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Challenge to Change | MBA helps former military leader transition to corporate and excel at Amazon

Varun Sharma combined military precision, a passion for finance and an MBA, to land a role in one of the world’s fastest-growing corporations.


thechallenge

As an officer in the Indian army, Varun Sharma headed up a 100-strong team at the age of 23. Then after seven years of military service, he joined one of the fastest growing banks in India.

But despite these early achievements, Sharma set his sights even higher: he wanted a career that combined his passion for finance with his exceptional leadership and operations skills — so he applied for an MBA at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.

“I wanted to meet a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and different places. There’s a very strong alumni network working in many countries around the world and I wanted to tap into that too,” says Sharma, who was also drawn by the MBA program’s small class sizes, as well as Canada’s immigrant-friendly culture.

thepersonality

As a child, Sharma loved working with numbers – and later, as a marketer in India’s banking system, he found himself drawn toward the idea of building portfolios and evaluating market risk.

But he says his military training is what drives his work ethic, noting that it taught him to take ownership of his actions, to lead and excel even in the most stressful environments, and to make important decisions quickly.

“By doing these things, I’ve been able to earn the trust of others and show my true potential,” he says. “That has helped me in everything I’ve done.”

theexperience

In the MBA program, Sharma thrived on collaborating with people from a range of industries, as they offered unique perspectives and approaches. In the process, he not only learned about business in theory – but also very much in practice.

Sharma credits UBC Sauder’s Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre for helping him narrow his focus when looking forward to the next steps in his career. Working with a coach he honed in on finance and supply chain management, a path that would allow him to tap into his love of numbers and organizational prowess.

In the meantime, he secured an MBA internship with Vancouver startup socialnature.ca, where he helped develop a financial model to source funding and built a supply chain model to connect the company’s fulfillment centres.

“That was a game-changing experience, because I had so much responsibility and I really wanted to deliver,” remembers Sharma of the internship, which was also his first job in Canada. “Because it was a startup, the moment I did the work, I saw results.”


thechange

Thanks to the knowledge and skills he gained during his MBA and internship, Sharma landed a key position at Amazon as an operations manager.

“I’m responsible for a team of over 200 people in Amazon Robotics and I lead outbound operations at Canada’s first fulfillment centre,” he says.

“What I really like about the job is it’s so fast-paced,” he enthuses. “And the team is really great, everybody is very knowledgeable and collaborative.”

He and his wife have settled in Toronto and he says that every single day he uses the invaluable information and expertise he garnered in the MBA program.

“UBC Sauder helped me understand my past experience from a different perspective, and see what my real strengths were,” he says. “My MBA put me on the right path.”

 

Name: Varun Sharma
Title: Operations Manager, Amazon
Track: Finance
Nationality: Indian