Tools of the Trade
As executive director of Boston Collegiate Charter School (BCCS), Shannah Varón (MBA 2009) uses her MBA skillset “all day, every day,” whether the task at hand involves structuring a management team to ensure optimal student success, fundraising, marketing, or finance. “I often find myself in these meta-moments where I think I’m the protagonist of an HBS case study—‘What would Shannah do in this moment?’ There are always management and leadership decisions that need to be made.”
Before joining BCCS in 2011, Varón worked as a strategy consultant at the Parthenon Group, focusing on large-scale school district reform efforts. “I loved seeing things at the 30,000-foot level, but I’m happiest when I’m in execution and implementation mode, making things happen directly,” explains Varón, who prior to HBS served with Teach For America at a school in Mercedes, Texas, before transitioning to a management position in the organization’s New York office.
“Part of being happy in your career involves knowing what sort of role you enjoy. HBS helped me refine my career interests,” says Varón. “Getting my MBA also gave me the confidence to break new ground when I came to BCCS.” With nearly 700 students enrolled in grades 5 through 12, the school has seen 100 percent of its graduating seniors accepted into 4-year colleges for the past 11 years. “I built out the operations, finance, and development side of the house,” explains Varón. “The focus has always been on instruction, and that continues to be true, but we needed the other supporting functions to ensure continued success in the classroom.”
Varón, whose family comes from Peru, was struck at an early age by the inequities she saw when traveling there. That concern stayed with her, and education has always seemed like a natural place to make an impact: “I was fortunate to grow up in a community where I had access to an excellent public education,” she says, “and I feel every child deserves the same opportunity.”