Booth Graduates Make a Splash in Retailing

GucciInterest in retail is rising among Booth students and the field is home to accomplished alumni working at top firms including Gucci, LVMH, Saks, Coach, Wal-Mart, Target, Gilt Groupe, and Amazon.

Booth's reputation as a go-to place for new retail talent is on the rise as well. Last year, more than 80 retailers looked to Booth to source talent from intern to executive levels in marketing, finance, strategy, merchandising, operations, and business development.

Students are taking advantage of a growing number of
retail-focused opportunities. For example, several Booth students participated in luxury and consumer-based courses in Paris as part of Booth's International Business Exchange Program. In April, the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital student group held its first event on retail opportunities, which featured Chicago-based Trunk Club, an online menswear website, and other start-ups.

The Retail, Apparel, and Luxury Group got a taste of the diverse possibilities in retail during a trek to New York in December 2011. The students met with the merchandising team of Cynthia Rowley at the designer's West Village showroom. The group also received a detailed briefing from
executives and staff members at Macy's, hosted by Suzanne Davidkhanian, '06, director, market trends and consumer insights strategy.

"They helped the students understand the different components of the merchandising world," said Davidkhanian, referring to the flow of goods, the need to work on multiple seasons at one time, and the importance of data. Davidkhanian worked as a buyer of bathroom rugs before moving to her current position in trends and strategy. She said her Booth MBA has served her well as it guided her to ask questions and not take industry conventions for granted.

Matthew Meladossi, senior manager of talent acquisition at Coach, Inc. in New York, has been recruiting at Booth in recent years and Coach also hosted Booth students on the trek. He said Booth's emphasis on evidence-based decision making fits Coach like a glove. "Coach shares the same focus on data. No matter what your function is, you need to have a strong command of analysis and are expected to support your decision," he said. "That sets us apart from a lot of traditional retailers."

Riccardo Destito, '10, joined a management training program at Gucci Group in Italy and works with Gucci's CEO in Milan on projects ranging from opening new markets to changing strategies with retail partners such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. He now recruits for the training program at Booth. The work is never boring, and Destito sees a long-term future in retail when he completes the Gucci program next year.

"It's an industry where it's easy to move from one position to another," he said. "If you feel you want to change tasks you can easily move. You could start with a job in finance and end up working in merchandising or communication."

Emily Theis, assistant director of employer relations for Career Services, said retailers have become more receptive to those transitioning from other industries or functions who express a passion for the business. "They also are drawn to what a Booth MBA has to offer," she said.

An appetite for Booth talent makes sense to Christina Maria DesVaux, '12, who graduated in June and recently started to work for Quidsi, a New York unit of that is launching an e-commerce site for organic, natural, and fair-trade products. DesVaux, who founded an internet business selling handmade sweaters from Uruguay before enrolling at Booth, landed the job as Quidsi's associate director of marketing.

"Booth's data-driven approach is completely applicable to retail," she said. "Booth really pushes you to ask, 'How can we use data to increase our value proposition?'"

DesVaux said students and alumni can be confident their career choice will be fully supported. "I don't think it would be easy to find a school where the career services staff is as committed to expanding connections with retailers." - Susan Chandler

 Photo credit: iStock

Touching Base with Summer Interns

MortonKoleFull-Time student Dan Kapnick enjoyed taking a break in early July to reflect on his internship at Red Mountain Capital in Los Angeles. 

Kapnick was one of more than 200 interns during the past summer who attended one of the Deans' Intern Roundtables with Stacey Kole, AM '86, PhD '92, (pictured, at right) deputy dean of the Full-Time MBA Program and Julie Morton, (pictured, at left) associate dean for Career Services and Corporate Relations.

"Being back in the working world, it's easy to lose touch with the iterative evaluations and development processes we have at school," Kapnick said.

Kole and Morton traveled to many cities where Booth students are interns to gain a real-time read on how their first year at Booth prepared them for their internships. 

"We ask, 'Did we prepare you well?" Kole said in a recent interview. She and Morton asked the students about their coursework and programs delivered through student groups and Career Services. "Our discussions are affirming our approach from both a curricular and cocurricular perspective. Hearing from interns that the flexible curriculum positions them for success gives us confidence that we're on the right track," Kole said. She noted that the conversations complement feedback from year-end surveys and fuel discussions on programming.

This summer - the eleventh year of the program - Kole and Morton were scheduled to meet students representing nearly 40 percent of the class at events in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle, and the California cities of Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. The sessions are conducted over a breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and often are followed by Fusion events - social hours for current students, the deans, alumni, and incoming MBA students. More than 750 alumni registered for the Fusion events; Kole noted that some alumni have joined events in more than one city.

Los Angeles was one of the first stops on the tour this year. Full-Time student Rohit Singh, an intern at biotechnology company Amgen, in suburban Thousand Oaks, said he appreciated the intimate nature of the Roundtable event, which allowed for frank conversation. Singh said he told the deans that he had become a better communicator during his first year at Booth.

"My internship requires lots of relationship building and networking with people at multiple levels and across various functions throughout the organization," he said. "My first-year experience at Booth, particularly working in study groups with classmates from various backgrounds, helped me with some of the softer skills required for this job."

Kole said she and Morton use the interaction to remind students that they are in the middle of not just their internship but of their entire MBA experience. "We take them out of the day-to-day of their internship and remind them to think about the summer as an opportunity for professional development," she said. They encourage the students to build their network at the firm, in the broader alumni community, in the region, or in their particular industry, as they prepare for their second year.

Full-Time student Sarah Freeman, an Accenture intern who attended the Palo Alto roundtable, said the event reaffirmed her choice of an MBA program. "Dinner with the deans was a vivid reminder of why I picked Booth: the unparalleled Career Services team and the thought the entire administration puts into this very important part of the MBA," she said. - Chelsea Vail

Photos by Beth Rooney 


Evening and Weekend Graduates Make Their Moves

Almsot 40 percent of recent graduates of the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA programs leveraged their Booth degrees to be promoted at their companies, according to Career Services' first employment survey of this group.

Career Services surveyed 514 students who graduated in the Summer 2010, Fall 2010, Winter 2011, and Spring 2011 quarters. The survey generated an 86 percent overall response rate, although some of the detailed questions were answered by a smaller segment of the population.

In the year leading up to graduation, 14.3 percent gained promotions, while 21.5 percent changed employers and 3.9 percent started their own business.

The 55 percent of students who reported staying in their current positions have been able to apply what they learned at Booth in a way that sets them up for future advancement, according to Kelly O'Brien, assistant director of career management and the Fisher Career Resource Center. O'Brien said that because the survey covered job changes in the 12 months before the students completed their degrees, a number may have moved on to new jobs at their companies after the survey was completed.

Of the students who changed employers before or at graduation, 81.3 percent said their move was facilitated in some way by Chicago Booth connections. Nearly a third, or 32 percent, sourced their jobs through on-campus recruiting, while others benefited from a Booth job posting, Career Services' resume referral service, an alumni contact, or another Booth relationship.

Jeffrey Wrobel, '11, earned a promotion before he graduated. He was working as an associate at JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s private wealth management group when he enrolled at Booth and was promoted to senior advisor at the end of 2010, three months before he received his degree.

The program gave Wrobel concrete skills directly applicable to his job. Perhaps more important was the confidence that it instilled. "The program allows you to feel more comfortable in your own skin, to know that your opinions are worthy of being expressed," he said.

He recently left for a new position at The Private Bank in Chicago, where he is managing director for the bank's private wealth practice. The Booth MBA, he concludes, has helped him climb the corporate ladder.

"The slope of my career progression curve is more vertical with the degree," Wrobel said. "Without the degree, the slope would have flat-lined." - Judith Crown

Last Updated 1/16/14