To say Varun has hustle would be an understatement. As if moving halfway across the world to obtain his master’s degree in computer science and land demanding internships at Crocs and SafeStamp wasn’t enough, the Mumbai, India native found the time to write and publish a book before graduation. He is currently employed at Ernst & Young (EY) in Columbus, Ohio, as a product manager, working in banking and capital markets.
Getting Inspired to Write a Book
Equally passionate about sharing his experiences as he is about algorithms and code, Varun set out to write the book he wished he’d had when starting out in tech. With Breaking Stereotypes: Debugging Your Tech Career, he aims to inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in the tech space.
The 178-page book — which he helped to fund through a UDayton fellowship and Indie-a-Go-Go — digs into expert advice on the best starter paths into the tech industry, how to create a job search roadmap, and why diversity and inclusion (D&I) hiring initiatives are so important, especially with regard to gender and LGBTQ+ orientation.
As a numbers guy, Varun started — of course — with a stat.
“I came across a stat that in 1984 women held about 40% of the computer science degrees, and by 2016, it dropped down to just 22%,” says Varun. “I wanted to let the audience know why and how … this happen[ed], while talking about interesting [diversity] initiatives other companies have taken. D&I is an interesting topic, and it’s more about giving equal pay and equal opportunity to everyone. We need to hire individuals solely based off talent and not because of their degrees.”
During the course of developing the book, he conducted more than 45 interviews, including tech leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, hiring managers, and entry-level employees from companies like Amazon, Google, KPMG, and Microsoft, and top Indian tech companies such as Larsen & Toubro Infotech and Tata Consultancy Services.
“The goal was to have a mix of professionals who are from highly ranked [organizations], as well as [those] not so well known,” says Varun.
One of the top pieces of advice? Start now.
“After speaking with professionals from the industry, it’s safe to say that it’s crucial to plan and be early,” says Varun. “If you manage and schedule your timeline early, while actively networking, you will be in pretty good shape compared to most of the students out there.”
Don’t feel you need to be ‘ready,’ you are ready — all you need to do is to take the first step.” — Varun, UDayton Global
From LinkedIn Message to a Publishing Deal
“Actively networking” comes naturally to Varun, and he uses LinkedIn as a go-to source, which delivered big results. His thoughtful and strategic messaging on the job networking website ultimately led to a publishing deal.
In researching small publishers looking for new writers, he came across the community-driven independent publisher New Degree Press, and Varun messaged an editor on LinkedIn. After a few Zoom meetings and pitch sessions, he was offered a publishing deal and began writing the book in the summer of 2020.
“Quite honestly, juggling work, academics, and the book is an arduous task. A lot of time had to be dedicated,” says the expert time manager. After working closely on revisions throughout 2021, the book was published in January 2022.
His top tip for beginning authors wondering how to publish a book is to accept the ebb and flow of inspiration. Drive and creativity will come in waves.
“Whenever you decide to write a book, figure out what works best for you to find your ‘flow,’” he says. “You will eventually have writer’s block, and sometimes you won’t feel like writing at all because you have run out of ideas. It’s all right, it’s all part of the process. All you need to do is trust it.”
Career Help from the Career Accelerator
Varun relied on many student-focused resources at UDayton Global, including the Career Accelerator program, an advanced professional program designed to help international students excel in the job market. A quick request for resume help from Brittany Chill, the Career Accelerator program manager, turned into regular meetings — and a stacked CV.
With the help of the Career Accelerator, Varun got to work making job connections on campus and building his resume with varied skills and experiences. He started a campus job at dining services before quickly moving on to a graduate research assistantship with the University of Dayton Research Institute, where he worked on advanced machine learning problems.
Along the way, he founded and led the Project Management Club at Dayton, worked at Crocs (the shoe company) as a product analytics consultant, and completed a data analytics internship with SafeStamp, a Silicon Valley-based nanotech startup that combats counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
“I remember being impressed with his proactive attitude and knew that he would go on to do awesome things,” says Chill. “He came to our one-on-one appointments with questions and an eagerness to develop himself. When he told me he had written a book and that it was going to be published, I was thrilled — but not surprised. Varun is just that good!”
Goodbye Dayton, Hello EY
Having graduated in May 2021, Varun said goodbye to UDayton campus at the end of the summer — and he carried that Flyer spirit with him to Columbus, Ohio, where he accepted an offer to work as a financial services technology consultant at EY.
Varun was recruited for EY through a university networking event, and is in close contact with the UDayton alumni who supported him when he was a grad student.
When it comes to building professional networks, “you should start early, as soon as possible,” says Varun. “Don’t wait until the last semester or even the last year, because networking and building relationships takes time.”
His current work as a product manager at EY requires ongoing communication, both inside the company and out.
“Project management is a role that has many different flavors,” he says. “[I] talk to many different individuals, understand the customer pain points, what needs to be shipped out to the customers, and what could be enhanced to make sure everyone is having a seamless experience.”
As he plans for the future, Varun says, “you never know what tomorrow brings in store for us. I’m working on the present! Opportunities are everywhere out there around the world, and if you bring the right attitude, the right character, the right commitment… you’ll find your way anywhere. I strongly believe that principle.”
Varun plans to apply for his H-1B visa so he can continue to work in the US. If he is not picked in 2022, he plans to apply for a second-year extension to his Optional Practical Training, taking advantage of his eligibility as he graduated with a STEM degree.
“UDayton Global made my time here warm. Their constant support is one of the best things I will cherish down the line,” says Varun. “Their encouragement has helped me seek out better opportunities in the United States and look for growth, regardless of the size of opportunity.”
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