Rachel Verbout '12

Brand Management Analyst at VF Corporation

An MBA for changing plans

Forging a path from accounting to apparel.

I went to Paris for a mini-gap year and rediscovered my passion for fashion and retail. And while an MBA wasn't the typical avenue into the fashion industry, given where I was coming from, it seemed the best way path, and maximized my options in the process.

William & Mary was the ideal place for me. The small classes and the Executive Partner program ensured that I would have plenty of support, and the diversity really appealed to me, especially the percentage of other women in the class.

My Executive Partner, Bob Quarter, had a huge impact on my MBA experience. On paper, we didn't have much in common. He was a retired Air Force Major General. I was an aspiring fashion maven. One of the first things he had me do—and he would have me redo it periodically—was explain why I wanted an MBA and why I wanted to go into fashion and retail. That constant honing of my ambitions and my rationale for my ambitions kept me focused throughout the program and proved invaluable in interviews.

Bob connected me with another of the other EPs who worked with me to land an internship with Tracy Reese, the luxury women’s wear designer in New York. She designs for Michelle Obama and sells at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. It was fantastic. It was a small company so I got to explore several areas of the business. I worked with their sales representatives. I worked in their retail store. I went to trade shows. I even worked with the controller so I could see the finance and accounting side of the things. It really validated my decision to go into fashion and retail and showed me the value I could bring with an MBA. It also helped me pinpoint where I wanted to go after graduation, which was the merchant/analyst side of the business. And it was just fun. Work should be fun, in my opinion.

Now I'm a brand management analyst—kind of an internal branding consultant—at VF Corporation. VF has more than 30 brands that operate globally. Every new project is like reliving the second year of my W&M MBA. I travel around the world to the brands and stores and evaluate their processes—everything from supply chain to their social media marketing. I love it because I get to wear so many hats. It’s constantly fresh and new.

What are some activities you were involved with outside of class? How did you balance your time?

The William & Mary MBA program has numerous social and professional groups. I was the President of the MBA Social Committee, responsible for planning on campus-activities as well as outings for my classmates. Throughout my two years I also participated in events with the professional groups, attending on-campus speakers and visiting local businesses. I felt it was easy to balance my time because all my activities, whether academic or social, ultimately supported my goal of building relationships and preparing for a successful career.

What do you think is your program's greatest asset?

The greatest asset of the William & Mary MBA program is the support network: the academic and career staff, program coordinators, Executive Partners, and alumni. From day one of the program you are welcomed into this group of peers and mentors who want nothing more than to see you succeed.

How did you fund your MBA? Can you offer any advice to students looking to fund their MBA?

I used loans to finance my MBA, like most students. For me it was the only option, as I did not want to work and attend a part-time MBA program. It is a big decision to take on years of debt, but your career advancement after graduation makes you realize the burden is short lived.

Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice to students on how to make a decision?

I chose the William & Mary MBA program because it was the best fit. That sounds like a generic answer, but choosing the right MBA program comes down to your goals and personality. All the top programs are very similar academically, both in the class structure and offerings. The best program is different for each person. I had a few must haves: small class size, East Coast, strong career services, and a mentorship program, to name a few. Ultimately I made my decision because of the admissions team