May 8, 2023

DPB Alum Aarti Mudaliar, HR Executive at Novartis, Takes Yoga Sabbatical to India to Reconnect with Her Purpose

Aarti Mudaliar, an alum of the Human Capital Analytics and Technology program within the NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business, has always had a deep interest in the human side of organizations. As executive director and head of talent management for US innovative medicines at Novartis, she believes that the field of human resources plays a central role in serving as the conscience of an organization and in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

“I have experienced talent management at its best—from having the opportunity to work with leaders who always took a people-first approach, to being given projects to lead that challenged me, but always having the support when I needed it,” she said. Both her professional and personal experiences have shaped her world view and intentions. “My purpose in life is to explore my full potential and inspire people around me to do the same—to live their best life,” she said.

A native of Mumbai, India, Mudaliar grew up in a large and loving family of entrepreneurs who instilled in her the value of education, hard work, and living a life of passion. “Seeing them start from humble beginnings to creating a successful luggage-manufacturing business made me a huge believer in following your dreams with passion and resilience,” she said.

Mudaliar completed an undergraduate mechanical engineering degree followed by an MBA in India. She was recruited by GSK’s training program, where she learned different aspects of the business. The HR rotation enthused her, and that’s where “I found that HR was my sweet spot,” she said.

As part of her career growth, she came to the US in 2016 to work for Novartis in its oncology division. Recently, she took over as head of talent management for the company’s biggest division—innovative medicines—an almost $16 billion business.

At the same time, she was keen to pursue a second master’s degree focused on HR analytics. She enrolled in the NYU SPS Human Capital Analytics and Technology program. “I was impressed by how the courses were focused on the application of analytics and technology to solve people-related challenges,” she said, adding, “The pedagogic approach was akin to a live laboratory—where we were encouraged to bring our work experiences into the classroom and take back and apply our classroom learning into the workplace.” Among her favorite professors were Anna Tavis, Katie Beavan, Beverly Tarulli, Stela Lupushor, and Maryam Jahanshahi. She graduated in May 2022 at the top of her class.

After a grueling two years of full-time work and study, Mudaliar decided to pursue her next passion. “I really wanted to take time out to reenergize and reconnect with myself beyond just my corporate identity,” she said. “I was looking for a structured program to take me out of my comfort zone that would stretch me in terms of my physical and mental capabilities, and where I would also give back to society.”

She found what she was looking for in a Hatha yoga-training course run by the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, India. Last semester, she took a six-month sabbatical from work, enrolling in the program, and reacquainting herself with the importance of centeredness.

She came back fully recharged. “My first takeaway from the experience was discovering a sense of purpose beyond myself,” she stated. “This organization is almost entirely run by volunteers, and they support amazing causes related to human empowerment, and social and environmental revitalization. I witnessed people across age groups give themselves completely in terms of their time, energy, and effort without expectation of a monetary benefit or a title or a promotion. It was amazing.”

Professionally, she came back to work with the realization that in order to retain employees, organizations need to engage people not just in their heads but in their hearts. “It is important to have the right culture and to have a galvanizing purpose. That is how you create change.”

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