2017 Best MBAs: Jared Scharen, Northwestern (Kellogg)

Jared Scharen

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“More grit than Chuck Norris, but always grateful and humble.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Ellicott City, MD

Fun fact about yourself: I taught myself Spanish by watching Telenovelas (Spanish Soap Operas)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Villanova University, B.Sc in Finance and Economics (Summa Cum Laude)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Volunteer Consultant with TechnoServe in Moquegua, Peru – I spent 13 months advising poor, small business owners in rural Peru on how to improve their profitability so they could have more money to put food on the table for their families

Consultant at McKinsey & Co.

Analyst at J.P. Morgan

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? eRetirements.com – a startup we’ve built to help Baby Boomers identify their ideal retirement location

Where will you be working after graduation? eRetirements.com – CEO/Founder

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Zell Fellow 2017 – One of 10 students part of Kellogg’s year long accelerator program that provides mentorship and funding. The Zell Fellows program focuses on fostering a community to grow as an entrepreneur, from interacting with advisors to spending a week with other Zell Fellows in a sponsored trip to Israel.
  • Kellogg Shark Tank Competition, 3rd place
  • Northwestern University Elevator Pitch, 1st place
  • VP Alumni Relations with eClub (Kellogg’s entrepreneurship club)
  • KWEST leader – led a group of incoming students to Sweden/Norway
  • Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member
  • Wildfire Pre-Accelerator – One of 5 members of a pre-accelerator program hosted by The Garage, Northwestern University’s incubator, that provides mentorship and funding

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’ve ran a marathon, climbed a volcano the height of Kilimanjaro, cold called my way into a job at McKinsey, and lived in rural Peru alone for a year. While I’m proud of all of these accomplishments, none have compared to the difficulty and learning I’ve experienced while launching eRetirements. Starting a business where there’s no defined business model and growing it is beyond challenging; there’s no roadmap to follow so you need to really embrace ambiguity. Not to mention trying to balance it with schoolwork, extracurriculars, a social life, and everything else.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Securing my job at McKinsey – I knew finance was not a good fit for me, so after a few years at J.P. Morgan I wanted to switch over to consulting, particularly at MBB. Unfortunately, McKinsey had never hired an undergrad from Villanova without an MBA, so I needed to find another way in the door. I proceeded to cold call roughly 50 consultants asking for help. Most of them told me I had no chance until I got my MBA. That just pushed me more, and finally the 53rd person I called agreed to pass my resume along (with the condition that I stopped calling him). Four interview rounds later, including one with a 103 degree fever, I became the first. My time at McKinsey was instrumental to realizing my full potential in the business world, and I owe it all to that perseverance.

Why did you choose this business school? The people. I was completely torn between three schools, when I called a friend at Kellogg who told me that the career opportunities and resources are all similar at this tier of schools, but the people and culture are what makes them different. After talking with roughly 10 people at each school, I figured out exactly what she meant. The people here are so humble, considerate, and friendly that I think it’s impossible not to be happy. Every single class here has group work involved, which I think could not be more representative of the real world. As such you have tremendous opportunities to enhance your leadership skills. This, combined with the incredible resources to succeed as an entrepreneur between the Zell Program, The Garage, and the top faculty, made Kellogg an easy choice for me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I think many of us, myself included, assume that at this point in our lives we already have our closest friends in place. I could not have been more wrong…I have become very close to so many people here that I know I will be friends with for the rest of my life. I’ve had some amazing experiences during the past two years, including running my first marathon, getting rescued by the UN from a protest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and spending a sponsored week in Israel as part of the Zell Fellows program with top entrepreneurs from IDC in Israel and the University of Michigan. I did all of these with people who I consider to be some of my best friends, which is what made the experiences so memorable.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I wasn’t expecting to grow as much personally. My expectations coming into business school were a) to receive the guidance I needed to grow my startup, and b) to improve my knowledge base from Kellogg’s impressive curriculum and faculty. However, I think this again speaks to what I’ve learned from my classmates and from my deep relationships with some of my professors: I was surprised to find myself spending a lot of time reflecting and focusing on personal improvement. As a result, I feel that I know myself better than I ever have at any point in my life, and look to the future with zero uncertainty of what I’m capable of.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Get to know the people here. Talk with the other students about why they like Kellogg most. Maybe it’s KWEST or the Zell Program. Maybe it’s taking a startup class with Professor Carter Cast. Maybe it’s just getting dinner with some new friends. You’ll get a billion different reasons, but all have to do with the interactions with their classmates and professors. Find the ones that fit closest with who you are and your goals, and talk about them during your application process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A lot of prospective students tell me “I would be interested in Kellogg but I’m not a big marketing person”. While Kellogg certainly has some of the best marketing professors, to classify it as a marketing school would be very misrepresentative. I believe the professional opportunities across the board, in tech, consulting, finance, and every other desired industry are at least the same, if not better, than every other top MBA programs. I can speak first-hand to some of the professors I’ve interacted in entrepreneurship and strategy courses who are undoubtedly some of the best in the business. It truly is a very holistic program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The most painful thing I hear from some of my classmates is something along the lines of “Hi I’m so and so, I don’t think we’ve met so I’m guessing you’re a part-time student?” I then have to awkwardly mention that I’m in fact a full-time student, I’m just not always around. I wish I had been more active in social activities, clubs, and the school as a whole, but there’s always tradeoffs. It would have certainly come partially at the expense of eRetirements, but I do wish I had spent more time getting to know my classmates.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Adam Hutchison, who is fortunately my roommate as well. Adam and I cannot be more different. For example, at 8 a.m. he wants to talk about everything going on in the world and I just want complete silence. Yet, he has such tremendous perspectives on life that most people, myself included, cannot even begin to grasp because he’s experienced more adversity than most. Part of this perspective is his willingness to be vulnerable and talk about his emotions. As someone who’s been called “a robot” by several friends and ex’s, Adam has been instrumental in helping me learn how to feel comfortable (well, somewhat) expressing emotions for the first time in my life.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…we had started to come up with the idea for eRetirements, and then realized we had no idea how to start a business from scratch.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably working as a park ranger in Yellowstone after burning out at McKinsey.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to have changed the lives of millions of people, specifically in the area of wellness. 1/3 of the country is obese, and another 1/3 is overweight. Diabetes is already a $300 billion dollar problem, and it’s just going to get worse. Clearly something is wrong. Everyone doesn’t need to be some “health freak” as I’m sometimes referred to, but there’s a LOT of room for improvement. It’s sad but if we keep up this current pace, a lot of people are going to keep dying young. It’s going to be really hard work, but I’m going to be the person to fix it via a profitable business. You can quote that. I could not feel more ready for this, thanks to everything I’ve learned from the Zell program and entrepreneurship courses at Kellogg.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I know this isn’t original, but it’s 100% true – my parents. It’s a blessing and a curse, but my workhorse mentality has always been inspired by them. Whether it’s being the first to get a college education, running a handful of marathons, or learning to never accept “no” as an answer, they’ve done so much to motivate me. At the same time, the amount of love and compassion they have for others and the world gives me something to strive for everyday. Their constant willingness to pause their own lives to help others, whether it be via mission trips to Africa or just cooking meals for a friend in need, is what pushed me to volunteer in Peru for a year and constantly reminds me to look at how I can use my talents to make the world better.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? For those who knew me, I hope they remember me as someone who always pushed the limits, and for those who didn’t, I’m sorry and hope we can grab a beer sometime.

Favorite book: Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy – the amount of conflicting evidence about how to eat well is very troubling. This book gets it right.

Favorite movie or television show: Seinfeld, never gets old

Favorite musical performer: Bob Dylan

Favorite vacation spot: Galapagos Islands – it’s like a real-life Dr. Seuss book

Hobbies? Running, weight lifting, watching the Baltimore Orioles lose, Travel (40+ countries)

What made Jared such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“A stand-out student in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Jared Scharen brings considerable drive and a rigorous commitment to mastery in all he pursues. I was fortunate enough to have Jared as a student for two years at Kellogg: first year in my Personal Leadership Insights class and second year as a member of the 2017 Zell Fellows Cohort, which is a highly selective program designed for students creating entrepreneurial ventures. It was clear to me from my first weeks with Jared that he was on a path to both contribute and extract as much value from his MBA experience as possible.

Jared excels in academic endeavors, to be sure, which is a significant accomplishment in and of itself, given that he also successfully launched his venture (eretirements.com) during the same period. What is most striking about Jared, however, is his dogged devotion to improving his leadership capacity and the community around him. In class, Jared dug deep, consistently seeking additional work, reading and conversation to best hone his leadership capacity and that of his classmates. In the broader Kellogg community, Jared identified an issue he and other like-minded students cared about—improving our inclusion climate—and did something about it. Among other initiatives, Jared personally launched a school-wide “Dinner with Strangers” event, where students were randomly assigned to groups for dinner outside of the typical social scene. This event not only attracted a large number of students upon its launch, more importantly, it built broader traction and commitment for consistently improving our community in small and big ways.

In short, Jared beautifully embodies Kellogg’s mission to “develop brave leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.” We have seen this growth in Jared and those he has built strong, supportive relationships with at Kellogg; we see how he has inspired growth at our organization through his dedication to inclusion; and we will assuredly see his impact on growth in the markets as well. He is, without doubt, among the Best and Brightest in the Class of 2017.”

Brooke Vuckovic
Adjunct Lecturer
Kellogg School of Management

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017