Seth Barnes (MBA '87)
Seth Barnes still marvels at the “leap of faith” he took over twenty years ago. Though he was raised to be a servant to his community, and actively fulfilled this obligation through mission trips to South America and South Asia, he entered Darden to prepare for a career in corporate America. He was days away from fulfilling this goal when an opportunity intervened.
Seth talks about his decision:
As graduation from Darden drew near, I faced two divergent paths. On the one hand was a conventional career in business. The other route required a leap of faith and made no sense to my peers: Help start a ministry with a friend. My decision was complicated by the financial needs of a family with three small children.
Wanting to trust God, but unsure as to what his will was, my wife sought the counsel of friends and we prayed. To start the ministry, we'd have to raise financial support. We needed to decide quickly, so we set a goal and gave it a month.
With just one day left in the month, we were significantly short of the goal. Frankly, we were a little relieved. The path of ministry had a lot of sacrifice involved.
Then, before the day was over, seemingly out of left field, a number of people made large donations. At the last second, God provided far more than we needed. He had done his part, so we made the leap of faith.
The result over the last 24 years has blown our minds. We have close to a thousand staff and interns in the ministry. We've taken nearly 100,000 people on mission trips and have seen their lives change. We care for 5,000 orphans in Africa and meet the needs of the poor in over 50 countries around the world. My two oldest of our five children work with me and are living their dream. As a matter of fact, I guess we all are!
To learn more about Seth's work, visit Adventures in Missions and read his blog Radical Living in a Comfortable World.
Dafina Lovelace (MBA '10)
Darden MBA '10
When you began your MBA at Darden, what was your intended career path?
I wasn’t entirely sure about what I wanted to do after my MBA, but my intentions for going to business school were to get out of my technology job and change my career track. I knew that I had more career potential on the business side and I wanted to go to a place where I would learn about opportunities I had never known before. I also wanted to gain the skills, knowledge, and courage to start my own business after school.
In my admission essays I stated that I wanted to enter the consulting field after graduating from Darden. Now that I have my MBA from Darden, I feel comfortable enough to say that back then I wasn’t being honest with myself. I hadn’t done sufficient soul searching and introspection to truly determine whether a consulting environment or culture would be the best fit for me. Fortunately, at Darden I received more exposure, clarity and instructions on how to write the job description for my ideal employer, job/role.
What is your current role?
I am currently a Product Manager for Danaher's Dental Imaging Group. I manage one product type across two brands and one service across three brands. I am also working on two personal projects: my blog - journeytotheboardroom.com; and a coloring and activity book for kids.
How did you begin to consider an alternate career path?
What changed my mind about consulting was reading a few cases in the book Case and Point and doing a few consulting interviews. I realized the case interview process was… not to my liking, and decided that the career path probably wouldn't be either.
To feel comfortable taking the role at Danaher, I had to separate myself from the idea that I would be working for a big-named Fortune 500 company.I had to get comfortable with the possibility of not having the network and support system I once had in New York and Charlottesville and come to terms with the fact that I would be the only African-American Female MBA at DHR.
How's it working out now?
Well it’s kind of scary and very challenging, but I love the work I do. My day holds a lot of variety, including learning about the Danaher Business System and the dental industry by participating in Kaizen events, working directly with customers, creating brand strategies and marketing plans, developing pricing models. It is a lot of work, and in many ways it feels like a remake of first year at Darden.
As part of your transition, you had to adopt a new skill set.
I’ve gone from an eight year career where I honed and mastered my craft in financial technology development, established a firm knowledge base, and cultivated professional connections with ease to now owning the Product Management for products and services that generate millions of dollars each year. The transition from being a seasoned professional in a familiar space to the new kid on the block is tough, and takes a toll on my confidence level at times.
Talk a little about the Danaher culture, which is quite different from the consulting world.
The Danaher culture is also taking quite a bit of getting used to. It is one where they trust and expect me to figure out how to do things on my own, many times because no one else has done it before. So, it perplexed me the first and second time I sent out an email for approval on a new business opportunity and no one replied. Essentially, I was expected to do the research and make the determination of whether it was the right move or not and if so, execute. That type of independence takes some getting used to and I'm still not quite comfortable in that regard. Fortunately, two well respected senior leaders in the organization offered to be my mentors and I have taken them up on their offers!Their help and frequent check-ins, which involve open and honest conversations and feedback, helps me to navigate the Danaher culture and build confidence in my role and future at the company.
Valerie Camillo (MBA '00)
So, tell us about
your “leap of faith”? I was living in my hometown of Northern Virginia, working as
a Principal at Booz Allen and on a clear path to Partner at the firm. I always
had a strong desire to work in professional sports, so I left my job, moved to New York City, and took a
job with the National Basketball Association.
What was your professional
situation before your leap?
I was very happy with my job consulting for Booz Allen. I
had wonderful colleagues, great leadership, job security, and excellent
compensation. Booz Allen was, and is, a truly fantastic place to work. I also
loved living in the Washington,
DC area. My entire immediate family lives there. As
for me, I had never had a permanent address outside the state of Virginia. But, my heart
had always been drawn to sports. Since I was in undergrad, I had wanted to work
in the industry, with the long-term goal of one day running a team’s business
How did you decide to
make your change, or pursue your unanticipated opportunity?
My desire to work in sports never abated. And so, when I was
a Senior Associate at Booz Allen, I started to reach out to Darden alums,
friends, and professional contacts to set up meet-and-greets in the industry. I
also spent a good deal of time learning about industry trends (e.g., best
practices and latest business innovations) and the business model of sports
franchises (e.g., how teams make money). I invested time in self-study so that
I would be prepared to make the most of my meet-and-greet opportunities with
senior sports executives. Coming from outside the industry, I knew it was
important to demonstrate a level of understanding about their business and
translate how my prior experience was relevant to their needs.
Through my network, I was able to meet with senior
executives from the NFL, NHL, MLS, and NBA. It was during these meetings that I
learned about the NBA’s Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) group,
based in New York.
TMBO is the league’s internal consultancy to its 30 NBA, 16 D-League, and 12
WNBA teams. The group provides advisory services and shares best practices to
help teams increase revenue and control costs.
Working for this group was clearly of great interest to me and a perfect
match for my background, but when I first met with them—there were no job
openings. There was mutual interest, and so we promised to keep in touch.
During this period of time, I continued to progress at Booz
Allen. In the summer of 2009, I was promoted to Principal. This was a real
professional achievement and honor. Almost 2 years had passed since my first
meeting with TMBO, and while there had been continuing contact, the right
opportunity had not materialized. And so, my husband and I were getting ready
to sign a contract to build our dream house in the suburbs of Virginia.
Then, I got an email. It had been six months since I was
last in contact with TMBO, but they were wondering if I was still considering
jobs in sports. The email progressed to a phone call—there was a potential
senior-level opening to build out a new Team Business Strategy & Analytics
group for the league. The problem was, I was now further along in my career,
about to build a house…and I wasn’t quite sure anymore if a career transition
made sense. I almost didn’t even go up for the interview. In the end, it was my
husband who encouraged me.
During the interview, the NBA’s leadership blew me away with
an almost perfect opportunity at the league. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had the
chance to make a long-time dream a reality, but the “data” indicated this was a
big risk. The NBA was facing an uncertain labor situation, I was leaving a
near-perfect job, and I would be starting over in a new city.
I’ve always been a person to make decisions from data. It is
the basis of my work, but even more so---it is in my nature. I look to facts to
guide decisions, often over feelings or emotions. So, I think I shocked even
myself in taking the job. In the end, it came down to a leap of faith, but one
I did not make blindly. I am a Christian, and I prayed many nights over my
decision, asking the Lord for guidance in what to do. And, despite the facts,
the data, and the risk…I felt a clear encouragement written on my heart to make
the jump. And, with this confidence and a desire to always pursue my dreams, I took
How have things
I have now been with the NBA for over a year. The career
change was more comprehensive than I even imagined. Almost everything about my
new job is different from my last one—the culture, my day-to-day work
activities, the travel. And, let’s not even talk about how different living in Manhattan is from Northern Virginia!
I mean, I am surrounded by honking horns and Giants fans.
But, the experience has been amazing. I’ve directly worked
with our teams on critical business challenges. I’ve made great new friends
across the industry and in New York.
I’ve stood outside the West locker room as the All-Stars took the court in Los Angeles. I’ve been to
countless games, and learned to look at the action off the field from a
business perspective. I’ve made business recommendations that I saw implemented
on a league-wide basis. It has been a wild, crazy and exhilarating ride.
The day I started my job, my husband gave me a picture for
my desk. The inscription is a quote from Henry David Thoreau that reads, “Go confidently in the
direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.” My “after” is
not fully written. I am not sure where my leap of faith will ultimately take me.
I do know that life is often about the journey and not the destination, and
this has been a very fun year.