Despite being an engineering student, Krunal Sonpal was so intrigued by the field of supply chain that he convinced Dr. Hari Vasudevan, his university’s principal, to include a supply chain course in his program’s curriculum.
This was in his final semester at the University of Mumbai in India, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 2016.
Now, Sonpal is vice president of sourcing at BNY Mellon in downtown Manhattan, New York – an accomplishment he’s achieved by the age of 26.
With an ongoing commitment towards academic improvement, professional development and relationship building, Sonpal attributes much of his success to the connections and experiences he acquired during his time earning his master’s degree at NC State from 2016 to 2018.
Sonpal was first introduced to the world of supply chain while in Mumbai, after meeting colleagues at his college internships who worked in the field. “I interacted with them, understood their day-to-day job and the overall impact they had on the organization and I started working on small projects with them,” he says.
That’s when he first realized he was interested in pursuing a career in supply chain management.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering and finding time to backpack across India, Sonpal decided to pursue his new passion and started applying to master’s programs in the United States.
“I spoke to a few of my seniors from University of Mumbai who were at NC State, and they mentioned how well integrated the MIE (Master of Industrial Engineering) program is with the MBA program, and how I would have the ability to take courses from the MBA program,” he says.
After weighing his options, Sonpal came to Raleigh in 2016 and began earning his MIE degree at NC State, opting to hold off on earning his MBA until he had acquired more work experience.
However, as his peers had alluded, he was able to get very involved with the Jenkins MBA program at the Poole College of Management – particularly via the supply chain management courses that support the MIE degree.
During his second year at NC State, he became research assistant for Dr. Robert Handfield, the executive director of the SCRC and distinguished professor of supply chain management at Poole College — a relationship that would prove to have a drastic impact on the trajectory of his career.
Making an immediate impact on industry
After graduating, Sonpal had multiple job offers, and based on a recommendation from Dr. Handfield, he ended up joining RTi Global, a procurement consultation firm based out of Ft. Worth, Texas as a data analyst. He was promoted to project manager after only three months and moved to California to manage one of their major clients.
A year and a half later, he was approached by BNY Mellon, and having always wanted to work in the banking sector, he accepted a sourcing specialist job and moved to New York.
Again, after only a few months, he was proving to be a valuable addition to the firm, spearheading a major procurement transformation project using some of what he had learned at NC State as a launch pad.
“After seeing the impact from the proof of concept that I had presented for the project, the leadership team asked me to work on the transformation project full time, because of the amount of impact it would make on the overall procurement process,” Sonpal says.
As for the connection of the project with his student experience, he says, “I remembered that a company I had worked with during my time at NC State had a similar systems in place. Hence, I borrowed the idea from there, modified it to relate it to the systems in place at BNY Mellon and was able to get the project going.”
Not long after taking on the project, Sonpal was promoted to vice president of sourcing after only six months on the job.
Building valuable relationships
Sonpal says the power of networking was the single most important thing he learned while working with the college of management at NC State.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have stayed in touch with a lot of the people I met through the MBA school,” he says. “With the majority of them, I have a conversation at least once a quarter discussing with them the projects I’m working on, and we brainstorm about how we can bring innovations to our respective organizations.”
His connections from NC State have also helped him expand his network at BNY Mellon.
“I found really good mentors within the senior leadership team here, and surprisingly enough, a few of them are friends or former colleagues of Dr. Handfield,” he says.
One of those mentors, Brennan Giggey, Global Head of Strategic Sourcing at BNY Mellon, was also Sonpal’s direct supervisor, which creates an interesting relationship dynamic most professionals don’t get to experience.
Sonpal says, “There are instances where, in the middle of the conversation, I would say, ‘Okay. For a minute, let’s not act like you are my manager but let’s talk if you were my mentor. What do you recommend I should do to improve this?’ That ability to switch between mentors and managers is really helpful because I’m just kicking off my career and getting that expertise from people who’ve been in the industry for 20, 30 years is extremely useful.”
Perhaps most interesting is that Sonpal actually met BNY Mellon’s chief procurement officer, Joseph Martinez, during his time as a student at the SCRC’s Gallery Walk, well before he ever found himself interviewing for a position on Martinez’s team.
Almost two years after meeting him, and just after completing initial phone interviews with BNY Mellon, Sonpal took the initiative to go to the bank’s offices while in New York on vacation. “I thought, ‘you know what, I’m in the city. Why don’t I just drop by?’” he says. “I went to the office and saw Joseph, and I thought, ‘Oh, I know him! And that’s when I told him that we had met each other at NC State.”
Setting an example
For students looking to get their career started on the right track, Sonpal advises them to start planning for their long-term goals right away, even though it may be difficult to look past initial short-term goals.
“That’s why I believe it’s extremely important to have a mentor for professional development, especially once you’re just getting your foot in the industry,” he says.
Since graduating from NC State, Sonpal continues to further his education, and encourages others to do the same. “One thing I promised myself after graduation was to not move away from education,” he says.
That’s why he decided that at least once every six months, he would complete a certification that would improve his skill set. Since graduating he’s earned certifications in sourcing and project management.
“I don’t want to be at a stage where I get so engrossed with my professional life, that I forget that I am also a student and I need to keep learning,” he says.