The Booth Experience’s Women@Booth series aims to highlight the experiences of exemplary women leaders at the school. Over the month of March and April, we will speak to women across Chicago Booth to uncover their past experiences, understand what brought them to Booth, and get a sneak peek into what lies ahead for them. We hope these stories bring to the fore the people who make Chicago Booth a great community to be part of and inspire women around the world.

The next person to be featured in this series is Reetika Bhardwaj, who came to Booth to transition into Healthcare Venture Capital and Strategy.

Reetika grew up in New Delhi, India, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science from Delhi University. She moved to the United States to get a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to Booth, Reetika worked at Spectrum Science, a boutique advisory and communications firm in their Washington, DC office. At Spectrum, Reetika worked across various Healthcare verticals helping clients with corporate strategy and product positioning. In addition, she worked at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, developing pre-clinical models targeting multiple sclerosis and asthma. Outside of work, Reetika founded a social venture to encourage underprivileged children to pursue STEM education in the Washington, DC area.

At Booth, she is an Admissions Fellow, Mothers at Booth co-chair, and works closely with the Polsky Center as an Innovation Fund Associate (IFA) and I-CORPS fellow. In addition, she has co-founded a digital health company that offers long-term care for opioid addiction by connecting individuals with behavioral health specialists; she and her company are currently competing in NVC.

Why did you decide to come to Booth?
Having only studied science all my life, I was at a junction in my career where I was working in business of Healthcare. I wanted to gain additional training to truly excel in my new career path and therefore decided to get an MBA. I needed to find a school that would celebrate my unique background, support my career transition, and provide robust academic training in finance and entrepreneurship. After speaking with my mentor who graduated from Booth in 1964 and was a student of Milton Friedman and George Shultz, I decided to visit Booth. The interaction with current students, alumni, and faculty made Booth my top choice. The academic rigor and a culture that encourages debates from diverse point of views resonated with me.

How have you found the women support network at the school?
An additional factor I needed to consider while deciding on business schools was the Booth women and mothers’ network. I was moving with my family and 3-year-old son and wanted to be in a community that will celebrate diversity and provide a support system for me. I spoke with current full-time students who were also moms to learn more about their experience before making a decision to come to Booth. Throughout my last 1.5 years, I have had a strong network of women, not just from Mothers at Booth and other peers, but also faculty and staff who have helped me get the most out of this experience.

Are there any instances that stand out for you with respect to the support women leaders get at Booth?
Being a mother at Booth is hard and recruiting for investment banking and training for my summer internship in M&A investment banking during my Spring Quarter was intense. One of my classes was Financial Statement Analysis with Professor Michael Minnis, who hosted Sunday evening sessions to provide additional assistance to students who wanted 1 on 1 time. However, one of the evenings when I was struggling to get a sitter for my son, Professor Minnis suggested that I bring my son along so I could still participate in the session. We were unsure of the rules or if this would even work, but his flexibility and passion to help students stood out for me.

What are the responsibilities you manage in your life? How do you strike a balance between school and personal life?
Classmates, Booth faculty and staff, and family have been my biggest pillars of strengths as I pursue my MBA full-time, work at a venture fund part-time, and run the company I co-founded. One big rule that I follow is allocating enough time for my son, especially in the evening. I try my best to not schedule meetings before my son’s bedtime and to keep my weekends dedicated to spending time with my family and catching up on internship work. The flexibility my peers have shown has allowed me to keep this rule and strike a great balance. At the same time, my family has ensured that I have enough support to truly immerse myself in MBA activities like social events, Random Walk, and leadership trainings.

What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about making an impact on patients’ lives. I have worked tirelessly in the healthcare sector for the past decade, to gain experience and train myself to pursue roles that make an impact by improving health outcomes for patients. A big aspect that allows companies to make better investments in Healthcare is choosing the right investment and having a good return on it. I want to use my training at Booth to enable better healthcare investment decisions that can be fruitful both financially and socially.

What are your personal and/or professional aspirations going forward? How has Booth helped in you in achieving these aspirations?
Professionally, I want to continue working in roles that allow me to make an impact on patient lives and be a more effective leader. Personally, I want to be a better employee/citizen and an enabler for my community. Booth has prepared me to excel in these attributes by providing me training from classes like Commercializing Innovation, PE/VC Lab, and Designing a Good Life as well as practical experiences via working as an IFA and gaining investing experience.

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