RACHAEL Spencer

University of Virginia '14

“One minute, you’re reviewing a  product’s economics and recommending a price change, the next you’re weighing in on new creative or a product design.”

Rachael Spencer is all about the big picture. A self-described “East Coast lifer,” who grew up in Virginia Beach and studied Economics and Art History at the University of Virginia, she was looking for a job that “would be meaningful on a macro-level.” She found one at MBI, where its most rewarding aspect is “seeing the impact my work has on the bottom line. Many of my peers were applying for entry-level jobs, where they’d spend countless hours doing grunt work, only to be recycled out after two years in order to make room for the next incoming class. I could see that was not the case at MBI from the start.”

            In addition, she also had first-hand experiences pointing her in that direction: “Before my senior year, I interned at a major media publishing company, and its marketing department was divided into dozens of small, highly specialized teams. By the end of the summer, I discovered that I felt limited by the narrow scope of my team’s role, and discouraged because this type of internal structure seemed to be modus operandi for so many large corporations. I knew I ultimately wanted to find something more cross-functional -- I wanted a role that would grow with me and constantly challenge me.”

MBI’s management-track fit that description, and Rachael credits her double major with helping to prepare her. “I’m 50% right-brained and 50% left-brained —in school, I was constantly switching gears and putting both sides to work. One hour, I’d be crunching numbers in a problem set, and the next I’d be writing a comparative essay on Rubens and Rembrandt.” Rachael appreciates that product management requires a similar combination of both analytical and creative thinking. “As a manager, you’re essentially in charge of running your own small slice of the business. On a daily basis, this involves analyzing marketing data, weighing in on new product designs and creative, and acting as the key point person for developmental and operational issues, among many other things.”

Other facets of marketing appealed to her as well.  “I’ve always been fascinated by consumer behavior—why we buy what we buy, and prefer one brand over another. Marketing aims not only to identify those preferences, but also to shape them. That’s incredibly powerful.” Which explains why conducting split-tests is one of Rachael’s favorite aspects of the job. “It’s amazing to see how one small tweak can breathe new life into a product. We’re always brainstorming ways to make a successful product even better.”

Rachael’s personal path to MBI epitomized the networking that is part of a tight-knit corporate culture, especially for young managers. She learned about the company “through two older UVa alumni who were hired as Product Managers after graduation. When I asked about their experiences, they both emphasized the responsibility and ownership that Product Managers are given right out of the gate. That really stuck out to me, and set MBI apart from the rest.”

Despite a steep learning curve, the rewards can be great for those who value a challenge and the opportunity to realize their full potential. Today, Rachael finds herself “impressed by how incredibly dynamic this business is, particularly with regard to the product landscape. A product category that is marginal today, could be an important part of our business in a matter of months. When a something is successful, it’s up to the product manager to capitalize on that momentum. Here, we’re really encouraged to be self-starters, pursue our ideas and ultimately move the business forward.”

Company culture also plays an important role in each manager’s success. Rachael believes that “MBI’s flat structure and open-door policy help to foster an incredibly supportive environment.” What surprised her the most about MBI was “how receptive they are to feedback from young managers. We’re encouraged to speak up if we think there’s a better way of doing things—and management really listens.” In short, with its heavy investment in nurturing new talent, MBI wants to “give new managers every opportunity to be the best they can be.”

 

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