Katherine “Kat” Backof, ’19, spent her summer internship at Hilton on the team launching Hilton’s newest brand, Motto by Hilton. After graduation, she will be returning to Hilton full-time as a Brand Manager, and we recently caught up with Kat to talk more about her Darden experience. Check out Kat’s answers below!

What was your background before coming to Darden?

My background is in international development and education. I started my career teaching English in France, spent a few years conducting research in applied linguistics in DC, and then went into program management, leading workforce development projects for young people around the world. I have worked in 12 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Along the way I was working hand-in-hand with young entrepreneurs and big corporations and became interested in the power of business to spur positive change. I came to Darden to build my skills and make a move into the private sector.

Why did you choose Darden?

Darden was the last school I visited when I was applying, and during the day I spent on Grounds, it felt like something clicked. The section energy during the case discussion I observed was great. A professor spoke with a group of us prospective students about why he came to Darden, and his commitment to shaping the MBA experience stood in contrast to what I had observed at other schools. I knew if I came to Darden, I would be part of a really vibrant community where I could learn a ton and my individual contributions would make an impact.

How has your experience been?

Where do I start? As I expected, these two years have been a potent mix of learning, growth and fun. I came here to challenge myself, try new things and make connections with people. It’s fair to say that all three of those are part of every day at Darden. I got to check off some things that I had on my list on the way in, such as learning accounting, joining Community Consultants of Darden (CCoD) as a First Year and doing a Global Consulting Project in my second year.

Some of the most memorable experiences have been things that I would never have expected myself to be doing two years ago, like leading CCoD and organizing two flash mobs. These have been two of the most action-packed years of my life, and I’m thankful that when I graduate, the relationships I’ve formed with so many incredible people here will carry on – I can’t wait to see what else we will achieve together for many years to come.

How do you think Darden prepared you for the role you accepted? 

I loved strategy and marketing as a First Year, and I used a lot of the content from those courses during my summer internship. I’m sure I’ll be drawing on many other courses in my full-time role – Deviant Marketing, Decision Analysis, IDEA, Marketing Analytics, Strategy Seminar and Competitive Dynamics, to name a few. Resources from the career clubs and the Career Development Center were also useful during recruiting.

Beyond the technical disciplines, Darden has given me so much other valuable experience – through case discussions about controversial issues, courses like Experiential Leadership Development Lab and Paths to Power, and interactions with executives from a range of different businesses and industries, I have grown in how I lead and communicate my values. These lessons will serve me way beyond my next role.