UVA Darden School Network Solidified Over Dinner, Porsches
By Dave Hendrick
The power of the University of Virginia Darden School’s network was on full display in Atlanta over the summer, as a casual conversation at a Darden happy hour led to fruitful relationships between the CEO of a major automotive technology company and a group of Darden students.
In addition to exchanging advice and ideas, seven members of the Class of 2016 received a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Porsche Experience Center and raced against each other in high-tech sports car simulators.
Alison Mehlsak (Class of 2016), who spent her summer as an intern in the sustainability sector at Coca-Cola Co., said the exchange began when Dr. Hagen Radowski (MBA ‘91), CEO of MHP Americas Inc., came to a Darden social event organized by a group of Darden School interns in Atlanta.
“He got to meet almost all of the interns who made it out to the happy hour and made great connections with all of us,” Mehlsak said of Radowski.
Before leaving, Mehlsak said the CEO invited the group of future consultants, bankers and marketers to spend some time with him at MHP. The Porsche subsidiary, which specializes in automotive-focused IT consulting, has its U.S. headquarters at the recently opened Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta.
“To me, the unique thing about Hagen is he actually followed up on the offer to host us,” Mehlsak said. “He really made a great experience for us.”
In addition to sharing lessons from his own company, Mehlsak said Radowski was curious as to what current MBA students looked for in a job and how a company such as MHP could position itself as a destination of choice.
“He had some ideas about what would make MHP successful in the U.S., and we were both confirming those assumptions and also offering new ways to think about his value proposition to MBAs,” Mehlsak said.
Radowski said he wanted to share the story of MHP and its role in the future of digital mobility and the connected car, as well as get a better sense of the modern Darden student. On the latter point, Radowski said he came away suitably impressed.
“I realized that the caliber of the students at Darden is higher than it’s ever been,” Radowski said. “It’s wonderful to see these young, super-motivated people.”
After a tour of the Porsche Experience Center, the Porsche Heritage Museum and a few simulated trips around the racetrack — all of which provided a close-up view of novel marketing of a luxury product, according to Mehlsak — the interns and Radowski sat down for dinner and a casual exchange of ideas.
Mehlsak and her fellow students explained some potential recruits might be self-selecting out of the recruiting pipeline to a company such as MHP, thinking they did not have the automotive or IT expertise for success. However, with a solid foundation in consulting, students should know that they can succeed in many industries without necessarily being subject matter experts, Mehlsak said.
“Having finished the First Year at Darden, I think all of us felt very confident in speaking about what MBAs are looking for and how an employer can be more successful in the recruiting process,” said Mehlsak. “It was pretty fresh for all of us, so from that perspective we were absolutely experts in the MBA experience.”
Radowski, who was a guest lecturer in Professor Tim Laseter’s “Emerging Topics in Technology and Operations” class in 2014, said his company could find the right candidates by selling potential recruits on the benefits of an international high-tech organization such as MHP, as well as the dynamic scene in Atlanta.
“The new competitors in the digital automotive space no longer come from Europe, they come from the U.S.,” Radowski said. “Atlanta is the new auto city.”
Regardless of the ideas gained or assumptions challenged on each side, both students and executive said the experience clearly showed the enduring bond of the Darden network.
“Throughout your experience, the community is so important,” Mehlsak said. “I feel the same way in meeting Hagen as I have about meeting any other Darden alumni. There’s automatic warmth and open arms. It’s ‘let me help you.’”
Said Radowski of spending time with the Darden students: “It’s refreshing and motivating and exciting. They are very up to date and are where they need to be in the corporate world. And, overall, they are great personalities.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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