M.S. in Commerce 2017, Marketing & Management Track
Undergrad: B.A. in Psychology 2015, University of Virginia
After: circle S studio, Account Manager (Richmond, VA)
Amanda: Why did you choose the M.S. in Commerce?
Antonia: I was a psychology student at UVA. For the longest time I thought I wanted to do research in the field and eventually get my PhD in psychology. After graduation, I worked for a psychology lab at UVA but soon realized I was extroverted and liked being around people doing hands-on, practical work. Doing research wasn’t stimulating enough for me. I thought that marketing might be a good fit given that there is a lot of applied psychology in the field. Plus, in the real world, it’s a bit more hands-on and fast-paced, and I would get to interact with a lot of people. I therefore decided to apply to the M.S. in Commerce Program.
Amanda: How did you find out about the account manager role at circle S studio?
Antonia: I heard about the opportunity through a McIntire alum actually. In the spring semester, I was browsing through Professor Heilman’s LinkedIn profile searching for McIntire alumni working at different marketing agencies. By that time, I knew that I wanted to work for a smaller, digital ad agency. I made a short list and asking my professor whether she might be willing to introduce me to the alumni. I was able to set up an informational call to learn more about circle S studio and later got an interview, which eventually led to my current position.
Amanda: That’s great! It sounds like you were really leveraging the McIntire alumni network.
Antonia: I really did! I interviewed a lot of alumni when I was a student to narrow down what I wanted to do. I would ask what they do, what their day-to-day looks like, and what they liked and disliked about their jobs. These informal conversations eventually made me realize that I was attracted to smaller agencies where you get to wear a lot of hats. Smaller agencies also give you a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Amanda: What is your day-to-day like?
Antonia: I am an account manager, which is a little bit of a hybrid between a relationship manager and a project manager. I am the client-facing person on my team and coordinate everything from brand refreshes to website redesign to creating collateral work stationary and trade show banners. We do a lot here and are essentially a full-service marketing agency. I serve as point person between our designers and developers and my clients, so you can imagine my day-to-day is a different depending on current projects.
Part of my job includes meeting with different people, presenting to clients and communicating their requests and edits to our internal teams. There’s a lot of people managing involved which suits me really well. Another aspect of my job is project management where I ensure projects are on time and within budget. I also make sure finished projects deliver exactly what my clients ask for. This is the unglamorous part of my job, but it is really important.
Amanda: Do you have any advice you want to give to people who want to get into account management?
Antonia: You have to be organized and feel comfortable being around people because there will be times when you have ten meetings in a day. It’s also important to be quick on your feet. The job is challenging but also really rewarding. You have a lot of freedom to make your own schedule. For anyone who is looking to enter account management, my advice would be talk to as many people in that field as you can to get a sense of the kind of agency that would be a good fit for you. There are a lot of McIntire alumni in this field who went through the same career search and are willing to talk to you and “pay it forward”. Definitely don’t feel hesitant reaching out to us. Also, don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. It is a safe space for you to get a lot of details and really narrow down what is a good fit for you.
Amanda: Looking back at your time in the M.S. in Commerce Program, what were the biggest takeaways from your experience?
Antonia: One of the biggest takeaways is how much I’m using the things I learned from my classes that I didn’t necessarily know were going be relevant. I work in marketing, so I obviously use the marketing classes from my track. But it’s stunning to me how much I’m using Global Strategy & Systems and Financial Management in particular. For example, when I talk to the clients at the beginning of a project, I’m essentially learning about their value proposition, what their visions and competitive advantages are. All the branding that we do really is through the lens of why customers should choose them over their competitors, which is very fundamental business strategy. Having taken a class on the subject, gives me such an edge over people who never went to business school. Although it’s hard to absorb everything in the academic context, it will make sense once you get into real-world scenarios. Just having that introduction makes it easier for you to learn more.
Amanda: How did the Program’s consulting projects help prepare you for the projects you work on now?
Antonia: The project experience at McIntire really prepped me well for client presentations. I present to executives who have more work experience and knowledge than me all the time. You have to be able to feel comfortable presenting and owning your presentation. The case studies and client presentations at McIntire gave me a taste of what that’s like. I learned how to make an effective presentation deck to get information across clearly and concisely, as well as how to present data in a meaningful way, which can really make or break a presentation. Plus, the teamwork format is just so realistic because at work you need to leverage your team’s strengths to make your collective work effective.
Amanda: What would you tell students who are considering attending the M.S. in Commerce Program?
Antonia: I would say they should definitely do it! I have talked to people who have done other programs. No other program will teach you so much knowledge in so many different areas in such a short time. You really learn a lot. I feel that I entered the workforce fully prepared. McIntire gave me the foundation of everything that I needed to know.