Grad Life Outside the Classroom

There’s always something going on in Charlottesville, and last weekend was no exception. A football game (that we won!!!) and a free music festival took up the majority of our time—what did you do?

Hoo’s Didn’t Lose!

For those of you unfamiliar with Cavalier football, we don’t exactly have the best track record. Football games are always fun, and when we have a winning game there’s never a better time to be a Hoo. A bunch of our M.S. Commerce friends went to the game this weekend at Scott Stadium!

Alex and some of her undergrad UVA friends before a football game


The Tom Tom Foundation, a relatively new institution in Charlottesville, put on it’s 5th annual Tomtoberfest this weekend! Every spring, Tom Tom has a weeklong festival celebrating the intersection of art, music, and innovation in the Charlottesville community. Over the past six years, Tom Tom has attractive tens of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars of revenue for the Charlottesville community. This weekend, with tons of free concerts, an art fair, a tech mixer that hosted 80 regional technology companies, and a host of craft beer and food trucks, was a huge hit.

The line-up, for example, was INSANE. Kings, from Richmond, recorded with Kendrick Lamar on his latest album and they absolutely killed it. Elikeh, an afro-pop artist from the DC area, had everybody dancing at one point or another. Local and regional musicians all had the chance to show their stuff, and they did not disappoint.

Senator Mark Warner also paid a visit with Virginia Velocity Tour. Student teams entered a pitch competition, many of them were McIntire students who walked up to me afterwards with smiles on their faces. “That was so cool!” was a common refrain.

Nine local founders (including Lynn Easton, who co-founded Easton Porter, the company my group is doing a Strategy and Systems project for!) were honored at our Founding Cville ceremony, which commemorates the entrepreneurial successes of local businesspeople.

I could go on for a while about Tom Tom, because I work for them as a student fellow (which I’ll cover in another article). That being said, I think that if you have a chance to be in Charlottesville in April, the festival is a must-do!

Bottom line, a typical weekend in Charlottesville is never typical

You will never find another small city quite like Hooville. Second only to New York in restaurants per capita, with a thriving music scene (thanks to our good friend Dave Matthews!), and just about a million things to do every weekend, you can’t go wrong — whether you’re here for the day or for a year with McIntire.

-Written by Alex Rossi

Valuable Lessons from my First Job Fair

Wednesday was Commerce Career Day. Almost 100 companies attended the fair held at John Paul Jones (JPJ) Arena.


Job fairs are like speed dating: intimidating, but extremely important for your future. I’ve never been speed dating, but I’ve seen Hitch probably 25 times, so I feel like I have enough information to make the comparison. Thus, I have come up with the nine most important guidelines for  job fairs (most of which I believe also apply to speed dating…)

  1. Eye Contact: This portrays confidence while also showing that you’re paying attention. People want to know you are listening to them, and maintaining eye contact is the best way to show people that they have your attention. Confidence and listening are of utmost importance—listening even gets its own bullet point.
  1. Listen: Aside from eye contact, you can show people you are listening to them by asking questions that stem directly from what they have been saying. While networking you can build a stronger connection with a potential employer by finding common interests with the representative.
  1. Bring a friend: I have found it tremendously helpful to use the buddy system while networking. It gives me more time to think of questions, and I also have the benefit of hearing answers to questions I would normally forget to ask. I also find it way less intimidating and terrifying when I have a friend with me.
Alex is a great networking buddy. She is professional and inquisitive, and she always has a good feel for timing and how to end a conversation well.
  1. Dress to impress: Dress to impress, or at least to feel impressive. At a job fair, it is easier to walk up to people in suits if you feel like you look like you belong. Being overdressed is always better than being under-dressed. When there are some companies whose reps are dressed in business formal and other companies with reps wearing t-shirts and jeans, you can have equal confidence walking up to either if you are in business formal (not so if you are wearing a t-shirt).
  1. Come prepared:
    1. Do some research on the companies with whom you want to connect. No matter what your fifth grade teacher told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Don’t ask something that could easily be found on the website. Instead, maybe ask someone to expand about something you have read on the website. That way, not only have you asked a moderately intelligent question with a possibly interesting answer, but you have also shown that you have done some modicum of research.
    2. Have an elevator pitch (different versions: 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes). Don’t waste time with verbatim rote memorization of your pitch, just understand it inside and out, backwards and forwards, so you can pick it up at any point and convey it in pieces if necessary. It shouldn’t be that difficult, it’s just speaking about yourself and your interests (that’s what everyone keeps telling me, at least….).
  1. Smile: Look like you want to be there (or fake it ‘til you make it).


  1. Be yourself: Be professional, but don’t be afraid to also show a little bit of your personality. After all, inherent in finding a job is finding a place that fits you (and in which you fit), both professionally and personally. Why would you want to work somewhere that you can’t be yourself?
  1. Be considerate of time: If there are other people waiting to speak with the reps, keep your conversation short enough to be considerate. Also, it’s also a good idea to thank the rep you’re speaking with for their time.
  1. Follow up: Gather contact information after your conversations. Send emails to thank people for speaking with you. Reps see so many people throughout a job fair that there is almost no way they will remember you if you don’t email them.

I signed up to be a student host for a visiting company and was assigned The Hershey Company. I checked in with them every once in a while to see if I could help with anything. The most useful thing I did all day for them was probably when I ran after the rep’s car in the parking lot after the fair was over and saved him from driving off with his iPad on top of his trunk.

I obviously got valuable experience interacting with The Hershey Company, but my most tangible takeaways were the stand-up Hershey signs that the reps didn’t want to take with them.


(My very own Hershey Stonehenge…kind of)

I’m not sure how long my roommate will let them stay, but for now I have a daily reminder of the valuable lessons I learned from my first job fair. If anyone wants to be my friend for my first speed dating event, let me know…

-Written by Caylyn Harvey

The Magic of Storytelling

As it gets closer to your turn, your palms start to sweat a little bit. You’ve been nervous for everyone else, but now it’s your turn to walk to the center of the room. You want to be careful not to stumble, forget what you needed to say, or lose direction in your story. After all, you’re explaining why you’re in this classroom today—the decisions and choices that led you to this point. And frankly, that can be a loaded topic.

From 2:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday September 14thM.S. in Commerce students concluded their most daunting assignment yet: a 3-4 minute presentation which told the story of who you were. The topic was tackled in a variety of ways.

Some chose to focus on academia—the internships and experiences that they are most passionate about because, as one student put it, “My work defines who I am.” Other students opted for a more vulnerable approach, explaining how a deeply personal tragedy or failure prompted them, in some way, to attend McIntire.

It was an intimate experience, and each of us walked out of that room feeling interconnected. On the surface, it was 7% of a final grade in a course. On a more significant level, it was a bonding exercise—a way to use the classroom as an excuse to shape your peers’ perception of you. In that introspective process, you might uncover something about yourself too.

My audience when delivering my story.

As I look back on the session, I realize the power of storytelling in conveying some sort of truth—whether that’s analytical or emotional.

As a consultant, all the data in the world is useless unless you can synthesize the information into actionable steps for a client. The steps might follow a natural progression from history to implementation to future consequences—or, in simpler words, a story. The synthesis of story is even more impactful in marketing.

In class, we watched an early Lincoln car commercial that highlighted the automobile’s design and features. Then we watched a Lincoln commercial from 2017. Matthew McConaughey dons a suit, looks into the mirror, smiles, and then drives off in his sexy new car. Storytelling, particularly in advertising, has the power to appeal to someone’s deepest desires and ambitions—and that can be very profitable.

I chose to emphasize the not so cynical, highly connective power of storytelling. Daily small talk about the weather or the weekend can never develop the deeply interpersonal relationships that serve as the bedrock of effective businesses and organizations. If you’ve never attempted to sum up your emotions, ambitions, and personality in just 3 minutes, I would encourage you to do so. It’s good to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and it’s even better to know you’re not alone.

-Written by Zain Sharif

MSC’s Capital One Visit

On August 26th, the M.S. in Commerce Class of 2017 walked boldly into the lion’s den— the offices of an actual corporation. Leaving their textbooks and laptops behind, the scholars embarked on a journey of truth and self-discovery. This is their story.

It wasn’t that dramatic. We met up at 9:00, and after a short bus ride (or nap, depending on what you did the night before), we arrived at Capital One in Richmond. We passed through a quick security check and assembled into a large hall as Todd Kennedy, a Senior Vice President at Capital One, began his presentation.


He first clarified Capital One’s position as a Top 10 U.S. Bank that’s only been in existence for a mere 20 years. In his view, Capital One’s success is built around its internal branding as a startup. The company values innovation, and as a result, Capital One advertises itself as a bank for the tech-savvy. The Capital One campus echoed these statements, from a massive international food court to a sprawling ropes course (which is basically a playground for adults).

After the presentation, we attended a panel of six Capital One employees, whose positions in the company ranged from marketing to technology consulting. We asked them about company culture, work-life balance, and the hiring process. All of the panel members were McIntire graduates (either M.S. or B.S.), a testament to our school’s position as a valuable talent pool for some of the world’s leading companies.

After the panel, we explored the campus—and it really did look like a college campus of sorts. A complete startup atmosphere permeated the company’s buildings and facilities, from towering glass walls to engineers in flip-flops. Someone who didn’t know what Capital One does might assume they were the next Google. After our tour, we went back inside for lunch and a case that ended up fueling intense competition.img_8396

The “case” was more of a simulation. Each team was allotted a certain number of doctors and nurses and had to figure out how to distribute resources to save the most number of people during a hypothetical epidemic. This was a mind-bending exercise open to a wide range of interpretations and solutions—a perfect analogy for working as a consultant or business analyst. After the employees announced the winners, we boarded the bus back to Charlottesville, where we could nap once more.

Looking back, this was a Capital (One)derful experience! (Not apologizing for that.) Our first group venture to a company that has a rich history of hiring out of our program was a success. A few of the current Capital One employees reconnected with our McIntire professors, and multiple executives expressed their eagerness to hire graduates specifically from our program.

From information sessions in college up until the first day of the program, we’ve heard recruiters and read brochures that claim that McIntire positions us for career opportunities in a variety of industries like banking, consulting, analytics, or marketing. Just a few weeks into the program, we spent a Friday in the offices of one of those companies, and left with a firsthand confirmation of the value of our newfound skills and capabilities.

-Written by Zain Sharif

From Charlotte to Charlottesville

I’m not in Kansas anymore. I’ve never been to Kansas, but that’s irrelevant.

Change and I are not on the best of terms. Change, for me, is like an ice bath: sometimes healthy, always initially painful. Before it happens, when I know it’s coming, I’m kind of excited and kind of nervous. Then, when I first dip my toes in, I immediately hate everything about it and myself. But I keep going. I immerse myself in the situation (the faster the better—slow is painful in ice baths and often ineffective in change). And then I’ve done it….and it’s horrible. It’s uncomfortable and overwhelming, and there is a period of time where I think I won’t make it.


But then, slowly but surely, it gets better. The discomfort of the unknown goes away as what was considered change becomes the new normal. Here, however, is where my analogy breaks down, since at this point in my ice bath I am really only pain-free because I am numb. In both situations, I have learned that as long as I can keep my head above water through the initial shock, I’ll be fine.


The first change I have had to get used to is my physical location. At Davidson, my morning commute to class was, on average, a 4-minute walk. I could wake up at 8 and still be five minutes early for my 8:30 class. Now, however, I walk about half a mile down a real street (with cars!). I have to leave my apartment half an hour before class instead of waking up then. It’s kind of like being abroad in Italy all over again, except the bus system is far more reliable and no one says “Ciao, bella,” when I walk by.


After turning in my last final at Davidson…wearing my lucky “I speak fluently in movie quotes” t-shirt.


I seriously can’t believe I hadn’t taken a selfie with the rotunda until now. Do not mistake this for a sudden increase in professionalism.

One of the most surprising shifts I have had to make is the shift in my vocabulary. I am no longer talking about (insert biological jargon here) or (insert nerdy reference to Shakespeare here), so I started out a bit out of my element in terms of speaking the language of business (though there was one day where we talked about how businesses basically function as ecosystems—and even though thinking of them as ecological communities is probably a more accurate analogy, ecosystem sounds better so we’ll let it slide).

Even stranger than this shift to business language, however, has been the one related to UVA itself. There are several ways that you can immediately reveal yourself as an outsider:

  1. Refer to the area which UVA’s buildings and facilities occupy as a “campus.”

When you are on campus, you are “on Grounds.” There is some sort of coffee pun to be made here, but I’m sure it’s already been done, so I won’t press the issue.

  1. Refer to a student as a “junior” or a “senior” (or “sophomore” or “freshman”)

Mr. Jefferson (for that is the proper way to refer to TJ) believed that we should be life-long learners, so we can’t use a term like “senior” that suggests we are at the end of this process. Instead, we call them “fourth-years.”

  1. Not be able to identify where “The Corner” is.

This is a tough one. I’ve been here over a month, and I can’t tell you where the place begins and ends. This is because it’s not even a corner. If we must assign it some sort of geometric identifier, it is much closer to a rectangle or some sort of vaguely symmetric quadrilateral. I imagine corners to be 90° or less, but if this street can even be considered to have an angle on it, it can’t be much less than 165° (let’s keep in mind that it’s been seven years since I took a geometry class). Sure, there are pieces of it that curve, but overall, the street is mostly a line. Okay, sorry, had to rant about my struggles with this for a second. I’m done now.

  1. Call a professor “Dr.”

I think this goes along with Mr. Jefferson’s concept of lifetime learners. Only medical doctors can claim the title, so just call all your professors “Professor.” I’m still not totally clear on why; just go with it.

Another weird shift that I have experienced has been one of size and community. Davidson was a fairly small place, so even though I had classes with a lot of the same people, I felt well connected to the entire college community. UVA, however, is a large university, and I was nervous before the year started about how I would be able to find my place in such a big environment. So far, I feel pretty disconnected from the university as a whole, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the community that has formed within the M.S. in Commerce program. From what I can tell, there are several factors that have allowed us to grow close rather quickly:

  1. Program of ~120:

We are in a little bit of a best of both worlds situation, because we have all the opportunities afforded us by the size of the university while also getting the attention of a small group.

  1. Class schedule:
    • With two sections of about 60 each, it is pretty easy to quickly get to know a decent amount of people in your section….and because we basically move as a section from class to class, we all participate in the same discussions, so we share a common language in and outside of class.
    • The amount of time I spend in the Comm school makes me feel like I’m back in high school. Some days we have all our classes back to back, while other days they are spread out, but there is never enough time for it to be worth it for me to go all the way home. (Side note: This has severely impacted my usual napping schedule, but I am actually sleeping more at night, so I guess I’m becoming more of a normal human being—which has never exactly been my goal, but okay.) However, this is pretty much true for everyone, so we have grown close quickly because of the sometimes-ridiculous amount of time we spend together every week.
  1. Group work:

Most of our assignments are group projects. This has been new for me, since most projects in my English courses were individual, and most biology group projects were lab-related. Constantly meeting in groups has been a very effective way to bring the class together.

The mix of double-hoos and non-UVA undergrads has been helpful as well. There are enough people around who know how the school works that I can always find help from my friends when I need it, but there aren’t so many that I feel behind or left out in any way.

Overall, it has been a pretty smooth transition. I definitely miss Davidson, but I am happy to be here and excited for the rest of this journey. And now, for a brief overview of what we have accomplished in the first month of the program:

Week 1: The first week was orientation (but we also started classes). It was a crazy time, getting acquainted with the school, learning about our schedules and upcoming classes, winning friends and influencing people. It was exhausting, but it was a really helpful intro to the program.

Week 2: The second week (which was the first full week of classes) was affectionately called (by me and probably no one else) “Consulting Bootcamp.” Consulting recruiting season is right around the corner (read: resumes are due any day now, some already turned in), so we had an awesome opportunity to get ready for it through consulting class. We received much-needed feedback on our answers to the ever-dreaded-sort-of-question “Tell me about yourself.”

We learned the etiquette of networking and the art of “pit diving” (I really wanted to make a Poe reference here, especially considering good ol’ Edgar’s connection to UVA, but I stopped myself. See? I’m getting better!) We ended the class with our first group presentations of the semester. It was our first (but certainly not our last) chance to work on our public speaking and presentation skills (Lesson learned: definitely practice in the presentation room before game time, because there are could be some funky acoustics that throw you off). Consulting will be further covered in a future post by Alex, so definitely BOLO (Be On the LookOut) for that.

Our first major assignment was the business process memo. This project had many components that were new to me. First, I had to learn how to construct a memo in its proper format. Basically, business writing is very direct, because business people are super busy and just want you to tell them what you’re going to tell them so they can get on with their day and deal with the next problem. That’s not to say you don’t have to give them evidence, but they want to be able to skim the document easily. So, we’re utilizing white space to the best of our ability.


Next, I had to learn not only what a business process model entailed, but also how to depict one in a diagram using a program called Visio. And for anyone who is like I was at the beginning of this program and is not BFFs with every member of the Microsoft Office family, Visio basically does everything you ever wanted PowerPoint to be able to do (plus some things that you never really needed it to do). Finally, I had to tackle the case itself. (Word to the wise: start early. I know it’s a major bonding experience to spend the night in the computer lab with 20 of your new best friends, but maybe you could do your work early and then get lunch with them the next day instead.)


Week 3: Week three concluded with a field trip to Capital One’s Richmond campus (which Zain will cover in more detail in a future blog post). It was crazy that we were just a few weeks into the program, but we were already taking major steps in the recruiting process. The weirdest thing to me, however, was the tour of the campus, where I also learned that 8,000 people work at that location. It was strange to be on a corporate campus that had more people working there than people who attend Davidson in a given year (x4!) (not 4 factorial just, like, wow! four times as many people!!! Which, by the way, according to my Google calculator, is ~2.67!).

Week 4: At the end of week four, we attended the Third Annual Business Analytics Colloquium, which was affectionately called (again, only by me) “Big Data, Big Day.” We attended lectures on the importance of big data to decision makers from firms from several different industries, from Hilton in the hospitality business to Ipsos in polling, and a wide range of firms in between (not that there is necessarily a spectrum from hospitality to polling—they are just two examples of the very different industries that utilize big data). We had the opportunity to eat lunch with representatives from presenting firms, and there was also a networking hour at the end of the afternoon session.

Speaking of networking, it is crazy how often there are recruiters on campus. Almost every day there is a company holding an info session or coffee chats and resume reviews. There is so much going on all the time that it’s hard to keep track, so I just take it one day at a time. I have become so used to having some sort of networking event every day, that I usually don’t believe it when I am ironing out my schedule for the following day and don’t see anything I want to attend (I always text a friend: “There is nothing I need to dress up for tomorrow, right?” and she’ll either say, “Nope, you’re good,” or “Caylyn, there’s a Deloitte info session tomorrow. Get your act together.” That’s where I am with my life right now. It’s actually going pretty well.).

One month down, nine to go. It’s going to be a hellUVA year.

-Written by Caylyn Harvey

Transitioning to McIntire

My journey to the Commerce program at McIntire has been far from conventional. I attended Georgia Tech, a university notorious for its academic rigor, and I loved it. I wasn’t an engineer like 70% of the school; I studied Biology with aspirations of becoming a cardiologist. I had worked with neighboring hospitals all through high school and quickly jumped on board with research in brain imaging my freshman year.

As the years progressed, I found myself becoming more and more disillusioned with becoming an MD. The summer after my freshman year, I attended Oxford University and took a class called “Healthcare Management.” My passion for science and medicine wasn’t stifled; it was rejuvenated, but this time, through a business lens.

“Tech Tower,” Georgia Tech

It’s important for me to retrace the steps that led me to leave medical school and choose McIntire. As I delved deeper into research, I learned of the many issues that currently plague the healthcare field. It seemed as if pioneers in medical technology and analytics were largely dictating the future of the industry. Around this time, I got my first look at the emergence of data in healthcare and the burgeoning need to “technologize” an industry stuck 20 years in the past.

I needed the business skills to pivot towards this new path. I took an additional 30 hours of business classes before knowing I wanted to apply to McIntire. Then, through the President’s Scholars Program, I was invited to an M.S. in Commerce info session being hosted at Georgia Tech. I initially came for the pizza, but ended up staying past the presentation. It sounded as if the entire program had been designed for my current academic position.

All geared up to test pH levels at Georgia Tech
All geared up to test pH levels at Georgia Tech

Are you telling me this is a 1-year program with renowned industry connections, is ranked #1 in value, is geared towards non-business undergraduates, and offers an almost guaranteed job? It seemed almost too good to be true.

For the next two years, I kept McIntire in my back pocket. I continued to speak with the Graduate Admissions team, and I received helpful responses within minutes. I figured that if the recruiters accurately represented the program, then it would be an honor to become a member of the McIntire community. When it was time to finally apply, I worked hard for high test scores, met with professors to explain the program and receive their recommendations, and slogged away at my personal essay. When the results came out, I crossed my fingers, read the acceptance, and I’ve been smiling ever since.

Now that I’m here, I can say it’s been the best decision of my life. It sounds like a hyperbole, but I mean it. I came from an engineering school where long hours and sleepless nights were the norm, but I didn’t feel like I could contextualize my education to the world around me. After just a month at McIntire, I feel my insights and opinions becoming more informed and accurate about a variety of topics, from company mergers to political events. I’m searching for opportunities to apply these new quantitative and analytical skills to the rapidly evolving healthcare industry.

3 Musketeers outside a London cathedral

I’ll admit that the transition was slightly jarring for me. I hadn’t visited the campus until a week before classes, and I quickly found Charlottesville to be a beautiful and wonderful town that felt like home. I first realized this when a cop approached me on the street just to say “hello.” (My first instinct was to ask what I had done wrong.) The greatest thing about this town is its people. They are kind, respectful, tolerant, and conversational. If Virginia is for lovers, then most of that love must be concentrated in Charlottesville.

Cheesing outside Rouss & Robertson Hall

After 3 days of 8-hour orientation sessions, we delved into class content at breakneck speed. But here’s the thing, never once have I felt overwhelmed or unequipped to handle a task. All the tools are right in front of you, and your classmates are immensely helpful in terms of maintaining focus. When I finish an assignment here, I don’t feel as if my work was lost into the ether of my “education.” These are real and tangible assets that are helping me find a meaningful, impactful career.

I don’t think McIntire is the place for someone looking to float through another year of school, or an extension of undergraduate education. It’s called a master’s for a reason, and you really do have to earn your grades. That being said, I’m not afraid of walking into class. At McIntire, I’m taking away true knowledge, and I’m building my brain. I don’t think a test score can match up to that. If you’re on the fence about a childhood career goal like me, take a look at this school. McIntire is filled with professors and classmates who want to see you succeed.

-Written by Zain Sharif

Meet your Fall 2016 bloggers!


We’re excited to be your bloggers this term! All of us have non-business backgrounds and are going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our journey to obtaining business degrees, as well as all the great things this program has to offer. Stay tuned throughout the term for updates on our courses, Comm School events, and the job search. We’ll also fill you in on our excursions around Charlottesville and let you know where the hotspots are (a.k.a. where you should eat).

Make sure to follow us on Instagram for more updates on our whereabouts!

Here’s a little more about each of us…

Caylyn Harveyimg_3687

Track: Marketing & Management

Undergrad Institution: Davidson College

Undergrad Major: Biology and English

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your (metaphorical) ears. If you’re reading this, you are looking for the inside scoop on the M.S. in Commerce program, and that is (hopefully) exactly what you will get, with a generous side helping of (sometimes) obscure nerd references.  Welcome (I seriously considered “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” but decided it would show too much of my nerd side. Oh, but there it is. Oh well.)!

To get to know me a little better…While at Davidson, I enjoyed giving tours for the Admissions Office, playing intramural sports, being a member of Reformed University Fellowship, and singing in an a cappella group. My hobbies include reading (from Shakespeare to fantasy novels), playing sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, spikeball), watching Netflix (literally too many genres to categorize), completing “Escape Games” (I’m 21/21; please ask me to elaborate and I will talk your ear off about them), and hanging out with friends and family (with bonus points if I can incorporate one or more other hobbies with this last one).

While at McIntire, I hope to learn how to apply to business the skills I developed during my liberal arts undergrad education. I don’t know yet which career direction I would like to pursue, but I hope to figure it out soon (…in time for recruiting season…???).

Alex Rossiimg_3691

Track: Marketing & Management

Undergrad Institution: University of Virginia

Undergrad Major: Psychology

Hometown: Leesburg, VA

Favorite C’ville restaurant: Lampo (go for the pizza, stay for the pizza, go back for the pizza)

Favorite study spot(s): Mudhouse on the Downtown Mall OR The Asian Study Room in Alderman Library.

Hello friends! Welcome to the GCOM blog — I’m a first time blogger (but a double Hoo), and I couldn’t be more excited to share my experiences with all of you here in the blogosphere.

For a little bit of background, I was a Psychology major here at UVA, and I enjoyed every second of it. I was primarily interested in human cognition — the study of how we get from Thought A to Thought B. I really enjoy the process of breaking down a problem bit by bit, and I’m quickly finding out that McIntire is the perfect place for that. I’m currently interested in pursuing a career in consulting, but recruiting season is just beginning — so I’ll get back to you on that!

Outside of class, I love fostering dogs through the local SPCA, trying to eat at as many Charlottesville restaurants as possible, and hanging out with some of my ten housemates. I’m currently a Student Fellow with the Tom Tom Founders Festival, a nonprofit music/arts/innovation festival that happens every spring (and definitely one of the reasons why Charlottesville is one of my top 5 favorite cities). I hope this blog inspires you to get to know UVA better — this place is truly special.

Zain Sharifimg_3683

Track: Business Analytics

Undergrad Institution: Georgia Tech

Undergrad Major: Biology, Business Concentration

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Biggest Influence: Louis CK

Favorite Movie: Drive (mostly for Ryan Gosling)

Hey! How’s it going? You can’t really respond to that question, so I’ll just talk about my interests. I’m a stand-up comedian and a Bollywood hip-hop dancer. Really, I am. My collegiate Bollywood team is ranked 2nd in the country, and I get to travel and tell jokes to complete strangers. I also have a pretty snazzy YouTube channel, and one of my videos just hit a million views!

Although dance and stand-up seem random in the McIntire context, they’re actually incredibly useful skills in the business world. Putting yourself out there through performance teaches you to think on your feet and speak with intention. I love that rush of adrenaline, when the lights are down and a thousand eyes are on me. It never gets old.

I came to McIntire specifically for the Business Analytics track, and I’m working hard to apply these newly developed quantitative skills to the healthcare industry. I’m currently looking for job opportunities at pharmaceutical or medical tech companies (after I finish all my homework). I could also see myself working as a consultant in the public health arm of a big firm. Let’s see where McIntire takes me!

Alumni Spotlight: Sneha Chiliveru

sneha2Sneha graduated from the University of North Florida in 2011 with a B.A. in Management Information Systems before joining the M.S. in Commerce Class of 2012. She was in the Finance track, and now works as a Senior Associate for Optimity Advisors in Arlington, VA.

Leveraging information systems and business

My undergraduate degree is in information systems. By complementing this with my M.S. in Commerce degree, I have been able to leverage both my technology and business skills to add value to all aspects of a project. With simply a technology background, I would have never learned the management skills necessary to see a project through from beginning to end. On the flip side, without my technology skills, I would not have the strong delivery expertise I do today. Combining both of these tracks has provided tremendous value for me in my career and everyday work life.

Preparation for the job market

The M.S. in Commerce Program did a tremendous job in preparing me for my role today. The skills I learned in the program, from Visio to SQL, are ones I use daily that allow me to provide added value to any client. In addition to those hard skills, the M.S. in Commerce Program taught me to be an effective speaker and presenter, skills extremely useful when facilitating meetings and presenting to C-level executives.

The value of Commerce Career Services

I believe Commerce Career Services is unparalleled. I’ve been involved with my company’s Recruiting team, and it is always said that the resumes that come out of McIntire are top-notch. CCS strongly positions you to apply for top jobs—from helping you develop your resume to the interview process. It not only facilitated my job search, but also provided me the right skills to succeed in it.

What makes the job great

As cliché as it may sound, my favorite part of my current job is the culture and the people. Many of us are friends outside of work, and we have a great rapport internally as well as externally. We have a flat company structure and an informal work environment, which provides for an incredible day-to-day work life. We also employ very intelligent and talented people, which provides a great forum in which to learn and an excellent network of resources.

Typical day at the office

I start the day at around 8:30 a.m. and may participate in a weekly project status call, in which the team provides status updates on its work as well as brings up any issues or concerns individuals have. I’ll then work on requirements deliverable for the client, encompassing information from JAR (joint application requirement) sessions. We will break for a team lunch, and then I will participate in a meeting to discuss requirements and next steps for current scope of work. The rest of the afternoon is spent in a continuation of required deliverables. I wrap up the day with internal work for Optimity Advisors, including strategy project outlining the strategy for the next five years of the firm; planning and executing the first training session of the company; developing content for a culture book; and developing an executive presentation for an employee satisfaction and growth program.

Importance of the Global Immersion Experience (GIE)

I believe the biggest lesson from GIE that I have been able to leverage is that each company has its own way of conducting business. As consultants, we work with a variety of clients, all with their own policies and procedures. Being able to experience this firsthand prepared me to quickly adapt to the different cultures of each different client.

Most memorable GIE company visit

My favorite company visit was to a median-size business in Indonesia, BTPN Bank. There, we learned about how the company provides microloans and teaches people how to start a very small business. It showed a new side to the corporate world, and as someone who has always been interested in social entrepreneurship, it showed me that I could make a difference while developing a career in the corporate world.

Advice for future students

An important lesson I learned from my time in McIntire is that your career and your future are what you make of them. Putting an early effort into my job search allowed me to secure a job long before graduation, and I apply that lesson to my daily life as well, in that the earlier you start something and the more effort you put in, the faster you see the results.

Life after graduate business school

I currently serve on a young ambassadors board for the American Cancer Society, and spend Sundays volunteering for a hospice organization called Capital Caring. I also play on a social sports kickball league on Thursday evenings.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

How can I just pick one? The greatest thing about Charlottesville is the wide range of things to do there, from tubing to wine tasting to camping.

Conquering the GMAT

Hello everyone, my name is Danielle and I’m an incoming M.S. in Commerce (MSC)  student with a unique career goal compared to the majority of students in the program. I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Winthrop University, a small school in South Carolina, and I’m using the MSC program to my first step toward a career as a professor. Since this career goal will require further graduate school in a doctoral program (post-MSC), I retook the GMAT* this summer to position myself as more competitive in future applications. This makes me somewhat of a GMAT pro, and I’m here to provide some advice on tackling the intimidating test.

If you are reading this, you probably cringe hearing that I took the GMAT more than once. In the seconds following my first GMAT, I told myself I wasn’t going to go through it again and rebelled by throwing away my study materials. Unfortunately, I knew deep down that I could do better and that if I took it again and increased my score, I’d be more successful at getting to where I ultimately wanted to go after my master’s: a  competitive doctoral program.

Through much encouragement from those around me, I managed to convince myself that I would take the GMAT another time and conquer it. While training my mind and body to tackle my worst enemy I needed to create an original study schedule. Previously, I bought “Cracking the GMAT 2015,” taking a couple of practice tests throughout the studying process, but this strategy did not work for me. The first time around, I unknowingly focused on strengthening skills I already possessed rather than learning new concepts that would benefit my score.

Looking back to my test day, I remember the palm vein scanning and the endless clicking and typing of others in the testing room, which intimidated me and exacerbated my heightened anxiety level. However, these are things that you will expect going in for the second test, allowing you to focus solely on the task at hand: tackling the GMAT. Beyond the familiarity with the testing center, I can offer the study tactics I used to improve my score the second time around:

  1. Take a practice test to analyze your particular strengths and weaknesses; tests that include the breakdown of the question type ( Ex. Princeton Review) are the most useful.
  2. Read blogs and websites such as GMAT Hacks and Beat the GMAT to grasp many strategies and test taking tips that you can implement into your study plan. The most useful skill I gained from reading these sites was when and how to guess. The GMAT is not a test of intelligence, but rather of endurance.
  3. Practice the concepts you often miss, relearn information you do not remember, and retest.
  4. Take multiple timed practice tests throughout your study schedule, trimming 5-10 minutes off of each section. This eliminated my fear of the clock on the real test day.
  5. Take multiple timed tests and study during the time of day when you will be taking the real GMAT.
  6. The most important tip I would give to anyone in a similar situation is to have confidence in yourself. Tell yourself that you have studied all you can and that you will knock the GMAT out of the park!

Each of these tips can be accomplished without spending a penny of your money; you just have to be willing to commit the time. Eat, breathe, and live in the GMAT mindset and you will be as prepared as possible. Most importantly, with confidence in yourself, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, even the GMAT!

-Written by guest blogger Danielle Thibault

*Applicants must submit official test scores to the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, code KC7-K3-45. Applicants who have already taken the GRE or plan to take it in order to apply to other graduate programs may substitute the GRE in lieu of the GMAT, but please note the GMAT is strongly preferred.

Click here for information about the M.S. in Commerce application process, or reach out to the Kelsey Nicholson, Assistant Director of Marketing and Recruiting.


Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Keating Lopez

  • Andrea Keating Lopez, M.S. in Commerce 2010profile pic
  • Before: B.A. in Foreign Affairs 2009, University of Virginia
  • After: IBM, Strategy Consultant

Where did you go undergrad, and what was your major?

I graduated from the University of Virginia  in 2009 with a degree in Foreign Affairs, and a concentration in East Asian politics. I decided to stay and complete the M.S. in Commerce (MSC), in the Marketing and Management track.

From your personal experience, describe the value of combining your undergraduate major with business.

As an undergrad majoring in Foreign Affairs, I found myself writing paper after paper and discussing political theories in class. The result was that I learned how to think on my own and developed strong communication and writing skills.

During MSC, I developed analytical skills by learning the importance of asking questions. A sense of curiosity is crucial to professional and personal growth, and my MSC experience taught me to look at a situation or a problem holistically, and to always question. The combination of my degrees at UVA have allowed me to excel upon graduation and into my career at IBM. I was able to purposefully contribute on day 1 because of what I learned in the program.

What surprised you most about MSC?

There is a different energy that exists among grad students, probably because we all elected to stay in school for another year. That enthusiasm and interest created a palpable, invested, lively community. I loved working with such a high caliber and strongly invested group of students.

Where did you go on GIE?

I was on the GIE China track, where we traveled to 5 different cities throughout this massive country to compare and contrast business and societal issues. My favorite cultural experience was in Chengdu where we visited a Panda zoo and had some of the spiciest food in my life. My eyes still water thinking about it!

What was your favorite activity to do in Charlottesville?

Tubing the James! (and then getting Bodo’s!)

What job did you take after graduating from MSC and what are you doing now?

Andrea at IBM

After MSC, I accepted a role as an entry level strategy consultant at IBM. Fortunately, I have had the ability to move and explore new career paths, and find myself now as the IBM North American Recruitment Marketing and Branding lead for GBS (our consulting business unit). I love the autonomy and ability to make decisions and show the world the “new” IBM. IBM is at the heart of cloud, analytics and mobile—it’s a really interesting time to be in this space.

Most recently, I participated in IBM’s Corporate Service Corp program. CSC is designed to take top performing IBMers from around the world, and send them on a one-month community-based assignment in an emerging market. The program is a unique leadership development program, while solving critical community problems. I was sent to Cordoba, Argentina and you can learn more about my experience here.

Andrea with her colleagues when she first started at IBM after graduating from M.S. in Commerce
Andrea with her colleagues when she first started at IBM after graduating from M.S. in Commerce
Andrea in Argentina doing service work for IBM
Andrea in Argentina doing service work for IBM

Is there anything else you would like to tell current or prospective students about the program?

I would recommend MSC if they are looking to enter the business world and need to develop or add a business acumen, or simply want to stay in the industry they studied in as an undergrad but want to develop some core business skills to be leaders in their organizations. It’s a condensed 10-month investment that opens doors and opportunities.

Some advice for incoming students: make sure to develop friendships with your classmates. So many of my classmates have gone on to do some pretty incredible things, not only is it a nice network, but it’s also fun to watch!