We recently caught up 2020 Executive MBA (EMBA) format student Tiffany Pillifant to talk a little more about why she chose Darden, and what she’s enjoyed about the program so far. Check out Tiffany’s answers below, and be sure to review the other posts in our ongoing student profile series

City: Charlottesville, VA
Years of Experience: 18

What is your current job?

I’m the Marketing Performance & Insights Lead for Thomson Reuters’ Tax business. In this role, I use data analytics and the voice of the customer to bring focus to the information we need to make great decisions. My team’s responsibilities are two-fold: 1) Identifying actionable insights to ensure the highest performance for our marketing efforts and 2) Staying engaged with the customer, the market and our competition so that our strategy is always grounded in fact.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I have extensive experience with software product management, design and strategy and have built my career within that vertical. For a long time, I thought that having a great product that customers loved was the most important thing for a company. However, I have come to realize that the supporting commercial policy, operations and strategy present an even greater opportunity for innovation and distinction.

In my most recent roles, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew just enough about the mechanisms of business to be dangerous but not enough to be truly fluent.  I needed a way to efficiently absorb all the knowledge needed to make an even bigger leap in the future, and I decided that, rather than invest in standalone courses, I would immerse myself in an MBA.

Why did you choose Darden?

Darden was a no-brainer for me for so many reasons. Logistically, it was seamless – I live in Charlottesville, I attended UVA undergrad (I’ll be a double Hoo!), so I can attend classes and residencies and still remain connected with my family and community. But what really distinguished Darden for me was the case method.  Besides the fact that the case method situates your learning in real-world scenarios, it’s just more fun. It grounds class discussions in actual events but also leaves room for twists and exploration.

What attracted you to the executive formats of the Darden MBA?

I love that the executive formats honor and respect each student’s unique experiences and perspectives. Our peers range from career executives managing crucial healthcare operations to high-ranking military officials, to daring journalists, programmers, finance gurus, the list goes on. The faculty understands that we are professionals, we each bring different backgrounds to the table, and we can both consume and contribute to learning.

What’s your favorite thing about your classmates so far?

When choosing an MBA program, the most important thing for me was the type of learning environment I’d be in.  Because I’m deep in my career and am pursuing this degree for my own growth and development, I wanted to learn, and I absolutely did not want an overly competitive classroom environment. Each interaction I had with the Darden community prior to admission, and all of those since, have reinforced that I made the right choice.

During my class visit prior to applying, I observed students’ asking all manners of questions, helping each other with concepts and being active listeners. Since starting the program, I have found that my classmates are willing to discuss their leadership strengths and weaknesses and are a genuinely interested in improving. Being in an environment where people are more concerned about growth and less about how they present themselves is incredibly refreshing.

What are you most excited about accomplishing/doing during the program?  

If you had asked me this question prior to starting the program, I would have said that I was extremely excited about improving my financial fluency. And, to a certain extent, that is still the case. However, I’m currently most excited about being part of a community that is so focused on helping each other succeed.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Take time to figure out what matters most to you in a learning environment. Do you thrive under pressure and competition?  Do you like a collaborative, free-form environment? Know what you like, and then come for a class visit. Observe the class dynamics, the faculty and stay for lunch. Talk to current students and ask all of your questions. We love to talk about the program and we will give you honest answers to your questions. After all, not so long ago, we were in your shoes!