Updated: Mar 29, 2022
“The importance of having a backbone and developing character - having a code of ethics and standards you hold yourself and others to, and not allowing people to walk all over you..”
March 21, 2022 | By Alina O’Brien
1. Thinking back, what led you to join BOW?
At the time it was a very small organization and they needed someone to help build it which seemed like fun. Plus I had a couple of friends that were in it, so I joined.
2. What does your current position of Director of Divisional Operations for National Veterinary Associates entail? How did you get there?
I manage the P&L for a portfolio of veterinary hospitals - ~$75M in revenue - and help them solve their business problems. Each of them operates as an independent small business, and my role is to help provide support across a variety of business areas, e.g., HR, IT, inventory, recruiting. I visit hospitals in my division every week, and have an amazing team of field operators that I work with to help problem solve.
I had some experience with operations and finance in co-founding a food tech company and really loved that aspect of business as it's tangible. I wasn't looking for a job at the time but started talking with my current company, and the role seemed very unique and aligned with my values (respect for animals, servant leadership), so I joined in the fall of 2021.
3. How has mentorship factored into your path?
When I was in college and right out of school I had a couple of mentors who really helped me navigate some difficult times and I am very grateful for them. Now I focus more on trying to help others where I can, taking my advice with a grain of salt because we all have to go through phases. I find that the best mentors I've had have helped me learn to listen internally and make my own decisions vs. relying on others.
4. What was your experience like in consulting?
Bain was an amazing place to work with incredible people. I couldn't have asked for a better experience and recommend it highly. You learn a great analytical toolkit particularly if you start right out of college, and the people at Bain are humble and great to work with - I continue to keep in touch with many Bain alums and current employees as they are more friends than colleagues.
5. How was your business school experience? What do you think is the future of B school?
I had a slightly unconventional experience in business school - I spent most of my time off campus teaching yoga and then my second year in independent studies on different topics. I took two courses on purchasing a small business/search funds which changed the way I thought about my career and life overall (with Rick and Royce, they are the absolute best and I'm so grateful I got to be in their classes). The basic premise is that you don't have to do what everyone else is doing (consulting, banking, private equity, etc.) to build a meaningful career and life. I know that's shocking.
I also spent a lot of time with my Dad (he lived outside Boston at the time). Looking back, that in itself was worth being in business school for two years so I could spend as much time with him as I could. The highlight of each of my weeks was seeing him and his hilarious commentary. He has since passed.
I also co-founded a business during business school which was an incredible learning experience and something that I really wouldn't have been able to do on the side while I was working full-time.
Overall I would say I had a meaningful experience but it was because I did what I wanted to do vs. giving into the pressure of what everyone else was doing. As far as the future of business school, I can't really say. Like anything in life it's what you make of it. I wouldn't recommend going unless you can financially handle it though or have some kind of help from a company or family. Getting into crushing debt essentially makes you a slave for the next 10 years.
6. If you could give yourself as a senior at Duke a piece of advice, what would it be?
I know this is more than one piece of advice but I wish a female grad had told me these things, I would have saved time and heartache:
The importance of having a backbone and developing character - having a code of ethics and standards you hold yourself and others to, and not allowing people to walk all over you. This will prevent you from being taken advantage of/abused in careers, friendships, family, relationships.
This will prevent you from being taken advantage of/abused in careers, friendships, family, relationships. If you are a people pleaser this will get you into trouble because you'll take on other people's values that are not your own in order to be liked. The price will be your own sense of self. If something does not resonate with your internal value system (even if everyone else is doing it), that's enough to not participate.
All that glitters isn't gold, and all that's gold doesn't glitter. This goes for careers, family, friendships, relationships.