Andrea Sarate

Class of 2020

Hometown: Richmond, VA
Undergraduate University: James Madison University
Class Year: 1998
Majors: Anthropology, Art History
Employer: Anthem, Inc.
Position: Hybrid Workplace Strategy Director

Why did you pursue an MBA?

I've been practicing as a sociocultural anthropologist for almost 20 years. I started in marketing, and then my career evolved into workplace strategy, which is a very planned approach to evaluating a company's core real estate portfolio and the talent in an organization. As a consultant, I met with senior executives and C-suite leaders of companies all over North America, helping them plan and deliver a workplace that best supports their people and business goals. I found that I was not as fluent as I needed to be about the key issues and decisions those leaders needed to make. I didn't feel that I was adequately prepared with my knowledge level at the time to meet them where they were and speak their language when talking about these large corporate impacts. I always planned on getting an MBA. It was just a matter of finding the right program and the time in my career to do it.

Why was the W&M EMBA program the right fit for you?

I was concerned about the logistics of any program. I was traveling Monday through Thursday every week to cities across the U.S. and Canada. I met with some alumni from the program at an event, and they shared that William & Mary's Executive MBA is meant to adapt to your professional career. The program staff gives you the absolute best care and attention; they feed you well, they have batteries if your mouse dies, everything is recorded so you can go back and watch it at your own speed when you need to, and they have so many great resources available on online. It sounds like a really tiny factor, but for me, since I literally spent all of my life on a plane going to other cities, it was reassuring to know I had that support.

How did you balance the academics with work and personal responsibilities?

The program is so well designed. It's a lot of content, but it goes by so fast. At the time, I did not have a partner, nor did I have offspring or parents to care for. But I can share that, having supported my classmates and teammates, you need to have a serious sit-down conversation with your family and work before you start. The schedule is published ahead of time, so share it with everyone. I was fortunate to have a manager who supported my schooling and allowed me to protect my time for school and a roommate who helped take care of my dog. Most importantly, I also gave myself permission to invest in myself and mentally said, 'I deserve this. It's important.' Don't be afraid of the investment of time and money because it's 100% worth it.

How did the EMBA program grow your personal and professional network?

Within the first 48 hours of starting the program, our cohort totally gelled and became a family—one big team. That was fantastic. I have lifelong friends and colleagues now from that group, and they will be a part of my life forever as a result of sharing this experience together. Professionally, I was referred to my current job at Anthem by a William & Mary business school alum, and I was supported in my application by the faculty. As a William & Mary graduate, I know that I have lifelong support for my own continual career development, and I know I always have a home at the Business School at William & Mary.

What impact has the MBA had on your career?

Since I started the program, my salary has increased 89%, and even from the first semester, I had so much more confidence to have these executive-level conversations, make impactful business decisions, and provide guidance to new organizations. I was so much better equipped for my job as a strategist and as an advisor. I have changed jobs twice since I started the program. Within the first year, I moved up into a position at a different organization, and as I neared graduation from the EMBA program, I received career development support from two coaches the program assigned to me. They helped me rediscover my passion for the healthcare industry, and after graduation, I found my dream job at Anthem. I can absolutely attest that if I did not have my MBA, I would not have been able to move up in my career and increase my salary and benefits in the way that I have.



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