An awful lot can happen within the scope of three years. On the one hand, it’s not that long of a stretch, when considering the average human lifespan, but given the right circumstances, it can be a period of a great many changes.
For instance, consider McIntire alumni from the Class of ’20. Just over three short years ago, they were wrapping up their UVA studies. After being sent home from Grounds as a precaution of the pandemic, they graduated in spring 2020 after months of necessary screen time, and by September 2020, they were starting their careers while still engaged in the uncertain push and pull of remote working and Zoom meetings that defined that time period. It’s always a challenge to be a university graduate beginning the next phase of your life, but for the Class of ’20, there was unquestionably another level of difficulty that took getting used to.
Three Comm School alums, Nathan Berry, Lucy Krasker, and Raghav Savara, represent a trio of different origins, destinations, and stories that demonstrate the positive outcomes of jumping at unexpected, intriguing opportunities during that tumultuous time.
Richmond, VA, native Berry lives in New York City, where, after working in investment banking at JP Morgan, he’s now an Associate at the global investment firm General Atlantic. He says that his position exposes him to a variety of different challenges and gives him the opportunity to learn new things each day. “I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true,” Berry insists.
Krasker, who came to UVA from West Palm Beach, FL, with her identical twin sister, is now a Senior Strategy Analyst at Sweetgreen’s corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, where she focuses on expansion and real estate for the fast causal salad restaurant chain. Having started in May of 2021, she was on the job roughly six months, when the company reached a major milestone as its stock went public on the New York Stock Exchange. “It was surreal to experience that, especially alongside fellow employees and friends who followed or were involved in the IPO from an investing or investment banking perspective,” she says. The experience has energized her for helping shape Sweetgreen’s continued growth.
Savara, who comes from an Indian family but was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, is a Senior Associate Consultant for Bain & Company and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. “What my hometown is has constantly evolved as I move to new cities and countries!” he says. In his creative problem-solving role as a Consultant in Africa, he faces challenges specific to the region, and primarily spends his time engrossed in two specific responsibilities: undertaking extensive data analyses and managing clients.
We asked these alums more about their work, what they’ve learned since McIntire, and how they’ve used that knowledge in helping others to successfully reach the next stages of their professional lives.
Interest and Invention
Looking into new investment opportunities drives Berry in his daily work. The previously mentioned daily learning experiences he has in his role are often the result of the discovery process of “meeting with companies, researching new business models, and digging through data,” he says, expressing his enthusiasm for being able to inject his own insights into complex projects. But that’s only the beginning.
“Once we invest in a company, I also get the chance to work with our portfolio companies to help them grow and reach their ultimate goals,” he says. It’s a rewarding experience for Berry to make such a measurable impact despite having a junior role: “It’s obviously challenging when there’s never a clear blueprint to follow in this job, but it’s also exciting to be able to drive new analyses and voice a new opinion, and it’s really helped to accelerate my development since I’ve graduated from McIntire.”
He believes that most people who are in similar roles also started their professional life in investment banking, an area that Berry found to be a valuable training ground that would serve anyone well hoping to build a finance career. While the wide range of technical skills and understanding of the fundamentals of corporate finance are essential, it’s the soft skills he mastered that made the difference.
“Learning how to write professional emails, manage competing priorities, and communicate with clients are all vital skills no matter what career you ultimately pursue, and in my investment banking role, I was able to learn and develop alongside a bunch of talented people in my analyst class whom I was able to learn from as well,” Berry says. From his time spent in the Consumer group at JP Morgan, he realized he wanted to stay in a role that allowed him to collaborate with growth-stage companies. Since he most enjoyed working with Consumer brands and companies in their transitions to the next phase of growth, his role at General Atlantic turned out to be the perfect fit.
Krasker spent her first year after UVA as an Equity Research Analyst in the consumer retail sector of Guggenheim Securities. While the experience taught her important new research skills, ultimately, it wasn’t moving her any closer to satisfying her professional goals.
“Equity research is a lot like financial journalism: You have the opportunity to learn about different companies’ strategic initiatives, the impact on their financial statements, and ultimately the value of an investment. But it’s on the sidelines; you’re not actually investing or effecting change. I wanted to help grow something,” she says, noting that being at Guggenheim strengthened her data and financial analysis abilities, and “more importantly, communication and presentation skills that have accelerated my visibility and inclusion in presentation of materials to Sweetgreen’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors.”
Tasked with presenting project findings and offering recommendations in a monthly meeting with executives, Krasker says that most of her daily work is spent modeling revenue and profit estimates for potential new locations, as well as suggesting promising sites to the organization’s Real Estate Directors.
Krasker feels that although Sweetgreen is now a publicly traded company, it still operates like a startup in some ways. “Our teams are lean and entrepreneurial,” she says, explaining that her position on the Strategy team has empowered her to tackle projects that interest her most. Those projects could equate to anything from diving deep on cross-functional recommendations to improve store performance to collaborating with the Design, Research & Development team on profit assumptions for its automation format. Having recently taken on more portfolio management functions, she enjoys having a hand in enterprise-level initiatives and remains grateful to her managers and company leadership for showing confidence in her recommendations at this early stage of her career.
In his role, Savara finds that he often needs to pioneer areas he is seeking to report on for clients. Regarding data, he’s often engaged in projects focused on industries for which he says robust, trustworthy numbers simply don’t exist. “Getting a hold of extensive, accurate data involves more time and effort in speaking with industry experts and triangulating with infrequently published reports,” he says. When reporting on those findings to his clients, he is often required him to take steps that his colleagues in other regions of the world don’t deal with on a regular basis, given that “consulting is a relatively nascent industry in Africa versus the U.S. and Europe.”
His position with Bain is his first full-time job, and Savara’s previous experiences are slightly unconventional: a study-abroad course in the Caribbean and a fellowship at a policy advisory firm in Washington, DC.
He was part of Professor Bevin Etienne’s Social Entrepreneurship in Dominica, a five-week study-abroad course in 2018, to study the island nation’s social entrepreneurship ecosystem. “It brought together students whose interests spanned a wide variety of fields—economics, law, engineering, finance and philosophy—to understand the Dominican social entrepreneurship ecosystem. The course exposed me to the incredible importance of instilling a multidisciplinary approach to involve distinct stakeholders to solve large social issues,” he says.
After graduating, Savara spent four months in the U.S. capital as a Graduate Fellow at McLarty Associates, interacting with government representatives and policymakers, important stakeholders he says are typically overlooked in many consulting projects. The fellowship afforded him firsthand encounters in which he witnessed the vital roles of public policy and political risk in the success of a business.
“Both of these experiences have equipped me with skills that go beyond what a typical consultant is expected to possess, and taught me how to think about issues more holistically,” says Savara. “This set me up for success for my current role at Bain, and more broadly, for my career.”
Mentoring, Advising, and Taking Risks
For Berry, mentorship proved to be pivotal in his time at UVA. He credits his mentors and teachers for helping him start out on his higher education journey. He also recognizes McIntire’s culture of mentorship and community for reinforcing ideals that he internalized and then passed along while helping first- and second-year students himself. As such, mentorship has continued to be an important part of his life.
“Some of my favorite moments are those times when I get a chance to act as a mentor to someone else, whether it’s working with current UVA students through the McIntire mentorship program, training new summer interns who are just getting their careers started, or helping recent grads navigate the crazy world of recruiting,” he says.
During the last year, Krasker became a mentor for the first time, easing the transition for one of her new teammates. While she struggled at first, confessing that she’s still learning how to balance sharing various duties, she is already seeing benefits: “It shaped me to be a better communicator and pushed me to realize management is about investing in people and their success. I’ll carry this lesson with me for the rest of my career.”
Until recently, Savara was co-leading Bain Johannesburg’s Social Impact initiatives, heading up fundraising and tutoring efforts at a local orphanage. The results speak for themselves. “Our dedicated and passionate team was able to increase high school graduation rates by 25% via dedicated tutoring support and raise $15,500 from fellow colleagues for graduating students,” he says, rightfully proud of his team’s positive results in helping alleviate South Africa’s staggering youth unemployment rates.
As both of his post-UVA experiences were unplanned, Savara encourages students to take risks themselves to find what they want professionally and why.
“If you feel that you might be interested in a certain location or industry, try it out early on in your career, whether it’s through a two-month internship or a full-time job. Trying out different interests early on will help you better narrow down your list of what you want to do,” he says. “It might feel daunting to step outside of what you think is the typical path of a McIntire graduate, but you will probably end up having a very rewarding experience.”
Berry passes along the advice he received—the “KISS principle,” an acronym for “keep it simple, stupid.” “Once you graduate and leave McIntire, the world is so much bigger than you imagined. When you start a brand new job with unfamiliar faces, it can feel overwhelming to learn so many new things at once,” he says. “I found it much easier to adjust to a new setting when I was able to take a deep breath and focus on the things that I knew I could do well, while slowly learning new things and building confidence to add more to my plate. It also helps you keep everything you’re doing in perspective, enjoying the process of developing and learning along the way.”
The Class of ’20 was unique in that it was, as Krasker puts it, “on the precipice of so much change,” acknowledging the new set of job market challenges that current and recent grads face. “You may not get your dream job right away, or your dream internship, or your dream city. But eventually, all your experiences push you to the place you’re supposed to be.”
Her advice? “Embrace the opportunities that present themselves. Invite your mentor or professor to coffee. Learn something new from someone radically different from yourself. Throw your name in the ring on a LinkedIn job posting,” she says. “You have nothing to lose by putting yourself out there and especially learning something new. In the process, you’ll actually learn a lot more about yourself than you expected.”