The career potential of interpersonal connections

T-Mobile executive Monisha Mukhija ‘11

The ability to make connections — between people and ideas — has given T-Mobile executive Monisha Mukhija ‘11 an edge in her career. Mukhija, a communication major who hails from Mumbai, parlayed her student and work experiences and connections into a meaningful and successful career.

“The combination of courses that you can take at Denison really enables you to think about the world in a holistic, interconnected way instead of through silos,” Mukhija says. “I strongly believe this helped me deeply in the corporate world— and it gave me the confidence to challenge everyday norms in my personal and professional life. In fact, a lot of the discussions we are having today around diversity and inclusion were actually introduced at a high-level to me in these classes a decade ago.”

Mukhija shared advice and life stories with Denison students about her trajectory during the Career Office’s Fast Tracks Program, and shares more insights here.

What did you do during your first few years after college?

Immediately after college, I started working in customer service at BMW Financial Services in Columbus. At the time, I didn’t consider this a “career” opportunity, but looking back now, I’m glad I had the experience because it helped me understand what it means to be on the frontlines and in a customer-facing role. It is a perspective and experience that very few people in HQ roles are able to bring. After a year of working in this role, I moved on to pursue graduate school at Ohio University.

You got your master’s and then began at Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. How did that come about?

I found that opportunity through a Denison alum, who has been an incredible mentor to me for 10 years now and had generously offered to introduce me to the Global COO of Edelman, Matt Harrington (another fellow Denison alum). During the 4.5 years I spent at Edelman, I worked in a variety of roles including:

  • PR for Microsoft Xbox
  • Executive communications for Microsoft Retail Stores
  • Marketing and business development for Edelman Pacific Northwest
  • Research/analytics at Edelman Intelligence

In addition to my core job, I also managed global operations for Edelman’s Global Women’s Equality Network (GWEN).

You’re now in a business operations position at T-Mobile HQ. Tell us more.

I learned about this opportunity through two incredible women I had met at a conference a few months prior. At the time, I was actively thinking about the next step in my career and was super interested in pivoting into a business operations function that would incorporate all of my previous experiences into one role. This role was exactly what I had been looking for!

I support the Chief Communications Officer through managing a variety of responsibilities, including finance and budget, people and culture strategy, and rhythm of business activities. I recently also joined the DE&I Council to help operationalize the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the departmental level, so we can continue making meaningful progress in the space.

How did the liberal arts help prepare you for work?

Denison and a liberal arts education helped me in a couple of ways:

  • The power of relationships: Denison alums have been instrumental in opening up opportunities for me so far, but beyond that, Denison taught me the power of interpersonal connections – how to build and nurture relationships, and forge connections.
  • The ability to think holistically and interconnectedly: All the variety of courses I was required to take at Denison helped me to think about day-to-day events and our identities in the broader context of society and culture. I wasn’t just focused on perfecting skills in a field that I was majoring in. I was learning how to critically think outside a silo, which I think is immensely valuable as you advance your career.

What is your advice to alumni who are just starting their career search?

It’s a tough time to venture into the job market, but don’t give up. There are a few things that you can do:

Connect with professional contacts and build relationships. It’s a well-known fact that networking is critical to finding a job. In fact, by some estimates, 70% of all jobs are not even published on publicly available sites and 50-80% of jobs are filled through networking.

Be proactive and reach out to people for virtual coffee chats, learn about their work and company, and talk about opportunities that they have or that might be coming up. But also think long-term and non-transactionally. It’s not just about reaching out to people to land that immediate next job. It’s also about finding opportunities to stay connected, as this is how you find great mentors and sponsors in your career and also learn about future opportunities. If you ask me, nurturing your relationships is key - and actually more important than an initial outreach for a conversation.

Utilize your time productively. Everyone knows it’s a tough time to graduate. Once we get to the other side of this, people are going to be curious to know how you made the most out of a tough situation. In addition to job searching, it’s a great time to learn new skills, start an initiative, take a course. I’m personally a big fan of Coursera and then there’s also LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, etc.

October 30, 2020