2019 MBAs To Watch: Rachel Whitlock, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

Rachel Whitlock

Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University

“I make things happen, care deeply, seek learning, and embrace life.”

Hometown: Orem, UT

Fun fact about yourself: Three fun facts about me (not two truths and a lie style, all true):

  1. I trekked an unrestored section of the Great Wall alone.
  2. I once got caught between protesters, burning tires, and riot police in Palestine.
  3. I hiked 16 miles to the summit of Mount Nyiragongo (an active volcano in DR Congo) when I was 7 months pregnant and camped at the top.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BYU, General Management / Strategy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Fenix International / Ready Pay Solar (Venture-backed rural solar / FinTech startup in Kampala, Uganda), Chief of Staff to CEO. I was there during the launch to two new countries & Series C fundraiser

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018?  Chatbooks (Venture-backed consumer printed photo book subscription company), Orem UT, User Insights and Product Management

Where will you be working after graduation? Owlet Baby Care, Project Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Presidential Scholarship recipient (highest financial distinction for admitted students)
  • Williams Entrepreneurial Leadership Award
  • 4-time Venture Capital Investment Competition 1st place winner (2018 BYU Internal Round, 2018 West Region, 2018 Global Finals Venture Capital Investment Competitions, 2019 Mountain Region)
  • BYU Ballard Social Innovation Competition 1st place winner
  • BYU Miller Big Idea Pitch 3rd place winner
  • Cougar Capital Managing Director, Internal
  • Graduate Entrepreneurship Association Vice President

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud of what I have accomplished in the Venture Capital Investment Competition, winning the global finals with the BYU 2018 team and now leading the BYU 2019 team.

There are many opportunities in the MBA to learn through working on teams and learning through looking at real companies (live or through cases). In both these areas, nothing compares to VCIC. I had the privilege to do the competition two years in a row, first as the “observer” on the team (though at BYU we make little distinction) and this year as the team lead. We worked incredibly hard to prepare for both the regional and global finals, and have won in every competition. This competition is hard to prepare for—you prepare by becoming something greater. The experience of working diligently with a team to achieve the impossible really forces you to actually work out team dynamics and build leadership.

After winning the 2019 regional competition, I was able to get a picture with our 2019 team identical to our 2018 team winning picture—my daughter a year older. (Yes, I brought her with me to both competitions—I’m still breastfeeding and so I brought her and also flew my husband out to help. She is our lucky charm!)

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While it was maybe not my most impressive accomplishment, I’m proud of how I launched and ran Qualtrics’ first company-wide summer intern program as a junior client success operations associate. I did this because I saw a need and was able to rally my boss and the executive team around the business case for diversity. The program was incredibly successful—high-performing interns from Harvard, BYU, and UPenn accepted full-time offers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Easy. Gary Williams. Gary is the quiet genius that has inspired countless students to achieve greatness.

What was your favorite MBA Course? MBA 664, Entrepreneurial Strategy, was super hard and rewarding because it involved a focused strategy project for a local CEO. We learned great frameworks and then applied them to a real live company in our projects. Grappling with MBA frameworks in real life is really the best way to learn.

Why did you choose this business school?

1. The location is not only close to my family, but also near amazing outdoor recreation and a rapidly growing tech ecosystem.

  1. The culture of the student body is warm, welcoming, humble, open-minded, and eager to learn.
  2. There is a strong focus on learning and academic rigor with great support.
  3. BYU does a lot to support a family-friendly environment that was very appealing to me as a mom (my daughter was two months old when I started the program).

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Crush the GMAT. Study hard for three months (max). Use The Economist GMAT Tutor. You can do this! The GMAT actually is a test of how much you want it: How hard can you work?

What is the biggest myth about your school? Myth: BYU is not diverse. While, like most MBA schools, we can improve here, the program has incredible international and female students and a global mindset among students.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Be the best you. Life isn’t a competition against others. You are enough.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? While I will cherish the knowledge and friendships I’ve gained in business school, the biggest thing I gained was a much stronger confidence and sense of self. The confidence comes from going through several seemingly HARD things in MBA program (e.g., graduate accounting and finance classes, international case competitions, presentations to incredible peers, networking events with amazing professionals), but going through them with the tools to rock it. After enough of these experiences where the MBA program helps you see that you can do it and survive, you gain a stronger confidence to jump into new challenges in the future. The sense of self or self-understanding comes from going through multiple team-based experiences where you get to experiment and define your own leadership style, as well as a 2x decision-making opportunity with your MBA internship and post-MBA full-time career.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My dear friend Landon Essig focuses on encouraging and supporting everyone around him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I loved studying business in undergrad and earning an MBA was a long-time goal. But when it came to the actual GMAT and applications, I had doubts about my ability and capability. My amazing husband, Jeff, has encouraged me ever since I met him to reach for the stars, including to apply to business school. His support including helping with our baby and encouragement throughout the whole experience has made all the difference.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? SOMBASA—Spouses Of MBA Spouse Association

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a stay-at-home mom wanting more, but without the belief in myself to go get it.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I strongly advocate to prospective MBA students—particularly female students who hope to someday be mothers and aren’t sure if they’ll stay in the workforce during that period in their lives—to NOT think too much about the ROI calculation using salary as the return. The money will work itself out. My education is an investment in myself. I also believe it’s been an investment in my daughter. After growing up around my MBA, she now wakes up every morning and says, “Mama go to school?” The sacrifices we make for education will be a powerful story and value in our family with that foundation.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Run for and serve in public office, and raise a strong and happy family.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “She made me feel important.”

Hobbies? I love to skiing my home mountains of Utah, read, sing, dance, practice yoga, play piano, and draw.

What made Rachel Whitlock such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“What does the “all around” full-time MBA look like? Rachel Whitlock is the answer.

Let’s take a look at her 2-year MBA journey

Her student life. Rachel is a top student in a nationally-ranked program. In addition to carrying a full-time academic load, she occupies the position of a Managing Director of the student-run BYU Cougar Capital private equity fund (byucougarcapital.org). Cougar Capital is arguably the most successful student-run private equity fund in the country. She helps lead a portfolio of 25 current company investments with a 2.9 MoM return on more than 20 exits.

She is team lead for the BYU team that is in the Global finals for the 2019 Venture Capital Investment Competition. As a first-year MBA, she was on the team that won the 2018 Global Finals.

Rachel was recently recognized as a selectee for the Marriott School’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.

Her married life: Rachel and her husband have founded a startup company during her MBA journey. After raising the seed round, husband Jeff was chosen to join Techstars in Boulder, Colorado.

Her life as a mother. Rachel’s 2-year-old daughter has been an integral part of her education. Ali is a welcome addition to many MBA events and activities. For example, she joined Rachel during her VCIC competitions at the University of Colorado and the University of North Carolina during 2018.

All of this and she still has time to be there for others, to take a swimming class, to serve in her church and community and to be a good friend.”

Grant McQueen

Director of the BYU Marriott MBA program

Are you a friend of Rachel? Leave a comment to congratulate her.

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