It started with a little positive maternal emotional blackmail and led to an MBA thousands of miles from home at Lancaster University Management School. Now, Aman Bhutani (MBA, 1999) is CEO of global internet domain registrar and small business technology provider GoDaddy.
It could all have been so different. Aman was a 20-year-old living in Delhi and working as a technology consultant, with no thoughts about going to business school until he had more first-hand experience.
He was enjoying his work – even when it involved riding on his motorbike in intense heat, on one occasion in a long-sleeved shirt and tie and with not even the offer of a cold drink to help cool him down on his arrival. But it was clear he had bigger things in mind.
Aman already had a lot of thoughts about leadership, especially in the tech sector, having run into people problems that needed resolving and smoothing over throughout his consultancy.
“I had this view on how important relationships and leadership were to technology firms, and how – frankly – tech leadership was very poor, because most of the people leading were not technologists, and technologists were not good at leading people,” says Aman.
Aman’s mother was keener for her son to go to business school than he was himself, and she conspired – in the best possible sense – with a university recruitment agent friend to have him attend an event at the British High Commission. There, Lancaster University Management School Associate Dean Professor Rick Crawley made an impression that was to change the course of Aman’s life.
“My mom emotionally blackmailed me to go,” recalls Aman with a smile. “I hadn’t signed up, but the agent met me and told me Lancaster University was there, that she thought I would like it, that it was different from other schools, that Rick Crawley was a different kind of person. I had never seen a professor like him. I was blown away by how he talked about the school, every aspect interested me.
“My mom’s friend asked me ‘what did you think of that?’ I told her it had blown me away and I had never felt the same way about education.
“I met with Rick, and he talked to me, asked me a lot of questions, spoke about leadership, people, business school. Just listening to him, I was learning a lot. I ended up applying to Lancaster, and I didn’t apply to any other business school. I think if it wasn’t for that one meeting, I would have continued to work in consulting for a few more years.”
Aman arrived at Lancaster in autumn 1998 having just turned 22, and as one of the youngest members of a multi-national 75-strong MBA cohort. He sees the 12 months he spent there as some of the most formative in his life.
“I have the best memories of Lancaster,” Aman says from his home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. “Going to Lancaster, I had never lived by myself. Living in a foreign country, managing everything in your personal life, being one of the youngest in the class, it was totally different.
“The first coursework was on organisational behaviour. I had never thought about organisational behaviour, I had never done a case study, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do! After two days trying to think about it, I called Amanda, whom I had only known for a week. She was a director of finance with the NHS, and she wanted a career change to become an executive coach.”
“She spent about 30 minutes explaining to me how I should think about it. That was huge – to be able to learn a new way of learning opened up the world for me. Also, to not only have professors to talk to but also being able to talk to somebody who had been part of a very large organisation for a long time, and who could tell me her own experiences of how things worked.
“As young as I was – I probably went to business school too early in life – you could learn as much in the bar as in the class. You would be standing with someone who, if the topic was HR, was the director of HR in a big company. You layer on top of that the curriculum, you layer on top the research, you layer on top the professors. There were so many layers that led to an amazing experience for me. It really opened up a ton of opportunities for me.”
Aman kept those new perspectives and knowledge, and while he may no longer keep the binders of work from his studies at LUMS that for years he referred back to, that is because the ideas and principles are now instilled in his mind.
“I graduated and came to the US, where I decided to join a couple of folks with a start-up (Critical Sense Inc),” Aman remembers. “We did that for two or three years, then I ended up at a large bank and I went back to my roots in technology. I used a lot of leadership skills starting the company, but I wanted to go back into technology.
“I lasted about nine months in a developer job, then they moved me into management. The reasons were simple – I was very opinionated about how technology should be led, but also, when my resumé showed up, it showed I had been to business school, and that opened up a lot of opportunities.
“In many ways, the coursework around organisational behaviour, marketing, accounting – the things I was new to – was very helpful. As my career progressed into technology management, immediately the first things that mattered were the culture, work behaviour, recruiting. As I became more senior, and especially as I moved from the tech side to the core business, all of those areas were relevant.
“For a very long time, at least 10 years, I kept the binders for work behaviour, marketing, culture, work structure – which I hated as a class, but love it now. I kept the stuff on change, complexity, and I went back to that for the five or 10 years – they are internalised now. A lot of the ideas I have were formed in my mind at Lancaster.”
Aman’s career has taken him to JPMorgan Chase and Expedia, and he has been CEO of GoDaddy since September 2019.
“My role is to put the company on the path to achieving its vision,” says Aman, who is part of the LUMS Investors in Excellence programme, giving back to the Management School through philanthropy. “We believe in a vision of the world where small businesses are the larger part of the global economy, and the mission is to make that opportunity available to everyone, to make it inclusive for all. I love that vision. There is a value structure here that matches mine, and the purpose of the company is a great one, an important one to the world.”Back to News