Juan Luis Kruger
University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School
“Networking junkie who dances like nobody is watching, huge love for my family/UNC community.”
Fun fact about yourself: I was the biggest baby born at the Children’s Hospital in Miami in the year 2000 (born in Miami, but bred in Lima, Peru).
Hometown: Lima, Peru
High School: Colegio Santa María Marianistas
Major: Business Administration and Economics
Minor: Concentrations in Investment Banking and Consulting
Favorite Business Course: Business Strategy
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:
- SEO Career Internship Prep Training, Alternative Investments Fellowship Program
- Hispanic Capital Group, Portfolio Manager for the Consumer, Retail, Industrials and Special Situations Groups
- TAMID Group – Business Consultant, TAMID Case Competition, 1st Place
- BisNet – Amazon International Case Competition, 1st Place
- UNC Finance Society, Finance Trek co-director 2021 and head of asset management
- Delta Sigma Pi, co-ed business professional fraternity, VP of professional activities
- 180 Degrees: Worked on market research for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund
- UNC Triathlon Club – Raced 10 triathlons and represented UNC in Collegiate Nationals
- UNC Cycling Club – Helped re-instate the club, served as financial advisor and represented UNC in Collegiate Nationals
- UNC Tennis Club – Participated in scrimmages against Duke in singles and doubles
- Volunteered around 10 hours per semester scanning tickets at sport events hosted on our campus
- Awarded the Edmund B. Ross III BSBA Endowment Merit-Scholarship – Funding for my London School of Economics Study Abroad Program
- Peruvian Debate Society – Represented Peru’s top debate team in national MUN debates and selected to represent the team for World MUN in Tokyo 2021 (cancelled due to COVID-19)
- Universidad del Pacifico Swimming Team Captain
Where have you interned during your college career?
- Capia, Boutique Investment Bank focused on the Andean Region, Lima, Peru
- Wells Fargo – New York City – Investment Banking Summer Analyst
Before transferring from Universidad del Pacifico, in Lima, Peru, I worked during my winter break for a local boutique investment banking firm called “Capia.” At UNC, I spent my first summer studying abroad at London School of Economics (virtually from Miami, Florida, due to Covid-19 university guidelines) and my second summer working as an investment banking summer analyst for Wells Fargo on their equity capital markets division within the healthcare team at their New York office.
Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working as an investment banking analyst for Wells Fargo in their equity capital markets team in New York City.
Who is your favorite business professor? Shimul Melwani, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Business Program.
In fall 2020, I transferred into UNC and decided not to transfer credit for the Organizational Behavior class I had already taken in my past school because I didn’t think I learned the content properly (given the unfortunate news that my professor passed away during the semester) and because I knew Shimul would take this class to a whole new level.
The class was game-changing. Shimul’s focus on developing high-performance teams with a self-less leading approach has shaped how I collaborate with others and approach the teams I work with. Her emphasis on diversity and inclusion boosted both confidence and pride on my background as a Peruvian coming into a university that, by law, maintains only 18% of their student body as non-residents of North Carolina.
Shimul wears many hats at the business school, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her outside of the classroom through community involvement events, personal meetings with her, and forums with other undergraduate students to discuss how to improve the business school. One unique characteristic that makes Shimul stand out from the rest of my business professors is her focus on genuinely caring for students at the program transmitted through her open-door policy and a very horizontal management style, always open for feedback and learning from everyone around her. Shimul is everywhere doing everything at the same time. I admire her for being so caring with students, sharing her passion for our futures, and driving the future of the business school towards the development of better business leaders with integrity before everything else.
What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Learning when to pivot your plans and take a new course of action is just as crucial in business as it is in life. Unlike other majors, business majors are flooded with opportunities given the versatility of our skill sets. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, especially as a transfer student with only two-and-a-half years to graduate from UNC Kenan-Flagler.
This situation pushed me to develop a strategy to take advantage of extracurricular and academic opportunities by prioritizing my campus involvement and purposefully handpicking my classes. I struggled to balance exploration and mastery in the classes I chose and experiences I decided to pursue outside of class. During my first semesters, I learned the importance of learning when to pivot between these experiences, while building my own brand around campus and staying true to my values and my Peruvian roots. This experience taught me the essence of any resilient business – adapting to the circumstances and learning when to stick to a certain course of action. I learned how to develop a competitive advantage during the competitive application processes for business clubs and use my background as a tool to connect with others and become a memorable contributor to the teams I worked with. Through trial and error (several errors), I discovered what my true path was. Cultivating a brand name for myself and building networks through resilience and adaptation constitute the biggest lesson I learned from studying business at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I would advise them to think of their college experience as a two-step journey. I would suggest they plan to explore, fail, and test ideas in the first one-and-a-half or two years of their undergraduate studies. Join organizations, take classes outside of their majors, meet as many people as possible, and try building a local business. I would even suggest taking a gap year to travel and work around the world – depending on their prior exposure to different cultures. If they plan to major in business, they should have a passion for mastering the art and science of business, yet not necessarily know where they want to use their business acumen on those first years and that’s why exploring is so important, because the best career decisions are based on experience, not word of mouth. As Professor Greg Hohn defines in the Applied Improv class at UNC Kenan-Flagler, find the FIZ (“F— it Zone”) in your experiences and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
After the first two years, if not before, I would suggest highly focusing on mastering, defining, and reflecting on the skills that will make them rare and valuable – their competitive advantage. Their career path might still change, but now they have valuable experiences and a better idea of what they don’t like to do. That way, they can provide value through a unique skillset which provides some guidance and mobility under uncertainty. Their so-called passion will naturally take shape after following these steps.
Lastly, I would advise them to value every opportunity that their college offers and commit 100% to whatever course of action they take. I was lucky to transfer from a different university with fewer resources than UNC because it was very easy to recognize the value of the business program at UNC by using a simple comparison to my past university. When I came to UNC for my first in-person semester in spring 2021, it was the first time I had ever been in North Carolina, yet I already knew the campus as if I grew up in Chapel Hill. I knew about the existence of almost all the resources, programs, and buildings on campus – the Learning Center, to the Outdoor Education Center, the Capital Markets Lab, the STAR program, Areas of Emphasis, the Alpha Challenge – because I did my research. I was committed, since day one, to make this a life-changing experience. I convinced myself that I belonged here.
To any student looking to major in a business-related field: explore your career options and the world, master your competitive advantage, commit 100% of your energy to whatever course of action you take, believe in yourself, and value the opportunities that life presents you.
What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I have been mostly surprised about the versatility of my major. I believe that investing in your communication skills and expanding your network are two of the most important activities outside of class for any business student, especially – if time permits – with people in unrelated fields. UNC Kenan-Flagler equipped me with the tools to maintain conversations and create meaningful relationships even with people with whom I never thought I’d be able to relate. I’ve been happily surprised that my exposure to a diverse set of business fields – consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, and healthcare, among others – has taught me the ability to ask the right questions and listen.
I’ve been gladly surprised by how often I found myself in a “beginner’s situation”, where I knew nothing about a topic, and I needed to figure a way to contribute towards solving a business problem related to that topic. By seeking advice from the right people, working in teams, and being open and humble about not knowing, I’ve learned to develop a growth mindset that has proved useful in many business scenarios. Most of these humbling experiences involve a steep learning curve, but they usually come with a high reward. It has been surprising how many people I’ve met and how many beginner’s situations I’ve faced as a business major, I consider that as part of the appealing of a business degree.
Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? High expectations self-imposed by ourselves sometimes disincentivize failing and promote risk aversion in our careers. This leaves little to no room for failure during a period that is meant to explore and fail if need be. Financial distress, citizenship status, and other factors have a saying in these decisions too. However, one of the things I wish I would have done different would have been trying to build a program that complemented the current Undergraduate Business Program curriculum.
I believe there are great ideas from entrepreneurial students at UNC Kenan-Flagler that could be complemented with the resources, experience, and knowledge of students with unrelated majors like media and journalism or computer science to build interdisciplinary teams. The program would aim to facilitate these connections and use the current resources that are available on UNC’s main campus, not only at the business school. Creating an innovation lab that focuses on blending students and resources from different disciplines to integrate the business school with main campus was one of the projects I wish I would have been able to implement.
What business leader do you admire most? Jim Sinegal is one of the business leaders I admire the most. From a working-class Catholic family in Pittsburgh, Jim grew up to become one of the co-founders of, arguably, the biggest discount retail store in the world: Costco. My admiration for him doesn’t just stem merely from his business acumen or his achievements as a businessman, but also by how he maintained a business model that was consistent with his values. Jim’s values relied on integrity, modesty and discipline, which complemented his business approach of frugality, team-focus, and being consistent with his decisions. These were the main drivers of Costco’s strategy and still are the pillars of Costco today – the price stability of the $1.50 hot dog is a great example of these values.
Jim’s long-term view of business and humble beginnings as a bagger at Fed-Mart ignited a very human management style in him. Leveraging his experience and connections from Fed-Mart with his entrepreneurial spirit to develop a competitive business that over-emphasized the customer – through low prices, high customer loyalty, no-frills retail spaces – and prioritized employee well-being – paying almost 90% of employee healthcare expenses and ignoring Wall Street’s criticism about his employee focus – demonstrates how Costco resembles his values and long-term approach to business. Travelling at least once to every store every year, reducing his salary by a third of the industry average, and having an open-door policy are just some of the practices he did to distinguish himself and stay true to his values. Lastly, he cared about giving back to his communities and implemented grants for student’s tuitions at his alma mater San Diego State University and he actively donates through the Sinegal Family Foundation.
I admire Jim because he managed to stay true to himself, generate value for his customers and do good through a business that disrupted an industry with highly competitive players.
Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I’m proud of the work I did with the UNC Finance Society in late 2021 and early 2022, where Karun Prasanna and I organized the first in-person Finance Trek to New York City after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Finance Trek consists of a three or four-day trip to New York City where we flew with a selected cohort of 35 outstanding sophomore students who had an interest in working in Investment Banking on their upcoming summer and that have already been trained for a couple of months through the Investment Banking Bootcamp. We coordinated two-to-four in-person visits per day with investment banks to help our students network with their teams, learn more about how these banks’ cultures differ from each other, and get a first-person experience of what their future office could look like.
I’m most proud of this event because we were able to host one of the earliest treks compared to other schools (which gives a big recruiting advantage to our students). We were also able to connect with banks that traditionally didn’t recruit heavily from UNC, which opened new possibilities for our sophomore class. Most importantly, I was able to build connections with the Trek participants that created an impact on their lives. I realized this last point was true by maintaining my relationship with them over time. I even helped some of them prep for their interviews or even just catch up on how their recruiting process was going. Building these relationships with younger students and helping them go through the same process I navigated a year before gave me a sense of fulfillment that I had never experienced before. I’m proud that I was able to put my knowledge to work for others and have a positive impact on their lives.
Which classmate do you most admire? Yonas Kemal. Purposeful, genuine, with a charming attitude that captivates even the most irritable grouch. Yonas is a hands-on businessman with a clear mission in his life: use business as a tool to create positive change in the world. I admire Yonas’ commitment to giving back to the communities he’s involved in, the clarity in his priorities, and his humble approach to business. Yonas is a philanthropist by nature. Either by offering his time to help you, connecting you with someone or just engaging in a deep conversation about the meaning of life, Yonas always finds a way to give back to his community. He may be taking classes at UNC while working at Microsoft and engaged in several organizations on campus. However, Yonas always has time to enjoy the present, smile and don’t crack under pressure because of his great ability to prioritize by embracing a “work hard, play hard” mindset. Lastly, growing up with a diverse background has allowed him to develop a humble approach to business where he values connections, opportunities, and experiences at UNC. I respect and admire Yonas’ bold decision of combining his mission in life with his professional career at Microsoft. I genuinely admire how he manages to transmit his background and connect his Ethiopian roots to his work and become a change maker in every project he works on.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents – just as my family – are the pillars of who I am today. As a Latin American, family is a crucial part of my life and their constant communication, support, and trust has helped me overcome the most difficult times at UNC. I have been very lucky to grow up in a privileged household compared to the average Peruvian. This is not because of my socioeconomic upbringing, but mostly because of the education in values and the heavy emphasis on “putting people first” that my parents transmitted at home. This approach to education through values, family life, and Catholicism represents the core guidance of my personal and professional decisions. I want to thank them because I know how hard they work and how many sacrifices they’ve done for my family to have the opportunities we’ve had. I’m truly blessed and will forever be grateful for the parents and family I have.
If I need to choose one person, I would probably say my father has had the most influence on my success given his expertise on the business field and how I grew up learning about business through him. I always had something to learn from him, whether visiting mining projects at 9,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes or social housing projects in the northern coast of Peru; discussing business articles together; or talking about my future and how to approach certain classes at the business school. The most important factor behind these learnings is that he taught me by example: showing up to work every day, taking time for our family during the weekends, showing us integrity in his acts, being humble about his achievements, and always putting people first. I wish everyone had the privilege of growing up with a father like him.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My top two professional bucket list items are getting an MBA hopefully from a top school in the U.S. and using business to improve the quality of life of my fellow Peruvians.
An MBA is the perfect opportunity to consolidate my network in the U.S., advance my career into a leadership position and explore opportunities to contribute to the Peruvian economy through a venture of my own in later stages of my life. It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes staying away from your country prepares you to go back with an improved skillset, a better network, and fresh ideas to implement. Giving back to my country – as cliché as it may sound – will always be one of my top priorities.
What are your hobbies? I enjoy training for triathlons (swimming, cycling, and running), playing tennis, HIIT trainings at the gym, reading the news (fan of The Wall Street Journal, The Deal and The Economist), listening to podcasts like “Re: Thinking” or “The 20-minute VC,” reading philosophy and business-related books, commuting with my bike around campus, and cooking barbecues in the weekends with my friends.
In Peru, I like to spend my time windsurfing, mountain biking, water and snow skiing (snow skiing usually in Chile), sailing with my family and friends, horse riding with my grandparents (mostly when I was a child), and spending time with family and friends at the beach.
What made Juan Luis such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?
“Juan Luis transferred to UNC from Universidad del Pacifico in Peru as a sophomore right in the 2020-21 school year. This was deep in the middle of the pandemic and he was unable to move to Chapel Hill until the year had almost ended. While still living in Peru, he registered for my then-remote course Leading and Managing. From the start, Juan Luis defined a growth mindset: challenging the status quo, asking the right questions, advancing and sharpening in-class discussion, while contributing with insightful comments that demonstrated his deep engagement and joy of learning. It wasn’t easy to form relationships that semester online, but by the time Juan Luis moved to Chapel Hill, I already considered myself his mentor and friend. In his two short years since, he has contributed to our program and community in a multitude of ways. He co-organized and led a trek to New York City for students interested in investment banking. He is a campus ambassador. He has been a student volunteer at Moneythink, helping low-to-moderate tax income payers in the local Hispanic community file their taxes. He studied abroad (no small feat as an international student who had only two years in Chapel Hill) in London. Juan Luis has done all this and more because at his core, he cares deeply about relationships and community and he seeks to make everyone around him better in every way. His natural charisma and strong values make him a visionary leader and an overall wonderful human. For me, whenever I interact with Juan Luis, my day is always brighter and my heart is full of inspiration.”
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs
Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior
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