By Jay Hodgkins 

Newswise — University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumnus Sachin Mehra (MBA ’96) is the CFO of Mastercard, where he has risen through the ranks for a decade following a global career that included stints at General Motors and Hess Corp. in locations including New York, Belgium, Singapore and China.

But his path to the C-suite of a Fortune 500 company certainly wasn’t fate.

In fact, he was ready to board a plane to work for his father at the family business in India following Darden graduation. That is, until (as Mehra might describe it) free will intervened to alter his destiny.

Mehra recently shared his take on fate, destiny and life in the C-suite in a 20 Questions profile on the Alumni Spotlight section of the Darden website. He explained his take on destiny versus free will when asked to share his personal motto.

I have two. One of them has been more consistent with how I feel about life in general. I’m a big believer in what you meet in life is destiny, how you meet it is free will. My life has played out in that manner. Your destiny might be what is presented to you, but you have the opportunity to shape it. I say that to my kids all the time.

The second: Output is important, but outcome is really important.

Mehra used his own story as a prime example of free will intervening to change destiny.

I came to business school with the express intent to go back and work with my family business. Between First and Second Year, I went home and worked with my dad. As a Second Year, I never looked for a job.

My brother [Rajan Mehra (MBA ’03)] called me on graduation day to congratulate me. He asked, “Now what are you going to do with your life?” I told him I was going to get on a plane to go back to India. My brother said that’s what is expected of you, but what do you want to do? It woke me up. I asked my parents to give me six months to find a job, and if I can’t get a job, I will come home. It was that graduation day conversation that led me down my current path.

Mehra has been CFO at Mastercard for less than a year, but he says the transition has not been as difficult as many might think.

Life hasn’t really changed. I was very familiar with the company. I’ve been here for about 10 years. I’ve worked in business and finance roles. A large reason as to why I feel this way is because of the excellent training and mentorship I received from the former Mastercard CFO, Martina Hund-Mejean (MBA ’88).

And for those curious as to how Mehra has managed to climb a multinational giant’s corporate ladder from his roots in family business, he shared the best pieces of advice he’s ever received.

There are two. One is, whenever making important decisions, make them at the right time, place and circumstance. If all of those are right, you will invariably make the right decision.

Second: Expand yourself to adjacent spaces. This was career advice I got from one of Mastercard’s board members. The point he was making is that you have a day job. What you do at your day job is table stakes. How you step out and do more is what sets you apart.

Read the full 20 Questions interview on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.