Meet Virginia Darden’s MBA Class Of 2020

Alexandra (Allie) Medack

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Texas farm girl turned government relations professional, helping make self-driving vehicles a reality.”

Hometown: Giddings, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was in Amman, Jordan during the Arab Spring on a State Department fellowship.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Texas, B.A. in Plan II Honors and Middle Eastern Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Manager, Emerging Technologies at General Motors

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working with policymakers, environmental and disability groups, and others, I helped pass state-level legislation across the U.S. to enable the deployment of self-driving vehicles. The technology is truly fascinating. Not only will it make our roads safer and increase the utilization of electric vehicles, it will enable us to rethink how we design cities and buildings. It’s been exciting to be at the forefront of such a cutting-edge technology.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Work hard, play hard. I’m surrounded by ambitious, high-achieving people who also love to hang out and have fun.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Darden’s use of the case method and reputation for rigorous academics is what set it apart for me. To be successful in the business world – and really, in general – you have to be able to clearly articulate your ideas, actively listen to others, and be unafraid to ask questions and occasionally be wrong. There’s no better training ground for that than the case method.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Darden Outdoors Club. I love hiking and between school and recruiting, a little phone-free time in the mountains will keep me sane!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At General Motors, I worked all over the world and with teams from Finance to Strategy to Manufacturing to tackle various problems. While I could speak to the policy implications of the questions at hand, I wasn’t able to fully grasp the broader business implications of the decisions we were making, and that was frustrating! I wanted to understand the full picture and be able to have a larger impact on the organization. I’m at Darden to increase the number of “business tools” in my toolbox so that I can be an effective and holistic leader.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I had wonderful bosses who saw my potential and encouraged me that in the long-term, the doors that business school would open would be worth it.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS (accepted), Wharton (not accepted)

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Based on my experience in the workplace, I knew I wanted to go somewhere that heavily utilized the case method. I initially didn’t place a large emphasis on “culture” or “fit”, because I wanted to be purely analytical about my decision. In the end, that actually turned out to be my deciding factor. As I started visiting schools, I realized just how important the environment would be for my overall experience and for the type of leader I would become. I visited Darden before applying and was honestly blown away by how welcoming and friendly people were. Professors and students clearly enjoyed engaging with each other, and people went out of their way to answer my questions and make me feel welcome. That honestly sealed the deal for me. I knew I would do my best work wherever I was happiest, and for all of the above factors that place is Darden!

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I was studying abroad on a State Department grant in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. At that time, I wanted to pursue a career in national security working for the government. However, as I learned more about the region’s economy and the underlying issues that led to the unrest (like high youth unemployment), I realized the business community’s power to create a strong and vibrant society.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I’d love to continue working on self-driving vehicles and help define how this constantly evolving and exciting technology actually impacts our world.

Where do you see yourself in five years? As long as I’m doing something that challenges me and makes me feel like I’m making a positive contribution to society, I’ll be happy.

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