Kamal Kaur, MSx ’15: Stanford’s Siren Song Leads a Scholar Down New Roads


Kamal Kaur, MSx ’15: Stanford’s Siren Song Leads a Scholar Down New Roads

Kaur confirms her career choice and learns to go with the flow when her path to Palo Alto brings her to business school instead of medical school.
June 28, 2017
Kamal Kaur, MS '15

This series features reflections from our alumni on their school experiences and their aspirations, learnings, challenges, and joys. Here, Kamal Kaur tells Stanford GSB how her long-held plans to attend the university shaped her life.

“I just need one year where I’m not going to do any studying related to diseases and medical conditions,” Kamal Kaur thought. That idea changed her career path forever.

Kaur was always headed to Stanford, even as she completed her undergrad degree at San Jose State and then went on to nursing school. The plan was to work as a nurse and save up enough to attend medical school at Stanford. The reality looked a little different.

Lured by the life-altering potential of the digital boom at the end of the ’90s, Kaur decided to take a little break from healing others and dip a toe into the high-tech world. Her one year “off” led to many more. She worked her way through the ranks, progressing from one startup to another.

By anyone else’s standards, Kaur was successful. But, she says, “I felt like there were some secret code that was taught at business school where things made sense, and I didn’t know that secret code.”

After her last successful exit demanded that she “sit out” for a year, she decided to put that time to good use. Kaur looked at other schools’ programs. But heading for Stanford, her parents’ dream, to attend Stanford GSB — a prestigious institution whose graduates have had such a big impact on society — “was meant to be.”

Over the course of the Stanford GSB program, Kaur discovered that many of the perceived shortcomings holding her back were simply self-constructed mental blocks. The professors in each of her classes helped her gain the confidence she needed in order to embrace her natural business abilities.

Kaur studied crisis management and strategy beyond markets, learning to accept the fact that not everything is within our control. Letting things play out before deciding on an actionable strategy goes against human inclination, but it can make all of the difference in leading to a successful outcome.

Another lesson she learned at Stanford, Kaur says: “I now have a better appreciation of the failures in my life. Before attending Stanford GSB, I never even mentioned a project until it was on a successful path. Afterward, I started to embrace the concept of failing fast and failing often, and not doing so in the dark."

Moving forward, Kaur has realized that beyond looking for the “right” job or position, what matters to her is finding the right team to join. If you trust yourself and your abilities and have the right people by your side, anything is possible.

As she started her Stanford GSB experience, Kaur says, she could see herself coming out the other side thinking: “ ‘Yeah, I’m not going to starve. That’s for sure.’ But people don’t come to Stanford because they don’t want to starve. They want to be able to make a difference. Now I know I am going to be one of those MSx students who is going to be successful.”

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.

Explore More

February 20, 2018
Big Data, Strategic Decisions: Analysis to Action will empower senior-level executives to use data analytics to improve decisions and gain a competitive advantage.
Courtesy SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Archives and History Office
February 16, 2018
These professionals are shaking things up in healthcare, energy, finance, and social entrepreneurship.
Five recent Stanford GSB graduates and one current student made Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 for 2018. | Elena Zhukova
February 16, 2018
At Startup Garage, students learn to create and launch new products. For its fifth anniversary, meet five companies that began as class projects.
Stefanos Zenios working with students in the Co-Lab | Steve Castillo