Rachel Silverstein
Home Region

Austin, TX

Undergrad Education

University of Texas, Finance, 2010

Previous Experience

Turnkey Vacation Rentals, Snap Kitchen, HomeAway, American Express, Dell Technologies

HBS Activities

Admissions Rep

“Despite the size of the program, it’s amazing how close-knit it is.”

Even though obtaining an MBA had "always been on my mind," Rachel Silverstein was concerned that she did not quite fit the MBA profile. First, she comes from Texas, a state less represented in many top programs. Then there was the issue of experience – Rachel worried that she had too much of it.

"I had eight years of experience in corporate finance," Rachel says, "a bit on the high side among female students." Upon reflection, she realized both concerns were probably misplaced. "School readiness is more about your stage of life than your actual age."

Adjusting her attitude, however, was a bit easier than adjusting her life. She married early, and like many professionals juggling career advancement and the commitments of marriage, she found it difficult to add more education into the mix. "My husband is as ambitious in his career as I am, and the timing never felt right."

At the same time, her career was progressing. After five years with two corporate giants, Dell and American Express, she tested the startup waters. "I had an itch to do something entrepreneurial, but I didn't yet have my own idea. Yet I realized that my classical training in corporate finance could bring a lot of value – in structure and strategy – to a startup."

Rachel's hunch was right, and she proceeded to work for two different startups in the food and beverage and vacation rental sectors. "Because these businesses are so small, I was able to wear a lot of different hats – when you're lean, it's all hands on deck. I got involved in opening a new market…launching a digital app…launching a meal plan subscription product…wholesale testing…many different operational and strategic initiatives."

Rounding out her experience

It was at this point in her career when Rachel saw that "an MBA could round out my finance background." When she visited the HBS campus and experienced the case study method in a classroom for the first time, "I knew I would get the most value out of the HBS program. I thought applying to HBS would be a total Hail Mary, but I made it!"

The program has been more than welcoming to both Silversteins. "By eagerly participating in our intramural sports, particularly basketball and flag football, Jason's made a lot of direct friendships in my section – it's made our integration so much stronger."

"Despite the size of the program," Rachel notes, "it's amazing how close-knit it is. Part of it is the section experience, but it's also the Field Global Immersion, the discussion groups, and the social clubs – all the cross-section opportunities enable the closeness of our community."

The case method experience has delivered what Rachel had hoped for. "As an academic experience, nothing compares to being in a room with fully engaged people," she says. "Because everyone is prepared to be called and no one is ‘checked out,' the energy level is high. You learn from a diverse group of peers, and the conversations enable you to build confidence creating an argument – an important skill to bring to the workplace as a leader."