Meet Guillermo Kalen and Charu Subramanian.
Kalen who works as a project and process manager at Google in the Bay Area. He leveraged his MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University to engineer a dramatic career switch from working in Caracas, Venezuela, for Mabe Corporativo, an electrical & electronic manufacturer, in supply chain management.
Subramanian used her Kelley MBA to land jobs in consumer insights in San Francisco with Ancestry and now Rothy’s, an e-commerce startup that sells sustainable consumer goods. It would be hard to find a more remarkable transformation for someone who once worked doing clinical research in cognitive neuroscience for five years.
Take the ride in a Tesla over the Golden Gate Bridge with Poets&Quants‘ Founder & Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne to meet with these two Kelley alums and explore their job-switching career journeys.
Here is an edited transcript of their video interview with Byrne:
John A. Byrne: Guillermo, what was it like coming out here from Bloomington, Indiana? You had your MBA, it was a little over two years ago, and you moved to San Francisco.
Guillermo Kalen: Going from Venezuela and then Bloomington, Indiana, and then now in San Francisco, I think that the MBA really helped me out. Not only that, it’s just that Kelley also has a really good network here in the Bay Area.
Byrne: Charu Subramanian, thank you for joining us today in San Francisco.
Guillermo, you work for Google, of course, and Charu, you have such a remarkable background in clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and then being an entrepreneur on your own without even really knowing much about business. And then you landed a job with one of the hot startups in the Bay Area, ancestry.com, and now another hot startup, Rothy’s. How did you come to the decision to get an MBA, and to get one at Kelley?
Subramanian: I was at a point where I wanted to change something, and Kelley seemed like the right place to go for that change. I wanted a school that could help me transition into marketing, into product management, into innovation. And Kelley checked the boxes for all of those things for me. So, it seemed like the right place to be at. And I think that kind of what brought me there.
Kalen: I was applying from Venezuela. I wanted to work in the U.S. for a little bit. With an engineering background, I think that the business component is a great marriage. So, an MBA was a go-to for me. The decision of why Kelley is just because of their amazing career services and the academic structure of the program. I think that those two combined made Kelley an easy pick.
Subramanian: I never thought that I was going to get an MBA. I was pretty much like I’m going to get my doctorate for clinical psychology.
Byrne: You were a brain scientist in a way, right?
Subramanian: Yes, I was doing fMRI research. I had applied and was accepted to my doctorate programs, and no school made me feel as comfortable as Kelley. When that clicked for me, I decided okay, business school is the right next move, and specifically Kelley is the place to go because the school is so welcoming.
Byrne: Kelley, of course, is smack in the middle of the midwest in Bloomington, Indiana. And I have to say maybe I wouldn’t think that someone who comes out of Kelley would end up in San Francisco in the most dynamic economy in the world, at companies like Google and Ancestry and Rothy’s. How did that happen, really?
Kalen: There’s a lot of connections between the Bay Area and Kelley. The alumni network here is great. Not only that, you have people who come here for recruiting purposes and for alumni events as well.
Byrne: Plus, there were three members of your class alone who went to Google.
Kalen: When I joined Google, the person who I was replacing was an MBA from Kelley.
Byrne: Charu, have you been able to plug into the Kelley network in the Bay Area?
Subramanian: Yeah. We have alumni everywhere, and it really is true. I found out one of the lawyers on our team is a Kelley alum from many years ago, and we had a bonding moment about how wonderful it was to live in Bloomington for those two years. So, Kelley alums are everywhere. You just say the name and you’ll hear someone say yep, I’ve been there, too.
Byrne: Now, as young professionals, what is it like to work in San Francisco?
Kalen: Well, for me it’s great. I think that the multicultural piece of it and the diversity that there is in the Bay Area, it actually made me be more comfortable of being in the U.S., which it was not the case back in Venezuela.
Byrne: Coming from a nontraditional background, and on top of that being a woman, going into a business culture which traditionally has been male dominated, did you feel any anxiety, any worry about it when you went to Kelley?
Subramanian: No I did not, because I had not thought about it that way when I went in. And when we got in, there were so many resources for women in business. We have associations that are focused on helping women in business that talk about a lot of different topics to help you prepare for that.
Byrne: It’s also one of the few top business schools with a female dean, and a very good one at that. And I can attest to the fact that there are a lot of staff and faculty working on the weekends on behalf of the students.
Kalen: That is completely accurate.
Subramanian: It was really impactful to see how involved the faculty and staff and the career services have been. I think being in a small town, you get to know your classmates really well. I talk to friends I made from there every single day.
Byrne: Even now?
Subramanian: Yeah, it’s a true friendship that I didn’t expect to get, and I feel very fortunate to have the kind of friendship with the people I met there. I know I will have those friendships for many years to come.
Byrne: Well, thank you both for joining me today. You two have made remarkable career transitions into the Bay Area.