MBA for Executives

Career Profile: Rachel Decker

Rachel Decker

Rachel Decker

Darden MBA for Executives
Class of 2010

What position did you hold prior to starting the Darden MBA for Executives?

Media Relations and Marketing Communications Manager, BAE Systems (Industry: Defense and Aerospace)

What position did you move to either during or after the program?

While completing my MBA at Darden, I was recruited in 2010 to be the Head of Public Affairs for the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), responsible for corporate communications for all government affairs/public policy activities at the global, federal and state levels. In October 2011, I was recruited internally and now serve as the Marketing and Communications Director for the U.S. Public Sector, HP Enterprise Services, where I am responsible for developing market-facing programs throughout the region and ensuring the marketing function most effectively supports the growth strategy.

What Darden career services did you utilize and how did they help you?

The Professional Development component of the program was immensely valuable and incentivized me to update my networking and career tools, including my LinkedIn profile, while modernizing components including my personal ‘elevator pitch’ through the use of video and social media.

At the onset of this component of the Darden curriculum, I wasn’t actively looking to switch careers. However, once I was contacted by the recruiter for the very attractive and challenging HP position (which came in via LinkedIn), I worked with career services on areas including resume and interview prep to compensation.

Further, refining my ‘story’ and personal sound bites early on helped me to prepare for numerous Skype and video teleconference interviews that occurred throughout the interview process.

I also appreciated working with my professional coach who helped prompt self-reflection and analysis regarding my career goals and objectives, enabling me to deliver real-time learnings and action plans on the job.

How did the Darden EMBA help prepare you for your new position?

The Darden MBA for Executives had a significant impact on my professional and personal development with immediate benefits that I was able to deliver to my previous role at BAE Systems and more recently at HP.

The EMBA ’10 cohort — a group of amazingly intelligent and motivated professionals from diverse industries and backgrounds — provided a robust support system and network. We regularly called on one another often in the late night hours with spreadsheets and decision trees. This was one component that I drastically underestimated and would say was one of the most valuable aspects of my Darden experience.

The Darden faculty is second to none and their commitment and engagement to our learning and academic success from the start differentiated Darden and the MBA for Executives from other programs that I had considered. I come from a family of educators, including my father who is a university professor, and certainly appreciate the passion the faculty had for the curriculum. I recall one of my favorite Finance cases when Professor Conroy was dashing so quickly around the classroom that his sincere enthusiasm for the topic of free cash flows proved contagious and resulted in a dynamic and highly rewarding learning experience.

Each of the professors challenged me in a different way — the Finance, Decision Analysis and Accounting professors pushed me and strengthened my analytical skills arming me with the tools and confidence to engage and contribute directly to strategic business and financial decisions. While I have a rich background in communications, public relations and marketing communications, the Management Communication and Leading Organizations coursework sharpened my skills and strengthened my foundational expertise particularly in the areas of change management and communicating through change. 

The incredible cohort and faculty combined with the curriculum armed me with the right mix of analytical, business and leadership skills to make a real-time impact at BAE Systems and more recently at HP.

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