A McIntire education can take you many places—from roles that start right after graduation to unexpected opportunities discovered years later.
It’s one of the lifelong benefits for those who learn at the Commerce School. As students develop their skills through McIntire’s leading business education, they quickly find out as graduates just how adaptable it can be in supporting them wherever their professional path may lead them. A large number of graduates enter positions in destinations such as finance, banking, insurance, real estate, consulting, and accounting; others choose to apply their knowledge to roles in information technology, management, marketing, entrepreneurial ventures of all kinds, entertainment, nonprofit work, and other sectors. Where business knowledge and communication abilities are of value, McIntire graduates are excelling.
For instance, check out the varied career experiences of four alumnae from McIntire’s Class of 2017: Caroline Barton serves as CEO of Modatrova, an online shopping destination she founded that showcases emerging fashion brands; Joy Jefferson (who also earned her M.S. in Accounting degree in 2018), Financial Accounting Advisory Services Senior at EY, provides a wide range of consulting services; Lidija Massenko is an Associate at growth equity firm Summit Partners; and Samantha (Glazer) Rose is an Associate focusing on mergers and acquisitions at international law firm Morrison & Foerster.
In the five years since they earned their B.S. in Commerce degrees, they’ve continued to build on the skills they cultivated in the Comm School in order to tackle new challenges. We recently asked them about their daily work, how their earlier professional experiences and McIntire prepared them for what they’re doing now, and advice for current students looking to follow in their footsteps while trailblazing their own way.
Daily Duties, Problem Solving, and Naming Best Parts
By operating in both the “buy-side” and “sell-side,” Rose represents large- and small-cap companies, startups, and private equity. “I love working with my clients to help implement their business development plans,” she says. The most challenging part of Rose’s position concerns a question of time management and learning to balance her professional development while mentoring new employees at the practice who are starting their careers.
Massenko joined Summit’s team in London, UK, almost three years ago. As she covers investments in tech-enabled services, she spends the majority of her time finding what she considers to be exciting growth companies, reaching out to them, building a dialogue and a relationship, and sourcing them as investments. “My role at Summit is slightly different to other private equity investment funds because I am responsible for both the deal origination as well as execution,” she explains. “I enjoy developing both skill sets, which was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue growth equity as a career, because it combined the best of both worlds from venture capital and private equity.”
For Jefferson, who says her role is, in basic terms, consulting about anything related to financial accounting, it encapsulates a lot. “It could be corporate reporting, SEC filings, IPOs, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcy, or data-related projects. There’s a host of service offerings that FAAS [financial accounting and advisory services] offers to its clients, so it really depends on the client and the type of engagement,” she says. Jefferson finds the greatest challenges when attempting to solve a problem that the client has very little knowledge about at the start of the project. “When the client doesn’t know what they need me to do, I find different ways to attack a problem that might not even be the actual problem.”
When those issues do get solved, Jefferson says it brings her the greatest gratification in her work. “I enjoy creating value for the client. I can see how appreciative they are when we deliver a product that helps support their audit or saves them millions of dollars,” she says. “It’s pretty satisfying to hear how much the client appreciates you.”
Barton’s typical week deals with much different concerns, but they’re equally diverse: She’s recruiting new designers and guiding marketing strategy, which includes content generation, partner collaborations, event planning, as well as improving the user experience for her site. “As an e-commerce marketplace, one of the most challenging parts has been growing both sides of the business—brands and customers—at the same time. It took me a while to realize that I simply couldn’t do it alone,” she says, pointing out that her favorite aspect of her role has her collaborating with her team and the designers her company promotes.
In a prior position, Massenko served as an Investment Banking Analyst at J.P. Morgan, which she says built a strong foundation for the analytical work she needed in later finance jobs. “I entered investment banking with an open mind after having a great internship experience, and quickly realized the advantages of the role: You learn and show your determination to work hard and learn quickly, juggle multiple responsibilities, and can set yourself apart by asking and understanding the ‘why’ whenever you do a task,” she says.
Having interned at EY for three summers, Jefferson spent two of them as a Launch Intern in a rotational program, where she saw a little bit of each service line. “In my third summer, I did a client-serving internship, and I chose to focus on assurance and auditing. From there, I started full time with EY in 2018 and spent three years in the audit practice, before choosing to pivot,” she says, noting that she transitioned from audit to FAAS because, though she considers working in auditing a good experience, she came to realize its cycle predictability wasn’t for her. “That’s when I started exploring,” she says. “EY is a big company, and they have a lot of different work streams.”
She sought to transition to a position that would provide a mix of technical accounting and consulting. “FAAS was the best fit, because I’m still pretty young in my career and want to make sure that I am expanding my technical expertise, but also consulting is a little more varied and has a more diverse workload.”
When Rose was at McIntire, she had two consulting/advisory internships, and later, when she attended law school at Georgetown University, she interned at the SEC. “These experiences provided invaluable insight into how businesses, which are now my clients or counterparties, operate and make decisions. This understanding allows me to ‘put myself in their shoes’ during negotiations and have a deeper understanding of the relationship between law and business,” she says.
Though Barton admits that she “jumped into entrepreneurship without a ton of professional experience,” she credits an internship in consulting and her time at McIntire for imbuing her with “a high standard for attention to detail” that she relies on to run her business.
Parallels in Practice
All of the alums we spoke to look back fondly on their time at McIntire, as it gave them the tools to successfully approach ambiguous business situations and collaborate with others.
What came to mind for Jefferson is what she calls the difference between principles and rules. “The Comm School is very good at getting students to think versus just getting the right answer. The framework of having open discussions with the class helped me understand how other people think. There are so many differences of opinion, and there’s more than one way to get to an answer or solve a problem,” she says.
She also advises students to ask questions and never to hesitate when needing help. “Classmates can be a resource as well,” she says. “You find that out working in a group: figuring out what other people are good at and using those strengths for the collective goal to get to the finish line faster. I still do that in my work today.”
Jefferson also credits her time with Professor Andrea Roberts in the M.S. in Accounting Program. “Her class was a breath of fresh air. Between studying for the CPA exam and the workload of a master’s program, I appreciated her. My friends and I still reference some of the materials from her Leadership course about knowing yourself, knowing how you work and how you interact with other people.”
Though Rose says she thoroughly enjoyed her law school experience, she still relies more on what she learned at McIntire. “On a day-to-day basis! At its core, my job is to communicate issues, propose solutions, advocate for my client, and manage M&A deals. These are all skills I honed while at McIntire both in ICE and my electives. It is harder to write a three-line email than a three-page email in my profession, and I would not be where I am today without my Comm School training,” she says.
The Integrated Core curriculum proved equally important for teaching Massenko to manage long-term projects with a diverse team. “It was more than just the curriculum combining all parts of a business education; it also helped teach me how people can approach tasks differently,” she says, recalling how she noticed similar differences in work styles later on in her career.
“You quickly realize that success—and fun—is driven by finding the right team,” Massenko says, counting herself fortunate to have been in Professor Chris Shumway’s Macro Investing class as well. “It encouraged autonomous thinking and analysis, and was really one of the most challenging yet rewarding classes at McIntire,” she says, including the importance of her extracurricular activities. “Sometimes they prepare you for interests better than classes do.”
Barton also says that being a McIntire student provided the first real experience she had working with a team on a long-term project. “Thinking back, I really had the best team (Block One – Hilton)! It taught me that everything comes down to people and that anything is possible with the right people around to support,” she says.
Some Sound Advice
Five years after their time at Rouss & Robertson Halls, the alumnae all have helpful guidance to share with current students preparing to embark on their own professional journeys.
Rose stresses staying interested as a key to success. “Being engaged and intellectually curious goes a long way in any corporate environment. In my experience, these traits can really help you stand out to potential mentors and teachers as someone worth investing in and building a relationship with,” she says.
Barton goes back to a quote related to time management: “‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. Being five years out of UVA now, I feel like it’s so true! When you have a big goal, start working towards it as early as possible and be persistent.”
Massenko insists that she always encourages students to get the most they can out of McIntire’s career resources and the University’s rich catalog of courses. “Don’t underestimate the network, and don’t be shy to take that random extra class,” she says, urging students to take a class that is challenging or outside of their major or concentration. “Most of the time, you won’t remember all you learned, but you’ll remember whether you enjoyed the class or the professor.”
Jefferson advises students to keep their momentum going forward by sticking to high standard setting for themselves.
“McIntire students are the cream of the crop, and when you get into the workforce you will see that because you’ve been in the Comm School, you have good writing and communication skills that will separate you from everyone else.” But she warns students to stay vigilant against complacency: “Make sure that you don’t get too comfortable. Continue to learn, progress, and refine your skill set. Because at the end of the day, it will all contribute to your career. There are opportunities out there, and you just have to make a move.”