Kevin L. Vargas
“Driven biomedical engineer turned healthcare advocate and businessman.”
Hometown: Round Lake Beach, IL
Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m the child of Mexican immigrants and the first in my family to graduate college.
Undergraduate School and Major: Yale University, BS Biomedical Engineering
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: IntriCon Corporation, Quality Engineering Team Leader
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: An employer once sent me to Costa Rica to resolve product quality issues that were disrupting our largest client’s supply chain. As the face and sole representative of the company, a lot weighed on me and the progress I would make at our client’s facility.
Having never traveled to Central America before, I relied on my interpersonal and Spanish language skills to work alongside our client’s team to assess the problem and make recommendations on how to proceed. We were successful in working together to resolve the manufacturing issue. However, during the process, we also discovered a packaging issue that could have been even more detrimental than the initial quality issue. Because of my involvement, we accomplished more than anticipated, allowing me to play a major role in saving a critical business relationship. Ultimately, the experience furthered my confidence and competencies in navigating unfamiliar situations by testing my ability to work under significant time constraints with limited information.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Honestly, my classmates have been so friendly. Right off the bat, we were eager to learn about each other and everyone’s different backgrounds and interests. I immediately got the sense that we would become a collaborative class that would support each other as we navigate not only the academic coursework but also the internship and job-seeking processes.
Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The Carlson School program offers unparalleled experiential learning opportunities through the Enterprise system. Since each student will work hands-on with real organizations facing real business problems, students can leverage these experiences to advance their careers and continue building their skillset. As someone who is looking to switch from operations and manufacturing to marketing and product management, the Enterprise system will be valuable to my professional development and will help me market myself to prospective employers.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I believe it’s critical to give back to the community by leveraging our strengths and knowledge as developing business leaders and entrepreneurs, so I’m most excited to work with the Graduate Volunteer Consultants (GVC) Club, which provides pro bono consulting services to local non-profit organizations tackling unique challenges.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging questions posed to me by admissions officials were those centered on my post-MBA career interests and plans. Though I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do after graduate school early in my applications, I know even more information about my future career now than I did a year ago. As I progressed through the admissions process, I kept asking myself, “Is this really what I want to do? Does this career path sound right?” To remove any doubt or uncertainty, I spoke with current and former MBA students until I became more certain of my career aspirations. Speaking with alumni who are now doing what I want to do was the best way to prepare for these kinds of career-oriented questions.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After working four years in the medical device manufacturing sector, I wanted to focus less on how to make the product, and more about why we make the product. For me to understand more about the medical technologies we develop, I needed to learn about the different marketing tools and frameworks used to understand the healthcare industry and the companies that operate within it. As I grappled with this, it slowly became obvious to me that returning to school would best prepare me to dive deeper into the industry and make the most impact.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to the Yale School of Management, Georgetown McDonough School of Business, Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, and NYU Stern School of Business programs.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? My advice to prospective MBA students trying to determine fit at a school? Speak. With. Students.
Throughout the admissions process, I asked both current and former students two questions. First, I asked what they considered to be the most meaningful aspects of the program. I listened for enthusiastic responses that showed that current students loved their school and were excited about the program’s offerings. I also looked out for whether their responses would line up with mine. For example, is it the experiential opportunities they highlight, or is it the faculty members, or is it the student clubs? For me, I really valued the hands-on offerings.
Secondly, I asked what they believed to be the biggest areas of improvement of the program. Again, I listened to assess if their responses lined up with what I would consider important. Do they wish the diversity were stronger or that the career center paid more attention? An attentive career center and diverse class are important to me, so I wouldn’t feel like I fit at a program that wasn’t strong in either of those regards.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? As a biomedical engineer, I’ve always believed that the human body is the world’s most complex machine and that understanding how it functions is key to developing new technologies that improve patient outcomes and manage the treatment of life-altering diseases. But not until I started volunteering as a Spanish-language interpreter at a local non-profit health center did I see the more human, less mechanical elements of the medical industry. I saw first-hand the need for comprehensive, affordable healthcare, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. Now, as an MBA student, I’m more determined than ever to make a difference in the healthcare industry and in the lives of the people we will affect as we advance our careers.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I hope to manage a marketing team that focuses on bringing to market cutting-edge medical technologies that address the needs of patients suffering from debilitative diseases while continuing to volunteer with local organizations and begin raising a family with my husband.