Today, we continue our career spotlight with a conversation with Second Year student, Vignesh “Viggy” Balagopalakrishnan. Viggy is originally from Chennai, India, and you may remember him from our earlier Tech Week and Tech Conference coverage. Viggy will be joining Yelp in San Francisco after graduation, and we recently caught up with him to talk about his MBA journey. New to the series? Be sure to check out our Q&A with Second Year Ximena Velez!
What job did you accept?
I spent the summer at Yelp in San Francisco and loved the experience. After graduation, I’ll be returning as a Product Manager on the Consumer team. Having come to Darden wanting to be a Product Manager on a consumer-facing product, this has been a dream come true and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s ahead.
What was your background before coming to Darden?
Before Darden, I spent a couple of years as a software developer with Adobe and a couple more with a boutique management consulting firm in Bangalore. My consulting stint mostly involved working with large tech companies in the U.S. and India on some of their business and product initiatives. I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of tech and business, and the engineer in me still loves building products. There’s nothing like the joy of having built something from scratch, and that feeling is what excited me most about product management.
Why did you choose Darden?
Two things really attracted me to Darden – 1) The learning experience and 2) The small, tightly-knit community. I knew I needed to learn a ton of business fundamentals (I’d never done Finance in my life, for example) and I was really intrigued by the case method. I realized it was like my consulting job except that you have three new projects every day. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew the learning would be tremendous.
The community was also a big draw for me. I loved how small and connected the class was. Also, living in the U.S. for the first time, I wanted to be at a place that had a strong alumni network, and I found Darden’s alumni to be truly passionate about giving back to the community.
How has your experience been?
It’s been wonderful. The first three quarters were very challenging and stretched me out of my comfort zone, but I could feel the impact and value of the experience during my internship. Having done a few hundred cases, you get to a point where you don’t get fazed by a problem. You just tackle it for what it is.
I’ve also been amazed by how smart and, at the same time, how humble my classmates are. I have learned so much from them and created so many memories. I know people say this often, but I have built friendships for life during my time here. Lastly, the thing that has really blown my mind is how passionate and helpful Darden alumni are. Having recruited mostly in the Bay Area, I’ve had so many alumni go out of their way to help me throughout my search process. It’s been incredible.
How do you think Darden prepared you for the role you accepted?
You don’t see the impact of the case method right away, but when you’re back in the real world, you see how much more comfortable you are with problem-solving and dealing with completely ambiguous situations. I definitely felt some of that during the summer.
In terms of Product Management related skills, the Design Thinking elective by Professor Jeanne Liedtka was very valuable. I remember pulling out our textbook during my internship for inspiration. Another fantastic course was Effectual Entrepreneurship, which has a ton of helpful lessons for both aspiring entrepreneurs as well as Product Managers in fast-paced environments with a lot experimentation. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the second year semester-long elective, Data Science in Business. It’s a tough course but definitely worth it for anyone going into a data-heavy role.
The SQL and Tableau workshops hosted by the Darden Technology Club also helped me get off the ground quickly.
What advice would you give prospective students considering Darden?
Evaluate where you are in your career today, where you would like to be and how Darden fits with your desired trajectory. The more clarity you have about your professional path, the easier it gets to pick a school and tell a coherent story in your application.
Do your research online, but there’s no better way to learn about a school than by talking with some of the current students. It will give the school more personal depth and help you figure out if the culture and learning environment are right for you. Also, one of the things I loved about my Darden interview was that I got to be genuinely who I am and tell my story. Be sure to share your whole self throughout the application process!