2021 MBAs To Watch: Rachel Zelcer, Babson College (Olin)

Rachel Zelcer

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

A gregarious, thoughtful, driven leader, with an outgoing personality and a dry sense of humor.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I was in a hip-hop dance group at Brandeis called Kaos Kids.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brandeis University, B.A. Healthcare Policy and Psychology with a minor in Business

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? LabCentral Inc. Senior Operations Associate, Cambridge, MA

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Biogen, Cambridge, MA

Where will you be working after graduation? Syneos Health, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, Graduate Student Council. Co- moderator for panel discussion with Arthur Blank and executive leadership team for Arthur M. Blank Family Businesses.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being the President of the Graduate Student Council is my proudest achievement. This is an incredible hands-on learning experience to further define my leadership style and develop my leadership skills. More importantly, this has been a tremendous opportunity to serve my community by collaborating with the administration as a student representative to organize activities and marshal resources to enhance the graduate student experience amidst a challenging time.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am incredibly proud to be completing an MBA at this phase in my career. Babson has provided me with countless opportunities to engage in entrepreneurship, to access resources and connections that were previously unavailable to me, and to learn more about myself. All of these experiences enabled me to identify where I want my career to go and how it should take shape. Upon completing my MBA, I will be a consultant on the commercial advisory team at an integrated pharmaceutical company and I wouldn’t have been able to get there without a Babson MBA.

Why did you choose this business school? When I made the decision to apply to business school, I knew I wanted to come away from a program positioned to strategize and execute creative change within organizations. I had spent the better part of two years immersed in a start-up that supported start-ups, where creativity was encouraged and rolling one’s sleeves up was a must. In fostering an environment for biotech start-ups to thrive, I learned that I wanted to be a leader capable of bringing this flexibility and creativity to organizations. Without having the lexicon for it, I recognized the power of entrepreneurship. Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought & Action and hands-on and experiential learning geared to empowering and preparing entrepreneurial leaders resonated deeply with me. Deep down, I felt Babson was the right environment for me to explore leadership, equipping myself with the business tools I didn’t have, bolstering my soft-skills, and providing me with opportunities to shape my future.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Scott Taylor is my favorite MBA professor not only because his class on leadership development was one of my favorites, but also because he has been an incredible mentor to me. Professor Taylor creates a calm, structured, and personalized learning environment wherein his students are confronting themselves to understand who they are as leaders. He equips his students with relevant research to understand the fundamentals of leadership development, resources for context and guidance, and opportunities to put theory into practice. He has challenged me to redefine my personal narrative and he has encouraged me to engage in the things that I am fearful of. For this, I am truly grateful.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I can’t pick a favorite tradition, but what I can say is that any and every holiday is celebrated! Babson has an incredibly diverse student population and we all get to celebrate each other’s cultures and traditions together throughout the year. This is one of my favorite things about Babson.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have taken a few more classes outside of my comfort zone that were not directly aligned with my career aspirations. There were professors whose courses I look back at already saying, “I wish I had taken their course!”. And because we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, I look back on 2019 and the beginning of 2020 wishing I had spent more time with my classmates.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth that I heard about Babson was that every student had a startup they were working on. When I finally arrived to campus, this was not accurate. While there were plenty of students engaged in their own ventures, when I looked for new teammates taking classes to apply the lessons to their venture development, there were also plenty of students, like myself who were not involved in a startup.

What surprised you the most about business school? I’m just surprised by how quickly two years has gone by! At the start of the program, it felt like time slowed down and things would continue as such, but somewhere after that first semester everything accelerated. I don’t really know where the time went. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I’m going to miss the experiences one has pursuing their MBA.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? As cliché as this sounds, I think the best thing that I did during the application process overall was staying true to myself. I knew I was applying to MBA programs to embark on a journey of self-discovery to better myself and take more control over my professional development. While I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my MBA after graduation, I knew I wanted to be a change agent and learn how to create impactful change. It took me a while to identify and capture this sentiment as a narrative story to share with schools, but I’m glad I took the time to flush it out.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Esther Greene because she came to Babson with the intention of starting a company, Mōde Travel Co. and The SŌLO Travel App, that were positioned to aid and inspire solo-female travelers with their travels. Despite a global pandemic, she is making it happen! Esther is a tenacious, opinionated, outspoken, creative, thoughtful go-getter. There is nothing that can stop her!

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? There is no question that beginning in March of 2020, the very nature of how we conducted businesses, engaged with our peers, and where we met to learn was disrupted. It was disheartening and frustrating to no longer be able to sit in the same room as my peers and faculty. Shifting education online and creating a hybrid environment has proven how resilient we are and dedicated to bettering ourselves and carrying out our degrees to the fullest.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad ran his family business of wholesale plumbing and heating supplies for 30 years. My sister and I “interned” many a summer helping with everything from sweeping to inventory checks and purchasing, to IT (as a child you are always helping your parents with technology). Watching him run his own business and strategizing for growth and future opportunities instilled in me the value and importance of running a business; or being your own boss as he likes to call it. He modeled the value of hard work, dedication and being a life-long learner. Where he learned everything about business from experience, he encouraged me to take as many business classes as possible, and to never shy away from a learning experience.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Manage a team
  2. Lead a commercial drug launch

What made Rachel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Rachel is the very model of a modern MBA. She is a forceful and articulate presence in the classroom but, more importantly, she stands out as a natural leader in student teams. I had the pleasure of advising a student-consulting project that was developing a growth strategy for a start-up business that has launched an interesting product and has achieved revenue growth but needs a serious dose of professionalism in order to scale-up. Rachel was able to master the analytical issues on the project and then develop the necessary rapport with her client that to successfully deliver a message of tough love:  “If you don’t make major changes in your organization, your venture will fail.”  Convincing and empathetic, she was a powerful influence on the client.

But the real display of tough love came when Rachel was a major driver of a series of sessions with the President of Babson and other administrators as the COVID pandemic forced the college to rapidly make major changes in every aspect of the student experience. Out of dozens of faces on a Zoom grid, she stood out as an articulate and firm but tactful advocate for the needs of her fellow students. She launched a constructive dialogue that led to a series of initiatives that made it possible for our students to continue their learning and strengthen their resumes with rapidly developed programs of study, moving from concepts to delivery in a manner of days.”

Dwight Gertz
Faculty Co-Director Office of Experiential Learning



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