Our Stories

Making All the Right Connections

Relationships pave the way for career switcher.

Ben Varhula
Consultant, Boston Consulting Group

Vanderbilt MBA 2022

Ben Varhula spent a lot of time in self-reflection as he pondered business school as a way to move from his role with a leading Jewish nonprofit organization into a consulting career. He realized he wanted not just more well-rounded skills, but a school that would help him become a more well-rounded leader. “I chose Vanderbilt,” he says, “for its smaller class size, the emphasis on leadership development, and its connections across the country and the world.”

Those close connections, Ben found, permeated every aspect of the program and provided irreplaceable sources of coaching, mentoring, and advice.

For example, he says, “getting access to an executive coach [through the Leadership Development Program] this early in my career journey was invaluable.” Alumni were always available to lend advice and help make new connections (one of which, Ben believes, opened the door to the interview that led to his internship and consulting position after graduation). “I don’t believe I had one single networking email or LinkedIn message to an alum go unanswered,” he recalls. “People made time in their busy days to connect with me.”

Coming from an undergraduate university with 50,000 students, where “professors were rarely approachable,” Ben was heartened by the opportunities at Owen to develop close connections with faculty and staff, not all of which involved academic work. Ben cites the close working relationships he formed with Professor Tim Vogus and other Owen staff, during his time as co-chair of Men as Allies, a group that facilitates conversations on gender equity.

Perhaps most of all, Ben values the relationship with his peer coach through the Career Management Center for providing advice and insights as he navigated his way “from a niche nonprofit to helping open the Nashville office of one of the best consulting firms in the world.” The experience meant so much to Ben that he decided to pay it forward as a peer coach during his second year in the program. “It was beyond rewarding to help the first years through their internship search process,” he says, “and I felt so proud when they each received their internship offers. For me, that sort of mentorship is what I wanted as part of my business school experience, and I love that it is so emphasized at Owen.”

Fun Fact: Ben has worked on four continents: North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

That sort of mentorship is what I wanted as part of my business school experience.