Divya Thadani ’99

Thriving on the challenges of corporate strategy development

Divya Thadani says she gets goosebumps when asked to sum up the impact her Wooster education has had on her. She cites the critical thinking and communication skills she developed, the lifelong friendships she made, and how her experience in the Applied Methods and Research Experience summer program prepared her for the first business strategy consulting job she landed after graduation.  Twenty years later, corporate strategy is still the heart of her professional life, at PPG, a $15 billion global paints and coatings company in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Corporate strategic planning and development, she says, is all about “dissecting core challenges, figuring out what steps to take, and where to focus improvement efforts.” It also entails “identifying potential acquisitions, analyzing where they fit from a strategic perspective, and the mechanics of getting a deal done,” and then communicating the results of those complex analyses clearly. It’s a skill set Thadani has been honing since her Wooster days.

She came to Wooster in 1995 from her home in Mumbai, sight unseen. “I had never even left India,” she recalls. “I got college catalogs in the mail and wrote my applications. I was essentially applying to pretty pictures!” But the personal attention she received throughout the application process helped tip the balance in Wooster’s favor, and “they made me feel at home from the first day I arrived.” Even today, she still remains in touch with her host family.

Thadani arrived in Ohio intending to major in mathematics, but began thinking about a double major after taking some international relations classes, and “Wooster made it easy to make that choice.” For her senior I.S. project, she looked at why economic growth, measured by GDP and per capita income, does not always correlate with improvement in measures of development like infant mortality, educational attainment, and life expectancy in Third World countries.

After graduating from Wooster, she worked for strategy consulting firms including KPMG, earned an MBA from Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, and then spent 13 years at J.M Huber Corp, a specialty chemicals and engineered materials company, on their corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions team. In 2017 she was hired by PPG as director of corporate strategy. Today she is director of strategy and business development for PPG’s USCA Architectural Coatings unit.

Reflecting on her career so far, Thadani says, “Consulting is the best training ground for someone looking to go into business. You’re coming into a new space, figuring out the heart of a problem and how to solve it. And you’re working as part of a team, a team where you don’t always get to pick the people you work with.” Working on an AMRE team at Wooster “gave me that experience on a small scale” and it has paid dividends.