Professional headshot of Varun Garla, full-time MBA student in the Class of 2021

Varun Garla (MBA ’21)

The first year of the Broad Full-Time MBA program had to have been the best year of my life. Being the first class to experience the brand-new Edward J. Minskoff Pavilion was the best way to start this new chapter. We were in class every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with Fridays off to focus on interviews, corporate info sessions, coffee chats, case workshops, tailgates, basketball games and much-needed happy hours amid the 17.5 credits we were all taking. I knew from day one that the Broad MBA was a great opportunity to grow and reinvent myself.

After I flew back to East Lansing from spring break, a virus shut down the world. Our MBA program was abruptly pushed online, and thankfully, we had Zoom and the D2L online learning platform to ease the transition. While still on campus, we were figuring out how to pay attention to lectures and get case reports done from March to May. I wondered what the future of doing an MBA mostly online would look like and how it would work.

Fast forward to the fall 2020 semester. I had just finished a successful virtual internship and was eager to get into my second year as an MBA. Due to the current COVID situation, we were continuing our learning mostly online. We kicked off the fall semester with Extreme Green, our experiential learning workshop. This was a great way to transition into the second year of our MBA at Broad and get reacquainted with online learning. This Extreme Green session was an immersive orientation platform that placed students into teams to work on solving real business problems and present their solutions to Broad alumni.

During the workshop, we incubated and presented a new business idea and presented a pitch to venture capitalists, who were also Michigan State alumni. All our work and presentations were done via Zoom and Google Docs, of course. This was an opportunity to lead a team of five people and figure how to sell ideas and solve problems in a virtual environment. One of the most important things we learned was to not “boil the whole ocean.” We realized that when starting a company, you are trying to solve a problem. It’s good to have ideas on how to solve many problems at once, but it is more important to focus on the customer’s needs and the task at hand.

From successfully completing a remote internship to taking part in the virtual Extreme Green workshop and starting virtual classes, it was a seamless experience to kick off the online semester. It allowed us to get back into groove of structuring our days with a syllabus, readings, quizzes, exams, finding the right Zoom links and making time to network with our fellow MBA classmates for a Zoom coffee chat. I look forward to seeing what the remainder of my second year as a Broad MBA has in store!