Salonee Shah

Salonee Shah , MBA '17

Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Venture Capital

According to Salonee Shah, MBA '17, before she was ever a Michigan Ross MBA graduate or a senior portfolio development manager at Microsoft, she was first and foremost a Girl Scout. Salonee says her involvement with the Girl Scouts of America, a program that prepares young girls for a "lifetime of leadership, success, and adventure," was integral to her professional journey. “Girl Scouts really taught me how I can use service and hard work to empower communities,” Salonee said. As part of her Gold Award Project, one of the highest distinctions a Girl Scout can earn, Salonee raised funds to bring technological resources to a rural school in India. She would go on to volunteer at the school and set up a technology infrastructure system within their classrooms. 

I learned so much from those experiences and built foundational professional skills; I dreamed up an impact strategy, fundraised the initiative by public speaking and requesting donations, and then executed by actually working in the school.

After graduating college, Salonee's interest in service and education led her to Teach for America. Salonee taught in one of Mississippi's most highly-segregated school districts before becoming a campus director back in Texas, where she ran an extended learning program that focused on expanding students’ career options, improving math and reading skills, and providing career apprenticeships. 

As a result of these experiences, Salonee began to think about ways to better support teachers and their students. She wanted to understand how businesses empower their employees, and explore how to bring that rigor into education. “I always thought an advanced degree was important at some point in my career, but it wasn't until after my experience with Teach for America that I started to revisit the idea.” For Salonee, that meant pursuing an MBA, which she believed would offer her the business perspective needed to bring private sector practices into education. 

While researching MBA programs, Salonee focused on alumni networks, school culture, and how programs supported their students. Her research brought her to the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA program. And in Salonee’s words, the experience she had talking to students from Michigan Ross was “powerful, unlike anywhere else I had reached out to.” From the timeliness of the responses to the willingness to speak with her, Salonee felt immediate connections to those with whom she spoke.

The thing about Michigan is everybody responds. Everybody's excited to talk to you.

Salonee accepted her offer into the program in 2015. 

Expanding Her Skill Set at Michigan Ross

Once at Michigan Ross, Salonee participated in the HR and human capital consulting career track. Salonee believed many of the challenges she had witnessed in public education during her time with Teach for America were related to human resources. She saw lack of teacher development, ineffective organization design, limited resources, and minimal focus on staff culture contributing to weakened support systems for students. “I felt like the private sector had to have best practices in these spaces that I could learn from,” Salonee said. 

The HR and human capital consulting track provided Salonee with access to professional graduate clubs and peer career coaches that were dedicated to helping students recruit for positions in HR and human capital consulting. “The [recruiting] process was extremely collaborative,” Salonee said. “You’re constantly going to grow professionally and alongside one another. You know the people around you are going to help you move forward.” 

Outside of building her professional network and preparing for recruiting, Salonee was involved in a variety of student organizations and projects. One of her most memorable experiences was with her Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) course, a seven-week course that all Ross MBAs complete at the end of their first year in the program. Salonee says the student team she worked with during MAP was one of the most high-performing she's worked with in her career. Together, the team was tasked with devising a go-to-market strategy for a coffee startup in Peru. Salonee said her team was able to leverage their individual strengths while learning from those with expertise in other areas. Salonee, for example, felt confident in her presentation skills, but wanted to grow in accounting and analysis. “I sat down with an accounting professor for hours to do some of that work for our project,” she said. “I also worked with the more analytical members of our team to tackle aspects of the project that were a bit foreign to me. In the end, I was able to both share in my strength and grow in a new area.”

Salonee’s Impact at Microsoft 

Salonee’s journey at Microsoft began when she took on a role with the company's HR rotational program. She had reached out to Michigan Ross alumni with connections to Microsoft, who were then able to offer support and guidance throughout the recruiting process. “When I entered my internship at Microsoft, I was able to take on some hefty analysis projects because I understood visualization software, a skill I learned in my Big Data Analytics class at Ross. I was able to do some cool projects at Microsoft that really set me apart,” Salonee said.

Salonee at Microsoft

She then went on to secure a full-time role at the company and recently became a senior portfolio development manager for M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, where she helps B2B tech startups grow their business through connections with Microsoft.

Salonee’s scope at Microsoft extends beyond her work as a portfolio manager. She is also the leader of M12's diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. "The ultimate goal is to support our portfolio companies in their diversity and inclusion journey, make our investing practices more inclusive, and fund more founders that are underrepresented in VC," she said.

In this role, Salonee says she calls on her experience creating access and opportunity through technology as a former Title I middle school educator in the Mississippi Delta, and adds: 

For me, being a woman in venture capital and a previous Consortium student, it's important to bring the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion into business. It’s core to how I think about my work. I always want to be able to bring those ideas to others.

Reflecting On Her MBA Experience 

“A big part of why I went to business school is that I knew that to solve some of the most complex problems in education, I would need a powerful and impactful network,” Salonee said. “I believe that the CEOs and the future of business leaders of the world — they’re going to Ross  — and I knew that I would want them in my corner if I were trying to support change in education.” 

And when it comes to advice for prospective MBA applicants, Salonee offers these words: “Think about your purpose; what skills do you want to grow? Where can you be most successful? Pin down what you believe this school can do to help you leverage those goals."