to make a change in a meaningful way.

Was there a particular attraction to the MSX program?

It felt like the perfect fit for where I was in my career. I knew I only wanted to come back to school for a year, and I only wanted to come to a top institution. I also wanted to be part of a community of people who were at a similar stage in their careers. So when I found the MSx program it was very clear that this was where I needed to be.

What was the most difficult part about leaving Bank of America?

I had a long career at the bank and built strong relationships, so the hardest part was disappointing people. At the time I started looking into the MSx program, I felt stagnant. After I applied, I ended up relocating back to New York for a new job that I was super excited about. I was also up for a promotion this year and was selected to be part of a leadership program at the bank. I was finally on an uphill trajectory, and I felt like the team leadership was investing in me. So when the time came for me to inform them of my decision to leave, it was a difficult conversation to have with the management team. But everyone was extremely supportive, which made it a bit easier.

Was there a specific moment after you began the MSx program that convinced you you’d made the right choice?

Every moment. I was chatting with my mom the other day and said that this place is not really a business school; it is more like a life school. I thought I was here to learn more of the hard skills, like accounting and economics, but a lot of the growth and introspection actually happens outside of the classroom. The amount I will learn this year, both about the world and myself, is more than I have grown in the last five years.

What do you plan to do with your degree from Stanford?

My ultimate goal is to find something I’m passionate and excited about and to be able to use the skills I’ve developed over the years. I have led product strategy and managed client relationships and risk while working in cross-cultural teams. I’d love to be able to use that knowledge and experience in whatever path I end up pursuing. My original plan was to go into fintech because that’s what I have expertise in, but now that I am here I want to explore career paths and functions. A professor recently told me: “Imagine you’re in a car driving forward. Take out the rearview mirror. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. Look at where you want to go in the future and you’ll find a way to make your skill set and your experience fit into that path.”

How valuable to you is leadership development?

It was one of the main reasons I wanted to come here. Before that, I struggled with viewing myself as a leader and having others see me as one as well. But through working with the communications coaches and going through the Executive Modules over the summer I realized that there are many different types of leadership styles, some of which resonated with me. I want to continue to develop these leadership skills during my time here, by taking classes like Acting with Power or Strategic Communications. With the resources available at the GSB, I hope to continue to build my leadership toolkit to take with me into the future.

How do you think you can have the most impact on the world?

One of my goals while I’m here is to find my ikigai, the Japanese concept of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. If I can find that intersection of things, I think I can have a positive impact in whatever I end up doing. If you’re excited about the work, that’s contagious.

Sasha Gidwani, MSx ’24
Sasha Gidwani
MS ’24
Hometown
Manila, Philippines
Education
MS, Stanford Graduate School of Business
BS, University of Florida
Professional Experience
Product Manager, CashPro Payments, Bank of America
Product Manager, APAC Commercial Cards, Bank of America
Product Manager, USD Wires, Bank of America
Current Profile