2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Elizabeth Varughese, Yale School of Management

Elizabeth Varughese

Yale School of Management

“My passion is helping those with special needs through education and better access to resources.”

Hometown: New York City, NY

Fun fact about yourself: A little dorky, I know. I have a secret love of world history and know an unusual amount about European monarchies. I think I can recite British monarchs in order going back to the 14th century.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Harvard University, Bachelor of Arts, Class of 2013, Major: Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Investment Banking— Municipal Finance, Vice President

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Johnson & Johnson, Finance Leadership Development Program

Where will you be working after graduation? Johnson & Johnson, Finance Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* Women in Management – Co-President of largest affinity club at Yale School of Management, overseeing six committees that organize events (including two conferences) that help empower women and increase allyship. In my first year, I served as a member of the Community committee, which organized community-building social events, including an initiative called “WIM Circles,” which are small group gatherings to discuss the most pressing issues affecting women today.

* General Management Club – Leader—specifically served as the liaison with our Career Development office to promote professional opportunities for those interested in the General Management space, including Corporate Finance, Internal Strategy, Corporate Development, and other functions across different industries.

* Yale SOM Admissions—Member of the Admissions committee to discuss changes to the Admissions process as well as organize panels for prospective and admitted students; served as an Admissions interviewer this year and was an Admissions Guide last year.

* Social Impact Consultant with Engagement Solutions, Inc.—Served as a student consultant with a three-member team for a local startup designed to improve the navigation process for families seeking special needs services through a virtual platform.

* Economies of Scale—For recreational purposes, I am an alto for our school’s a carpella group, which occasionally performs at school events. I enjoy music deeply, so this is something I do for fun.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The greatest achievement I have had during my MBA is being the co-president of Women in Management. I came to Yale with the goal of meeting and working with women who inspire me. Through WIM, I have had the opportunity to do so. Specifically, one thing I was proud to have been involved in is the revival (after a three-year hiatus) of the Fempire colloquium, which is a forum for women to discuss pressing issues affecting women, including imposter syndrome, mentorship/sponsorship, and fertility. We were able to find great speakers who engaged the SOM community profoundly.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My greatest achievement in my professional career occurred early in my career. Due to structural changes on our team, I was the sole junior banker with two managing directors on a transaction that had a never-before-seen structure and lots of complexities. I was able to handle the transaction by myself and was able to watch as the deal went on to win an industry-wide “Deal of the Year” award. It empowered me to believe that I was able to handle the responsibilities of managing a deal at that age and taught me a lot about deal management that would go on to be helpful to me throughout my career.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Yale SOM because of its community. Given that the school focuses on empowering leaders for “business and society,” it cultivates a community that focuses on understanding the business and social aspects of many different business problems and how to manage them. We do so not only in academics, but also in the extracurricular and social activities that we pursue. The students that come to Yale SOM intrinsically have that focus and are passionate about using their MBA learnings to better the world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dean Anjani Jain. As a dean at Yale SOM, he has a lot of responsibility in managing the general affairs of the school, but it is observable that his true passion is teaching. Within the core curriculum, he teaches a modeling class called “Modeling Managerial Decisions.” Dean Jain engaged us in a way that made us feel that it was OK to make mistakes and that we could learn from each other. For example, his version of “cold-calling” should be emulated by all professors, since it did not make us feel put on the spot—rather, it made us more comfortable in engaging with him directly about the parts of the problems that we did not understand. He was also easily accessible and taught me how to improve my modeling skills dramatically.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA tradition at Yale SOM has been Voices. Voices is a weekly platform for SOM students and faculty to speak to an audience about anything and provides individuals a safe space to discuss life experiences that are relevant to their way of thinking. For me, it was a cathartic experience to speak about my family, my previous job, and other matters that shaped the woman I am. As an audience member, it helped me better understand my fellow classmates and why they are passionate about their opinions. At Yale SOM, we are a strongly opinionated community, but spaces like Voices allow us to break down walls with our classmates to learn why those opinions exist and gain empathy for each other.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I try and live my life without regrets, so I do feel as though I have done what I wanted to do during my MBA experience. If I could do one thing differently, I would have liked to engage with the Yale community outside of SOM. We have great access to classes and programs outside of the school, but due to the pandemic I was reluctant to engage fully outside the SOM community. Given the amazing experiences at Yale, I think I could have had many more amazing experiences by interacting more with people outside SOM.

What surprised you the most about business school? While I have learned a lot in the classroom, I have learned more than I expected outside of the classroom in small conversations with fellow students and administrators. I think those conversations have been surprising in how influential they are in reshaping how I see the world and how I can approach problems affecting our generation. While I expected that to happen by being surrounded by new people, I think I am surprised by how much my classmates have influenced me, and how supportive and compassionate we are with each other.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? During my application process, I highlighted that my passion for social impact and learning about the world has been important ever since I was a child. My brother is autistic, and that has deeply shaped how I live my life and try to leverage every experience given to me. After living in India briefly as a child, I went to the UN International School. That experience helped me realize how lucky I was to have access to the resources I had at such a young age, as evidenced by our school’s work with UNICEF and other UN-affiliated organizations. My passion for helping people drove my career choices, specifically working in municipal finance after college to help finance infrastructure throughout the U.S. I think my commitment and passion to having an impact throughout my life gave me an edge in the application process, and specifically at Yale SOM.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is an extremely difficult question, since I am so lucky to be surrounded by an amazing group of leaders at Yale SOM. In choosing one individual, I chose based on contribution to me personally, contribution to community-building, and commitment to leadership. For this reason, I chose one of my fellow classmates and cohort members, Anika Patel.

Since I met Anika, she has impressed me, which is why I have long considered her a close friend who has supported me through the last two years. Additionally, Anika is so friendly—she engages with everyone around her, bringing a cheerful attitude to every situation she is in. She is not afraid to go up to people she does not know and introduce herself or try new things. Anika was one of the primary reasons the Fempire Colloquium, one of my proudest SOM achievements, occurred this year. She was so passionate about reviving the colloquium that, along with her team, she created an extremely detailed action plan to ensure that every detail of the conference was seamlessly organized. Dealt difficult constraints because of pandemic-related policies, she was still able to put on an event that engaged so many women at SOM and revived the dormant Fempire brand in a way that leaves behind a great legacy for future classes. I am very lucky to consider her one of my closest friends at this school.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? This is also an extremely difficult question, and my first answer would be my family in general. My parents have been the biggest influence in my life, and without them, I would have never been able to achieve what I have achieved. However, I would choose my younger brother. My younger brother, who is autistic, has been the biggest motivation in my life. Given that he is unable to pursue his dreams as easily as I can, I try to live my life to the fullest and be less fearful of taking risks. For this reason, my brother indirectly was a motivation for me to attend business school. While I was doing well in my previous career, I knew that my passions were elsewhere, and his influence in my life made me realize that there was no better time than the present to try something new.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First and personally, in my professional life, I will feel successful when I know that I have empowered more women to take on leadership roles. I was beginning to do that in my previous job, which that made me truly happy, and I hope to do it more in the future. Second, my dream is be to be an executive or member of the C-Suit (e.g., CFO) at a multinational company producing goods or services that I use and enjoy. I hope to be taking a step towards that goal with my job at Johnson & Johnson.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? While I have struggled with balance throughout my life, I think the pandemic helped me reprioritize. Given that I spent so much time working remotely at the start of the pandemic and helping my family, I realized how important it was to make time for my family even while working difficult hours. It was also crucial to spend time taking care of my mental and physical health. It reminded me that finding that balance, as difficult as it is, is important in truly being happy.

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