2020 MBAs To Watch: Karan Jain, Penn State (Smeal)

Karan Jain

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

“An empathetic and analytic team player, ready to roll up his sleeves to create impact.”

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Fun fact about yourself: I have always been passionate about storytelling. I wanted to be a film director and cinematographer and was even awarded the “Best Amateur Director- Short Film” at age 21, at a large competition in India.

Undergraduate School and Degree: MBA from IBS, India, & Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Sciences) from Maharashtra Institute of Technology, India

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Head of Business Development at an e-vehicle startup called RAP motors, India

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Dell Technologies, Round Rock, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? Dell Technologies, Round Rock, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Fellowship Recipient
  • Member of the Supply Chain and Consulting Associations
  • Peer Advisor- Consulting Case Workshop
  • MBA Consultant-Kraton Chemicals, Penn State Institute for the Study of Business Markets
  • Penn State Smeal MBA Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to have been a resource for many of my classmates and the larger international community to practice cases, conduct mock interviews, and provide recruitment associated assistance. I felt like this helped me develop deep bonds with them and become invested in their success.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I greatly value the lessons learned, challenges faced, and growth achieved from working together with my father to grow our family’s business which deals with providing industrial electrical solutions to large pharmaceutical companies. The most complex of these are flame-proof fittings, and I envisioned us manufacturing these as opposed to only trading in them. It took two years of non-stop work to gain the knowledge, get certified and set up a manufacturing facility alongside my regular job. With this effort, we were able to gain a foothold in this new market and our brand is now one of the most reputed in India, even gaining fame in some International markets. I’m very proud of my once technically-challenged father, who learning together with me is now enabled to develop sophisticated product lines. This journey was invaluable to me. The sweat, tears, and challenges of running a medium-size business instilled in me a zest for learning more about the broader international business world. The experience, learning, and accomplishment became an important precursor to my decision to pursue an MBA.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Ralph Oliva, our resident marketing Guru. He has been a constant motivating force for leaders of the future, and he uses his voice to impress upon us the importance of educating others. It’s his tutelage that has helped me realize how an MBA can help mold individuals to strive to make the world a better place.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? THON raises money for kids with cancer in the state of Pennsylvania. It allows the business school to have three volunteers that stay up for 48 hours straight in a dance marathon! The outpouring of support for our volunteer classmates, from the stands to the thoughtful messages throughout the event, is touching enough to make a grown man cry. It reflects how my cohort is more like a family, standing with each other when most others would rather sleep comfortably in their homes.

Why did you choose this business school? Every interaction prior to applying that I had with the Admissions team, current students, and alumni was heartening. No question went unanswered, and the speed of the interactions enabled a student on the other side of the world to relax and not spend any anxious hours waiting for responses that could shape his decision of the future. I was treated as a unique individual with a unique professional journey and that has continued through my time at the school.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Before you apply, ask yourself why you want to pursue an MBA. When you answer this truthfully, the insight gained will help you be honest in the application process – and that’s what Smeal looks for in applications. You are more than your academics or GMAT score, and no one believes and exemplifies that more than my school.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That being a small program could be a disadvantage when it comes to employment. On the contrary, it helped us network extensively with companies in a calm and friendly environment, and our brilliant Career Services provided us with a level of personal care that might not have been possible in a big program.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? It’s a little tough being a family man and partaking in social events with my classmates. I definitely wish I could have spent more time with each of these amazing individuals. Oh…and more case competitions too.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ivan Diachenko. He has the highest degree of professional and personal integrity and can be counted upon to pull you out of a burning fire. He came into the program with a strong set of personal values and has never compromised on them, bettering himself with the education he has received at school. I am proud to call him a classmate and a friend.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My boss at one point in time (the CEO of an alternative energy company) regularly dealt with International clients and often lamented that he did not have enough diversity in his education to understand how business works in other countries. Add to this my own curiosity of the international business world and my dream of a truly International MBA education refused to die down. Having earlier acquired an MBA degree in India at a relatively young age, it was difficult to justify my desire at a point when I was professionally well-settled and enjoying time with my wife and baby daughter. I also suffer from a rare degenerative focal dystonia of the hand that has basically disabled my primary hand from writing or typing, and it was one more reason to take a rest and let life progress at its own gentle pace.

The women in my life, my mother, wife, and sister, made me realize that my dream was worth chasing, and the best time was the present. Their encouragement and unwavering support provided me the push I needed to sacrifice time with my baby daughter and family to invest in preparing for the GMAT, and the inspiration I needed to express myself through the admissions essays.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Become a Product Manager for a tech innovation
  • Guide governments in resolving problems in developing countries

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? The friend who will always be their sounding board, always have their back and be their biggest motivator, no matter the situation.

Hobbies? Beer tasting, barbeques, and exploring the outdoors with my friends and family.

What made Karan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Karan was a joy to have in my MBA marketing elective courses: Business-to-Business Marketing, Strategic Brand Management, and Integrated Strategic Communications. He was active and engaged, asked great questions, and has the mix of skills and talent which leads me to believe he could pursue a career across a wide variety of today’s marketing challenges.

Many of the skills to accomplish a career in marketing in today’s world are rapidly-changing, involve advanced analytics, and the ability to navigate difficult decisions in a dynamic environment. But beyond that, it takes a deep sense of empathy to be able to “get down to where the customer is really going,” and understand why customers do what they do – at the functional, economic, and emotional level.

Karan can handle all sorts of analytics, but in my view, he is a “poet and quant” because of his demonstrated ability to understand and care about the needs of his fellow students, my needs as a faculty leader, and the needs of customers across a wide variety of markets. This led to great discussions, new learnings for us all, and a much more valuable class.”

Ralph A. Oliva
Professor of Marketing, Smeal College of Business, Penn State
Faculty Leader, Institute for the Study of Business Markets


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