During his undergraduate experience at Penn, Arnab Mishra spent tons of time flexing his creative muscles in and out of the classroom. He shares that his college experience was a transformative one, especially due to Penn’s cross-disciplinary nature. Arnab majored in finance and used his elective credits to dabble in literature, writing, and music classes, even learning how to play the sitar (the latest in a long line of instruments he grew up playing). When not studying, Arnab worked at the student radio station and served as a columnist for the Wharton journal. He interned at multiple magazines in New York City and realized that his original plan to pursue journalism as a career was not the correct path for him. However, Penn offered him the chance to experiment with multiple career paths, all while forging lasting connections with peers from diverse backgrounds who helped him expand his ability to see the world. Arnab credits these friends with providing him new perspectives even to this day (even on pandemic Zoom calls).
In school, Arnab realized that his favorite pursuits combined the creative and the analytical. After graduating, he made his way back to New York, working in investment banking and private equity. The firm where he worked had raised a growth capital fund in the midst of the dot-com bubble, and he spent time investing in mid to late stage technology companies. Arnab discovered a love for technology entrepreneurship and building businesses from the ground up. After attending Harvard Business School, he relocated to San Francisco to work on his first of two startups. Both companies were eventually sold to larger public companies, the first to the French-based Alcatel and the second to east coast-based Broadsoft. Arnab still lives in the Bay Area with his wife, originally from Northern Virginia, and their two children. After two decades, he jokes that their family has finally stopped asking when they will move back east. Arnab currently serves as the Chief Product Office at Xactly, where over the last four years he has dramatically expanded the company’s product line, applying a knowledge of market opportunities and user needs. Arnab loves his job, as it once again allows him the room to be analytical and to creatively suss out solutions.
Arnab has also been a very active alum. In 2013, he joined the James Brister Society. Founded in the early 90s and named after the first African American to graduate from the University, the James Brister Society is the umbrella alumni organization for diversity and inclusion at Penn. Arnab has served as the Co-Chair of multiple committees in the Society, and what he loves most is helping advise the University on initiatives to create a more inclusive space for faculty, staff, and students. When asked to join the Platt House Alumni Advisory Council, Arnab was not sure if he was the best fit, since performing arts was not at the foreground of his college experience, nor his current work. However, Arnab says he was drawn to Platt House’s goal of increasing diversity and inclusion initiatives and Platt House’s ethos of uplifting voices. One of Arnab’s first roles on the Council was supporting a panel discussion on racial and social equity in the arts this past spring. The session was geared toward alumni with a goal of updating them on current trends and goals in the student performing arts spaces. Platt House is so excited that Arnab has joined this team, as we are grateful for his experience with advocacy work and his perspective from the business world. Many of our students have followed in his footsteps as students in the Wharton School, and we have a lot to gain from his insight.
When asked why the arts are important, Arnab shares: “I dont view art as a thing unto itself. I think the notion of art and the notion of creativity lives in every single discipline out there. It’s universal.” Arnab explains that even when creating software products, there is a level of artistry within them. Arnab also shares that he believes philosophically that “art is a place where the human spirit can be expressed like no other. I think having those outlets for people is really important. [People] can talk frankly about sensitive subjects through art. In the US, the more diverse and progressive and accepting we become as a country, the more we need the arts to create a space for those discussions.” Arnab believes that students can leverage their performing arts experience beyond college because every performance is a team effort. He says it is the team that works together to deliver a unified product, which is business in a nutshell. He continues, stating that the performing arts also demand a kind of rigor and help people learn to be comfortable addressing other people. “Studies show that leaders who are comfortable being vulnerable in front of others are the most effective in leading.” Arnab reminds us that the performing arts help shape new leaders, no matter what discipline they ultimately pursue.
This interview was conducted by Jadel Contreras, C’22.