Our Executive MBA profile series continues with a Q&A with first year student Liz Mathews (Class of 2022). Liz is based in the Richmond, Virginia area where she works for a fine wine importer. Like many of our Executive MBA students, her passion for learning and a desire to grow as a leader led her to pursue an MBA.
And, naturally, for our oenophile readers, we asked Liz for her best wine recommendation in light of the arrival of spring and (thankfully) warmer temps – “I’m on a big bubbly kick at the moment! Sparkling wine is perfect for warmer weather days because of its refreshing and cleansing nature. It’s the wine I reach for most often. I love its versatility – it works as an aperitif and pairs beautifully with such a wide array of foods. I don’t know of a dish or occasion that sparkling wine doesn’t complement! Champagne is my all-time favorite, but there are incredible and more affordable alternatives made in the ‘Méthode Champenoise’ way, which I adore, like Austrian Sekt, Italian Franciacorta, and French Crémant.”
Catch up on our earlier profiles with Kris Green (Class of 2022), Collins Marshall (Class of 2022), Helen Yao (Class of 2022), Nate Scott (Class of 2022), Aisha Pridgen (Class of 2022), Jean Borno (EMBA ’17), Christy Sisko (Class of 2022) and Stephen Beaudoin (Class of 2022)
Q: What is your current role? What is your professional/academic background?
A: I am the Senior Vice President of Portfolio Management at a preeminent national fine wine importer, leading a team responsible for brand management of over one hundred brands. Brand management is fascinating because it is the intersection of the business’s many critical functions – supplier relations, marketing, sales, supply chain, legal and finance.
I have the privilege of working closely with many multi-generational family-owned wine estates worldwide, helping them define and adapt their brand strategy to achieve long-term success. My entire 20-year career has been in the wine industry, and I am a passionate advocate for high-quality wines made sustainably. These are wines that reflect a ‘sense of place’ and are grown taking a holistic approach that gives back to the land.
Q: How did you decide to pursue an MBA?
A: A thirst for knowledge of advanced business principles and inspirational leadership led me to pursue an MBA. The challenges facing the wine industry and the fine wine segment, in particular, are numerous. They include consolidation, regulatory hurdles, a failure to engage a younger demographic, a reliance on traditional channels, and a reluctance to embrace digital transformation. I sought inspiration, perspective and relationships from outside the wine world to position myself to lead innovation and future change in the industry.
Q: What led you to Darden?
A: In researching executive MBA programs, Darden continued to rise to the top and capture my attention. Besides its reputation as a premier business school with top-ranking faculty and its case method approach, I was impressed by the level of genuine care and support of the Darden community at every step along the way. Everyone from the admissions team, the program team, career advisors, and of course, the students demonstrated a willingness to go above and beyond, which struck me. Darden is a real community, and you cannot help but feel its deep sense of commitment with every interaction.
Q: What has been the impact of your Darden experience so far?
A: Darden has invigorated me; I am energized and excited about my potential and future! Besides learning how to navigate an income statement and create a financial forecast, I have gained confidence, broadened my perspective, and enhanced my communication skills.
Perhaps what has resonated the most with me is the significance of Darden’s mission to improve the world by inspiring responsible leaders, which is a deeply embedded element of the experience. I find myself thinking much more about the human aspect of leadership, the courage required to lead and the power and responsibility business leaders hold in making a positive difference in the lives of their employees, customers, suppliers and community.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for prospective students?
A: If you find yourself continually drawn to this program, yet you are hesitant to apply, don’t wait – do it! I was considering Darden for quite some time before applying. It was a big decision, and I was worried about balancing school demands with family (as a mother of two) and a demanding full-time job. I still remember exactly where I was when I shared this dilemma with a very close friend, and she said, “If it’s that important to you, you will make the time!”
Looking back, I am so grateful for that push that I desperately needed to pull the trigger and apply. The program is not easy; the workload is intense and demanding, but it is so rewarding, and the incredible support of the Darden community makes it possible. I have found hours in my day that I didn’t know I had by prioritizing what’s most important. In the evenings, I look forward to turning my attention to schoolwork and class after finishing my regular workday and spending some time with my family.
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