2020 MBAs To Watch: Varun Grover, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Varun Grover

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Maverick driven to excel, grow, and empower others while creating an environment of happiness.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: As a junior in college, I founded a robotics society that enabled young electrical engineers to receive corporate funding for their ideas and create innovative low-cost products for rural India.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Delhi Technological University, Electronics and Communication Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Western Digital, Software Development Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Associate Brand Manager Intern at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where will you be working after graduation? Associate Brand Manager at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Carlson School Dean’s Fellow Scholarship Recipient
  • President’s Student Leadership and Service Award Nominee
  • MBA Association, Vice President of International Affairs (second year)
  • MBA Association, International Representative (first year)
  • Carlson Brand Enterprise, Team Lead
  • Graduate Assistant, MBA Admissions and Recruiting
  • Graduate Assistant, Carlson Brand Enterprise
  • Graduate Volunteer Consultants, Team Lead
  • Graduate Business Career Center, Peer Coach
  • Carlson Consulting Club, Board Member
  • Business Technology Club, Board Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of my work as Vice President of International Affairs for the MBA Association. Working with our student affairs team, admissions, and career center, I led multiple initiatives to improve the MBA experience for international students as they navigate the shifting recruiting landscape in the U.S.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my internship as an Associate Brand Manager at General Mills, I developed a novel approach towards analyzing consumer data and synthesizing it into a compelling story. I’m proud of the impact of my work because I could provide insightful recommendations to my team, which helped move the needle on a historic, established brand like Pillsbury. This achievement is close to my heart because it set up my team for success and we received accolades from senior leadership.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is David Hopkins, who leads the experiential learning program for the Carlson Brand Enterprise. Dave enabled me to become more self-reliant and develop the intuition and skills necessary to succeed as a brand manager. He encouraged me to work on challenging projects that pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow both professionally and personally. During my time in the Carlson Brand Enterprise, Dave was invested in my learning and development, and he empowered me to lead project teams working on brand strategy for a Fortune 500 industrial giant and the world’s largest medical device manufacturer.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event at business school was the annual Global Gala. At the Global Gala, all students would gather to celebrate the diversity of cultures in our program for a night filled with music, dance, and scintillating performances by our talented peers. In my first Global Gala, I performed a traditional Indian dance and it was incredible to see my classmates from around the world join in and dance with me.

Why did you choose this business school? The Carlson School is a haven for MBA students who want to pivot into brand management. The experiential learning opportunities, small class size, and strong ties to the Twin Cities business community were major drivers behind me choosing to come to the Carlson School. It has a very collaborative culture, and I wanted to build meaningful relationships with my peers, staff, and faculty members. Most importantly, Carlson provided me a generous full-ride scholarship, which showed that they were invested in my success.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? At the Carlson School, they value authenticity above everything else. Every class has a highly diverse and accomplished group of individuals who have worked in a variety of industries, functions, and locations. To put your best foot forward, do some introspection, and put a lot of thought into how the Carlson MBA fits in to your journey to greatness.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about the Carlson School is that it is a regional school, with most students getting post-MBA roles primarily in Minnesota. While there are a number of students who have ties to Minnesota or want to move to the Twin Cities because of the stellar opportunities in CPG, healthcare, and other industries, Carlson has an incredible network across the United States and globally. Every year, a fair amount of students move to Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and other thriving location. Carlson’s footprint in the Twin Cities is exceptional on account of the highly-engaged alumni community, which does lead to lucrative opportunities for individuals who want to work here.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back over my MBA experience, one thing that I would have done differently is perhaps, take advantage of the other graduate schools at the U. The law school is highly-regarded, and there are a number of electives that you can take there that would count toward your MBA. Patents were a critical focus for my previous role in the semiconductor industry and are very valuable in the food industry as well. I would have loved to take a class about patent law.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Amy Hromatka. Amy is one of my closest friends in the MBA program, and we have worked together on several teams. Her work ethic continues to inspire me every time we are on a project together. Regardless of how much she is juggling, she is able to show up for her team in the most dedicated and diligent way. Amy helped drive a CPG 101 seminar for students who were new to the industry to help them prepare for their internship, which ended up being very beneficial for my internship. We will both be starting our full-time roles as Associate Brand Managers at General Mills in the summer, and I am excited to continue working with her.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My uncle, a Global Managing Director at IBM, most influenced my decision to pursue my MBA. I have always looked up to him and followed his footsteps by going to the same high school and engineering school. He has always supported my dreams, and his daughters are like my siblings. I wanted to move to the U.S. for my MBA so I could be closer to them and work towards my goal of becoming a business leader like my uncle.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I have two items on my professional bucket list. First, I want to pursue a leadership role in Switzerland. Switzerland is one of my favorite countries to visit, and I would love to be able to work there for a few years. The second item on my bucket list is to launch a consumer product that resonates with the target segment and see its journey through from idea to implementation.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as the hardest-working MBA in the room and someone who always had their back.

Hobbies? I love to dance! I started dancing in high school and continued to pursue it even when I started working. One of my favorite memories from business school is when I taught a classroom full of MBA students a Bollywood fusion routine on Diwali, an auspicious Indian festival.

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

“From before Varun Grover was even an enrolled student at Carlson, he wanted to give back. In the beginning, he attended our admitted student event, Up Close, and wrote a two-part blog about his experience. Why? Because he wanted to share the experience and information he learned about Carlson and the Twin Cities with his soon-to-be fellow classmates that were unable to attend. And this sentimentality continued through his time at Carlson. He grew very close with his core team; so close that they made a Christmas card together and sent it out to friends and staff members. He is an extremely active member of our community, participating in clubs like the Graduate Volunteer Consultants, and being elected as the Vice President of International Affairs for our MBA Association.  In all of his community work and leadership roles, he has been an advocate for international students. As an Admissions GA, he is always asking questions about recruitment and admissions practices and suggesting ideas on how we continue to be inclusive to our international applicants. He is trustworthy, reliable, and, above all else, produces high-quality work. Varun has been an incredible asset to our team, the organizations he is a part of and the Carlson School as a whole. He will be sorely missed when he graduates but we are incredibly excited about his new adventure at General Mills.”

Jennifer Slesinski
Associate Director of Admissions and Recruiting
Full-Time, Part-Time, and Online MBA Programs


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