2016 Best MBAs: Imogen Aelwen Roberts, Vanderbilt

Imogen Roberts Vanderbilt

Imogen Aelwen Roberts


Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“Imogen has been a joiner from the moment she stepped off the plane from London. She is a natural leader and most enthusiastic supporter of anything anyone on staff or faculty asked—and many things we didn’t.”

Age: 27

Hometown: London, UK

Education: BSc Physics, Imperial College London

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Assistant Buyer Women’s Accessories, Urban Outfitters Europe

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Deloitte Consulting LLP, Atlanta GA

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

President, Women in Business Association

Admissions Ambassador

Leadership Development Guide

Peer Coach

Executive Women’s Think-tank

Forte Ambassador

Dean’s Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am really proud of the success of the Women in Business Association (WBA) under my Presidency. Along with an incredible board of women, I worked to raise the profile of the club in the school and engage the wider Vanderbilt community in our activities. The WBA is now the most active club at Owen, with an average of one event a week, including speakers ranging from entrepreneur Shan-Lyn Ma to Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon! In addition, we have invited our male students to join us at our Lean In circles, which has been a great success. And we’re attracting attendees from other graduate schools such as engineering and teaching. Another area we have developed is our undergraduate mentoring by partnering with undergraduate women to set up an Undergraduate Women in Business Association, focused on networking and professional development. Overall I am incredibly proud of the impact that the WBA has made at Owen this year and am excited to see where our next president takes the club in the future!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Before coming to business school I spent 7 months working in emergency hydraulic engineering. Following 5 years working as a buyer for Urban Outfitters Europe, it was a scary career change but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I went in to the industry knowing nothing and worked on projects ranging from fraud detection to managing the build out of their new office space. I had to learn quickly, be extremely adaptable and prove myself to a team of knowledgeable engineers. Being successful in that environment and being praised for my work there is still something I am incredibly proud of. It was this experience that made me bold in my choice of business school and inspired me to try a consulting internship over the summer.

Favorite MBA Courses? I particularly enjoyed Corporate Strategy, and a lot of credit has to go to Professor McCann for making the course so enjoyable. He encouraged us to think critically about the decisions companies were making and wasn’t afraid to push back on our ideas and explanations. The course gave me a high level perspective on how big corporations operate and how easy it is to fall in to a false line of reasoning. Professor McCann was witty and energetic despite having taught the class 3 times already that day and it definitely increased the caliber of participation and learning.

Why did you choose this business school? You will hear this a lot at Owen, but it is ALL about the people. I had visited several business schools and none of them had the level of community that I saw at Owen. The staff, faculty and students were relatable and made a huge effort to make me feel welcome in the environment. Moving thousands of miles away from home is a daunting prospect for anyone, but the atmosphere at Owen convinced me that I would have a support network here.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I have enjoyed the opportunity to take risks at business school. You are able to try new things in a low impact environment, surrounded by people that want to help you. I have developed skills to apply to new and ambiguous situations whilst being in a supportive environment with few consequences.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I have learnt a lot about my leadership style at Owen. Through the Leadership Development Program, my leadership roles and peer feedback, I have learnt what is powerful about my style and how to leverage that to my advantage. Understanding that leadership development is a continuous process that needs to be proactively pursued has been a big lesson and is something that I will take with me as I continue in my career.

What was the most surprising thing about business school?  The most surprising thing was that it is really fun! I have had an incredible time. I have travelled to new countries, made life-long friends, taken on new challenges and I genuinely makes me happy to be here. When I look back at all the amazing experiences I’ve had, it is hard to believe that they have all happened in 2 short years.

What was the hardest part of business school? Time management has been the hardest part of business school for me. I love to be involved and my schedule is always full. Learning to say no was a challenge for me, as was learning to delegate. There are so many opportunities that you need to be thoughtful about where you put your time and effort. Making a large impact in a few areas was more important to me than being spread so thinly that I couldn’t make an impact anywhere. I would like to say that I have now mastered time management but unfortunately I’m still working on it!

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? I would encourage applicants to be themselves and leverage their background. Owen is a community and welcomes students from lots of different backgrounds in to the program. Don’t be afraid that your background isn’t corporate or that you don’t fit the mold of a business school student- everyone is welcome. Some of the strongest insights I’ve heard have come from students with non-traditional backgrounds.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I learned how many opportunities there were to learn and explore different business functions.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in London, probably working in merchandising for a major retailer.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire ?I most admire the entrepreneurs in our class, especially my friend Blaque Reilly owner of Portmanteau Jewelry Collection. Not only does she excel in her school work, she also finds time to run her business and be connected to the maker’s movement in Nashville. She flawlessly moves from creative tasks to business tasks and consistently impresses me with her capacity for social venture, despite her packed schedule. Being able to see the time and effort that goes in to launching a business has given me new respect for entrepreneurs in all sectors of business.

What are your long-term professional goals? My goals center around what I want to be able to give back throughout my career rather than on a specific career path. I want to make sure that I am still involved in organizations that support women in business, I want to continue the mentorship chain by mentoring young professionals and I want to be a trusted and valuable advisor to my colleagues. I am also interested in building an environmentally sustainable workplace and am trying to make my daily decisions more environmentally aware.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My sister for persuading me to go and get my MBA and the staff at Owen who convinced me that Owen was the place for me (Tami Fassinger, Irisa Treijs and Christie St. John). They had faith in me that I never could have had in myself.

Fun fact about yourself: I just finished a two-week trek across the Darien Gap in Panama- if you don’t know anything about the region, you should check it out!

Favorite book: Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

Favorite movie: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Favorite musical performer: Interpol

Favorite television show: Blackadder

Favorite vacation spot: The Greek Islands, any of them. They are so beautiful.

Hobbies? Kick-boxing, horse riding, hiking.

What made Imogen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“What made Imogen such an invaluable member of the MBA Class of 2016? A lot is expected of all Dean’s Scholars at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management—fantastic academic and leadership performance capturing the very best of our talented student body. Also a Forte Fellow, Imogen has been a joiner from the moment she stepped off the plane from London. She is a natural leader and most enthusiastic supporter of anything anyone on staff or faculty asked—and many things we didn’t. Of the attributes most in demand by employers, adaptability, passion for work, and confidence without arrogance are at the top of the list. She is the exemplar of these as an MBA graduate concentrating Marketing and Strategy to prepare for her role at Deloitte Consulting as Senior Consultant, Strategy and Operations, based in Atlanta.

Not every young woman in an MBA program would be confident hosting a one-on-one Q&A with a major film star—with years of acting training and poised to perfection. But, in her uniquely uninhibited and fun way, Imogen hosted Reese Witherspoon to discuss her passions for Girls Inc. and her new business, Draper James. Imogen, as President of the Women’s Business Association (WBA), was naturally aligned with Witherspoon’s passion for women. On campus, WBA ran Lean In Circles, with regular participation by men of Owen too, to improve communication skills and integration within the business community. Also a passionate contributor to the Global Business Association and Vanderbilt Marketing Association, Imogen has proven equally comfortable being a follower and doer to accomplish whatever the school’s or her classmates’ goals. Because her job was solidified early, she had time and offered to do an independent study to help a classmate develop a social media plan for an existing custom jewelry business. As a Student Ambassador, Imo has made tireless phone calls to admitted students and prospects, and she has served as a peer coach to first-year MBAs for the Career Management Center. Of all her attributes, a genuine, ever-present smile is her signature feature; you can’t help get behind anything Imogen is passionate to try; she is a true leader by example and positivity.”

Tami Fassinger

Chief Recruiting Officer

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management


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