M.S. in the Management of IT Blog

How McIntire’s Graduate Programs Prepare Women for Business Careers in Tech

We spoke with four alumnae about how McIntire's graduate programs prepared them for what they’re doing now; the value the coursework, faculty, and services provided; and how their experience has helped them to find success in the early years of their career journey.

Top row: Isabella Dillon, Alex Dimas. Bottom row: Maddy Rabil, Kristus Ratliff

Top row: Isabella Dillon, Alex Dimas. Bottom row: Maddy Rabil, Kristus Ratliff

While women are still underrepresented in STEM jobs, diversity in business and technology positions continues to grow. According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), about 35% of those employed in STEM-related occupations in 2021 were women, up three percentage points from 10 years earlier.

In seeking out new opportunities that bridge the STEM gender gap, applicants in the field are finding success in tech through avenues facilitated by exposure and expert training—the kind of experience made possible through the business graduate programs at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce.

McIntire’s business master’s programs, which include the M.S. in Commerce and M.S. in the Management of IT (M.S. in MIT, as it’s known), as well as the School’s M.S. in Accounting, M.S. in Global Commerce, and M.S. in Business Analytics offered in partnership with UVA’s Darden School of Business, have provided many women with the skills and wide-ranging knowledge necessary to procure and succeed in tech-related roles.

We spoke with four graduates, Isabella Dillon (A&S ’19, M.A. A&S ’20, M.S. in Commerce ‘21), Alex Dimas (A&S ’20, M.S. in MIT ’23), Maddy Rabil (A&S ’19, M.S. in Commerce ’21), and Kristus Ratliff (M.S. in MIT ’22), about how their respective programs prepared them for what they’re doing now; the value the McIntire coursework, faculty, and services provided; and how their experience has helped them to find success in the early years of their career journey.

Skills to Pay the Bills—and Then Some

Upon graduating from McIntire, Dillon took a primarily remote position with Cognizant (formerly Collaborative Solutions) as an Associate Consultant in the Workday Student practice.

“I work on a number of different projects while also traveling onsite for clients across the country. I have been promoted a few times and now have the opportunity to work with new hires in a mentorship capacity,” she says. With her remote position, she has had the flexibility to live in different areas of the U.S., most recently New Orleans, LA. “I am hoping to buy a house and move to Wilmington, NC, later this year.”

She explains that what she learned in the M.S. in Commerce Program gave her the necessary confidence to thrive in a corporate setting. “Many of the classes I took in the Business Analytics Track also helped me feel more comfortable with technology and gave me the skills to embrace my current role as an IT consultant. I believe McIntire does a wonderful job at preparing new grads to hone both their technical and interpersonal skills,” Dillon says. “I use a mix of both skill sets every day on the job, where I have to learn updates to the product and present these updates and implementation options to clients.”

Since earning her M.S. in MIT degree in August 2023 (“and becoming a double Hoo!”), Dimas has stayed on with Cisco in New York City, but transitioned from her role on the implementation team as a Network Consulting Engineer into a new position as a Systems Engineer on Cisco’s pre-sales team.

“As someone who came to the program with a purely technical background, I went in hoping to come out more well-rounded: an engineer who can talk business, be able to keep up with the numbers and the spreadsheets,” she says, explaining that she had long been interested in moving into an engineering role in pre-sales. But she was put off in trying to get hired for the position, as she was so early on in her career—one that was bereft of actual business experience. “A week after graduation, I got the job!” she exclaims.

“I can’t say for certain that the M.S. in MIT is why I landed the role, but I do know the program gave me the skills needed to transition and excel in this type of position. Had I known that spending my Saturdays doing deep dives in 10Ks and spreadsheets would have been this relevant in my day-to-day job, I probably would have given Professor [Craig] Lefanowicz a lot less grief,” she says jokingly.

Rabil, who graduated from the M.S. in Commerce Program with a concentration in Business Analytics, has been a Senior Technology Consultant in the Technology, Strategy, and Transformation practice in EY’s New York City office since graduating. Focusing on financial services clients, she says that the Comm School has well equipped her for her role.

“Being able to think about and break down business problems, both big and small—as we did in our case studies with Professor [Ira] Harris and our many group projects—is something I do daily,” she says. “Also, our many group assignments prepared me well for a consulting engagement, which is in many ways a big group project!”

Ratliff has taken the expertise she developed in the M.S. in MIT Program to a new position as Project Management Consultant with W2 Consulting Corporation, a service-disabled veteran-, woman-, and minority-owned small business based in Maryland. “This is an exciting opportunity to support a program leveraging immersive technology and AI to improve healthcare for American veterans,” she says. Additionally, Ratliff reports that she has spent the last six months laying the groundwork for her new small-business strategy consulting practice, My Business Accelerator.

“It is astonishing how often I’ve used my learnings from the M.S. in MIT Program at work,” she says. “I’ve run design sprints, written strategy statements for clients, and conducted in-depth analyses of my clients’ businesses and industries.”

Career-Ready Coursework

Ratliff reports that in a previous role, she was tasked with key responsibilities of identifying opportunities to innovate and increasing revenue.

“The confidence and exposure to this process I gained in the M.S. in MIT Program prepared me for real-world situations where I had to take risks and sink or swim,” she says. “I often stood out because of my ability to make a viable business case for my ideas and convince the client to invest.”

For Dimas, who went on the optional M.S. in MIT study-abroad trip to Mendoza, Argentina, consulting for local firms, which included reviewing their business and technical designs, from architecture and network security to data privacy and budgeting, the week in the heart of Argentine wine country was seminal.

“We spent a week understanding their needs, identifying their gaps, and making recommendations on how to improve their business from all sides. In my new role as a systems engineer, most of my time is spent in front of customers, having these exact same type of conversations,” she says. “It is quite literally what we did for a week in Argentina—now I just do it without a translator. That kind of hands-on, real-world, quick-turnaround learning is hard to come by. On top of being a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it also was an incredible warm-up to what my job is now.”

In Rabil’s role at EY, she says that several data and analytics projects she has worked on contained the foundational data concepts that she learned in “extremely helpful” Business Analytics courses she took with Professor Brent Kitchens and Professor Chris Maurer. “In terms of hands-on skills, many of the programs we learned to use, including PowerBI, Visio, and SQL, have come up on my engagements. It’s given me a nice leg up to come in with that prior knowledge and be able to teach my teammates,” she says.

She insists that many of her best professors could be found in the M.S. in Commerce Program, as faculty “went above and beyond” to ensure their student success in their jobs: “It was clear how much thought and care they put into developing the curriculum. Specifically, the data projects we worked on for real clients and companies were great because they helped put the material into practice and simulated real client work.”

Ratliff points to the M.S. in MIT’s challenging final capstone project as having the biggest effect on her. “I’d never learned how to merge finance, strategy, technology, and innovation when looking at a business,” she confesses. “I overcame a lot of my fears and got comfortable building complex budgets, reading a balance sheet, and pitching a strategic innovation. The final capstone was not just impactful because of what I did with my team, but also seeing how each of the other teams approached their projects and research. I learned so much from my peers. It was very rewarding.”

Having completed her undergraduate degree at UVA, Dimas came into the M.S. in MIT Program expecting an unmatched level of quality, rigor, and applicable skills taught by top-tier faculty. “It still baffles me how much they give and show up every evening and weekend, on top of their many undergraduate classes and students [they teach]. The investment they put in their content—and the extra time they take from their already busy lives and teaching schedules to help us grow—is truly one of a kind,” she says. “I would be remiss to not mention the incredible directorship of Professor [Stefano] Grazioli; he is the heart and soul of the M.S. in MIT Program. His ability to orchestrate the faculty, curriculum, staff and students seemingly so easily is a gift.”

Dillon is equally grateful to the McIntire faculty she studies with in the M.S. in Commerce Program. “Professor Kitchen’s class in the Business Analytics Track allowed me to become comfortable with baseline coding and SQL. Professor [Paul] Seaborn’s Consulting class provided a space to work creatively in coming up with client recommendations. Professor [Steven L.] Johnson’s class exposed me to Visio, which I use quite often at my current role,” she says, clarifying that those are just some of the highlights from a few classes, but that she enjoyed all of the professors and coursework she studied.

A Confident Future

Dillon, who credits the Commerce Career Services team for their advice and helping to connect her with a mentor, says she feels fortunate to have had an alumni mentor to guide her through interview preparation and find a satisfying position in tech. She advises women hoping to enter a tech-related business field to remain both curious and ambitious, unafraid to learn new skills to acquire new roles.

“If you would’ve told me pre-McIntire that I would now be an IT consultant, I would have laughed, but here I am,” she says. “I’m a big believer in lifelong learning and always being willing to try something new—even if it is outside of your comfort zone.”

Rabil also found McIntire’s career support “incredible” as one of the major selling points that drew her to the program and supported her in her job search. She says that the M.S. in Commerce is “a great vehicle” for those who want to work on the business side of tech “or vice versa. I can confidently say that the ROI of this program can’t be beat and was a worthwhile long-term investment in my career.”

Ratliff says the M.S. in MIT represented the perfect master’s business program for reaching her career goals: “McIntire is where you go if you want to truly learn how to succeed at the intersection of business and technology. Stand-alone business or tech programs are good, but they don’t focus on this intersection in the same manner. My only regret is waiting so long to apply.”

Regarding the role of women in the job market, Dimas says that women often feel pressured to justify their credibility in nearly every field. In her case, she remarks that while many people assume she can’t possibly be an engineer or that she is “too young or too technical to talk numbers,” her McIntire grad experience has allowed her to defy all expectations.

“M.S. in MIT not only gives you the tools and confidence to be part of both [engineering and business] conversations, but it has been an immediate game-changer in my career,” she says. “It made me a better engineer, gave me credibility no one can question, and gave me the ability to understand the business side too.”

While Dimas found that the overriding benefit of the M.S. in MIT is that its participants enter the program with different careers, knowledge gaps, and levels of experiences, but complete the coursework having skilled up with hands-on learning, “there’s no wrong time to keep learning and growing in your career and confidence!”

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