"When you grow up as a triplet," Rachel says, "you have to do things to gain attention. But you also learn a lot about team work and dynamics." Her brother landed at Barclays Capital, her sister is a fashion blogger. Rachel made her initial splash as a sports reporter for a television station in South Bend, Indiana. But while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Northwestern, she discovered that, "I was interested in the marketing and advertising aspect of sports rather than television." After three months on the air, "I found cheering for sports is much more glamorous than reporting on it."
A return to school to study marketing and advertising led to a summer internship with a start-up, Rise Interactive, that she loved. In her senior year, Google searched for recruits and found Rachel, offering her a position on its AdWords team. "Bigger clients got dedicated teams," says Rachel. "I reviewed accounts, keywords and other initiatives for large, interactive agencies."
Preparation and support at every turn
Rachel noticed something interesting at Google: "There were a lot of superstars," she says, "but all the direct managers with entrepreneurial mindsets – the ones who were doing well and moving up – were HBS alumnae." Inspired, and eager to learn skills she hadn't acquired as a journalist, Rachel applied to HBS.
To catch up on finance skills, Rachel participated in the two-week summer Analytics program. "I loved it," she says. "It was two weeks with training wheels but without grades. By the time classes began, I already felt like an old pro. I didn't fear being cold-called in class. Case study is a forcing mechanism that makes sure I'm prepared and ready to go. It makes day-to-day classes more exciting and lively."
Rachel also appreciates the range and depth of student life. "You get to meet people from diverse backgrounds who have done cool things. One girl in my Analytics class came from Bad Boy records where she worked with P. Diddy! I was worried that with 94 people in my section, I wouldn't be able to make strong bonds. But you really come to understand and support each other. When recruiting time comes along, you have the entire section rooting behind you!"
Picking up the pace, from China to Chicago
With an interest in consumer goods, Rachel had been eager to participate in the China IXP. "I learned that Chinese consumer tastes are so different from those in the U.S. For example, China's 'one child' policy has made safety a huge selling point. Buick sells more cars in China than in the U.S. because of its reputation as a safe car."
In the summer, Rachel will dig more deeply into American consumer tastes through her internship with Wrigley in Chicago. Long-term, Rachel wants to "apply digital technologies to traditional consumer companies. CPG can be a slow-moving industry, and I want to pick up the pace."