Future Leader Spotlight: Abby Rudd, W.P. Carey

I’ve always been an overly ambitious, intellectually curious, and disciplined individual with big dreams of becoming a successful business leader. While many teenagers were preoccupied with other activities, I daydreamed about and sought to become that business leader. To me, this meant leading a Fortune 500 business. I laid out my educational path and goals early on in my life. With a business mindset, I saw the importance of getting an MBA.

I’d always thought like a marketer. I sought to holistically understand consumers – what makes them tick, what causes stress on their lives, and why they behave the ways they do. However, I also saw value in understanding the financial POV of businesses. This drove my decision to study Finance from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science. I then pivoted into Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) with a Master of Science from Northwestern University. This education prepared me to bring together a qualitative understanding of consumers with strong analytics focus to help build and enhance strong brands and experiences in the digital age.

Following my time at Northwestern, I entered the business world ready to learn, grow, and tackle whatever challenges came my way. I started my career in market research with Lieberman Research Worldwide. Working with Fortune 500 brands, I spent my days digging through data and trying to understand what drove human behaviors. I then transitioned into Customer and Digital Experience within the health insurance industry. I analyzed our customers’ experience across our digital touch-points. I tried to find opportunities to build out new touch-points with customers or enhance existing ones.

This made me realize one thing – I wanted to learn how to lead and influence in an environment driven by technological change. I loved working on a product but needed to hone my business perspective to become a more successful product manager. I wanted to understand how businesses leverage existing competencies or build out new ones to best serve the customer.

This led me to get my MBA. I believe that an MBA prepares you to tackle those challenges. It forces you to view business from a lens that holistically looks at problems. My post-MBA goal is to be a leader that motivates individuals to align behind a vision and develop solutions that make organizations more efficient and customer-focused. Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business provided me with the opportunity to enhance my skills. They equip students to address the challenges of tomorrow and to always be forward focused with you view business. This was the focus I needed for my career growth.

W.P. Carey partnered with the Forte Foundation to provide opportunities for career advancement and professional development for its high-performing female MBA candidates. As a Forte MBA Fellow, I was invited to attend the 2018 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference prior to starting my MBA program. Women Fellows from around the world met in Atlanta to begin the challenging and rewarding MBA journey.

This conference provided networking opportunities with numerous Fortune 500 companies across several industries. Starting my recruiting process months before I set foot on W.P. Carey’s campus presented me with an intimidating challenge. However, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had in Atlanta. I hoped to find companies with leadership development programs that took interns down a general management path. I spoke with potential employers from across industries with internships varying in function. I took the opportunity at this conference to talk to companies who I felt passionately about on topics that got me excited about business. Amazon, Bank of America, American Airlines, and Google – these companies had cultures that supported MBA growth and female empowerment. Before I even arrived in Atlanta, those were companies I’d hoped to network with during the conference.

However, it wasn’t one of those companies that caught my attention in Atlanta. It was a company I hadn’t initially thought of as the right fit. I wasn’t aware of the opportunities they presented to MBAs. Walmart brought an incredible group of female MBAs working within in Merchandising Operations organization. Every associate I spoke to candidly shared their experience at Walmart and how the culture was different from other companies. What stood out to me was how open and welcoming the people and environment at Walmart were. They were very forward-focused and placed the customer at the center of every decision they made. Every associate was encouraged to share their voice and leave an impact. And at Walmart, the scale of their business allows you to leave an impact that drives change for millions of shoppers worldwide.

Even though I interviewed with and received offers from other companies, I always felt most supported and empowered by the Walmart team. This increased my confidence in the organization. Luckily, I received an offer before I even started business school. And it didn’t take much convincing before I accepted. Walmart sought to make a difference in the lives of shoppers around the world, and I supported that mission.

This internship gave me 10 weeks to learn as much as I could about the Fortune 1 company. Shortly before starting my internship, my manager assigned me a challenging project in produce replenishment. This project required me to work in a function unfamiliar to me and flex new skills I’d learned in B-school. And I was up for the opportunity to learn about this aspect of the business that gets product from suppliers to store shelves. However, I wanted to learn as much as possible about Walmart during my 10 weeks. This led me to develop a professional development strategy for my summer.

As a result of my internship, I hope to fully understand how the different functions within merchandising work together to bring the right product from suppliers to shoppers through the right channel and at the right time. Additionally, I seek to learn more about how Walmart gives back and makes a difference in local communities across the world. Whether it be disaster relief or using clean energy, I want to see Walmart’s underlying mission and values in action. I plan on achieving these goals by splitting my time between my project work and networking.

I personally committed to meeting with one associate each day from different parts of the business and working in the local stores at least once per month. I want to spend my time learning about all Walmart associates. Whether it be in the distribution centers or at a local store, I wanted to live the Walmart experience. This will enable me to learn more about Walmart, career opportunities at the company, and their role in the community.

Overall, an ideal internship gives me the opportunity leverage what I learned in B-school to tackle real business challenges. It is critical that a company push me to grow and develop as a leader. An internship also allows me to connect with and build a relationship with an organization, regardless of its size. I look for purpose-driven, customer-focused companies that do focus on making a difference in the communities they serve. The company needs to give interns the freedom to talk to other employees from diverse background and hear from company leaders. This openness in developing relationships with other employees allows me to truly learn the culture and see if it is the right long-term fit. I hope to utilize the skills I learn during this summer internship and leverage those when I graduate from my MBA program.

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