How Does the Darden Network Work? 3 Stories of Success
By Dave Hendrick
When discussing Darden’s unique value proposition, inevitably the conversation turns to the fiercely loyal and mutually supportive group of Darden School of Business and University of Virginia graduates. It’s a network that starts in the classroom and strengthens in learning team rooms, on job treks and during Darden Cup events.
Being part of the network means many things, from always knowing a friendly face in a new city to having pools of trusted talent to consult on matters of business and beyond.
The network can also help start and grow a venture or unlock a new career opportunity, because Darden alumni know firsthand that good company makes a good company. But don’t take anyone’s word for it. Stories of the Darden network at work are many. Below are just a few.
Launching a Fund
The Darden network helped open doors in a difficult-to-crack industry for Jake DuBois (MBA ’16), and now he’s working to keep the door open for the next generation.
DuBois, the founder and principal of Blue Hawk Investment Group, was working in the asset management space at T. Rowe Price and watching for ways to advance his career when his boss, a Darden alumnus, encouraged him to consider an MBA.
DuBois took the advice and came to Darden intent on building his leadership skills and his network. He burnished his financial know-how in the classroom and with Darden Capital Management (DCM), which he led as president during his Second Year.
Although he initially wanted to increase the likelihood of putting himself on an executive track, he also increasingly considered a gnawing notion — striking out on his own.
DuBois had loved the course he took taught by Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner and Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management namesake Dick Mayo (MBA ’68), and he became further acquainted with Mayo when he joined him for an independent study course on asset management. When DuBois told Mayo he was thinking of starting his own fund, the long-time asset manager was “strongly encouraging,” DuBois recalled, telling him that he himself had started something when relatively fresh out of school.
DuBois got to work on what would become Blue Hawk Investment Group, and Mayo joined as a special advisor.
“The Darden experience gave me the exposure to [Mayo] in an academic setting so he could really get to know me,” DuBois said. “I think Darden is unique in that I don’t know how willing other school’s people would be to do what he did. It’s the culture around Darden.”
DuBois said he built the fund from the ground up by rethinking commonly held beliefs on diversification, time horizon and risk. DuBois calls the fund a concentrated, best-ideas growth fund with the same long-term time horizon on both the long and short side.
The experience at DCM has also led DuBois to reach back to the organization, and he has worked with the Mayo Center to sponsor an internship for a Darden student this summer. It’s another rare opportunity to gain an entry point into an industry that doesn’t recruit for MBA students in a traditional manner.
“People always pick up the phone within the Darden network,” Dubois said. Darden connections have facilitated opportunities for DuBois and Blue Hawk, and he says an open door or returned call in return is part of the package.
“Investing is an extremely competitive world, and no one is going to just give you anything,” DuBois said. “But for the person who is super motivated, super hungry and who wants to build something over time, Darden will provide you with all the tools you need to get there.”
Getting Big Fast
Things moved quickly for Roger Carlile (GEMBA ’16) starting his Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) at the Darden School in 2014.
Shortly after enrolling, the professional services veteran launched Ankura with a vision of a tech-forward, collaborative consulting and professional services firm focused on the governance, risk and compliance space.
Upon graduation less than two years later, Carlile — Ankura’s founder and CEO — had landed a $100 million investment from Madison Dearborn Partners and was actively recruiting his GEMBA classmates for leadership roles at the firm.
Today, with the company not yet four years old, Ankura has grown both organically and through three acquisitions, with revenue of roughly $140 million and a headcount of about 450 employees as of the end of the 2017. Four members of the GEMBA Class of 2016 — Carlile, Michelle DiGruttolo, Jaime Minihane and Prashant Lamba — hold leadership positions at the fast-growing company.
Carlile is hesitant to say that he anticipated the company’s rapid rise, but was confident in its potential and room to run at launch.
“It’s probably a little arrogant to say that when you’ve gotten to this point so quickly you knew it would happen,” Carlile said. “We’re doing things we wanted to do and anticipated doing, and we’re having a lot of success. I think it’s the result of great people doing great things — and some luck, too.”
The transplanted Texan said he thinks the UVA network effect plays out in three distinct ways in the company. One, and most explicitly, in the skills brought to bear by this GEMBA classmates.
Secondly, in the growing number of UVA graduates who work in the firm, a number too large for Carlile to know off-hand.
Finally, particularly for a company headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area, Carlile cites the less quantifiable “indirect effect” of having Darden on a resume.
“In our world, you’re often pitching things to people you don’t know and many will make the effort to look you up and figure out that you’re from Darden,” Carlile said. “I don’t know if they give us work for that reason or not, or if it’s just one more quality check, but I am certain there is a positive effect from the Darden brand and network.”
When competing for top young talent, particularly for employees with a background in sought-after fields such as data science, Carlile said the company sells the prospect of collaborative problem-solving on complex, high-profile issues. The company is the court-appointed claims supervisor on the Volkswagen clean diesel settlement process and working with the government of Puerto Rico on issues of debt restructuring, for instance.
“If you’re someone with a financial background or a data background, it can be fairly exciting,” Carlile said of the company’s work. “It would not be uncommon in a week for somewhere on the front page of The Wall Street Journal to read about something we’re doing, although you’ll seldom see our name.”
In addition to recruiting at UVA, Ankura is expanding the network in other direct ways, including paying for a member of the senior leadership team to pursue the Darden Executive MBA as a member of the Class of 2020.
“I’m a big believer in the Darden case method and the education there,” Carlile said. “I’m sure we will have people there over the years.”
Spinning-Off and Building-Up
It’s Caroline Roth’s (MBA ’14) job to know the Darden network — how to tap into it and how to grow it.
As director of university relations for Fortive Corp., Roth leads strategy and execution for the industrial growth conglomerate’s MBA recruiting and internship program. She seeks to seed the pipeline for the company’s general management development program, which takes new MBAs and puts them on a course to be running one of Fortive’s operating companies within six years. Roth says the majority of managers running operating companies have come through the general management program, a group that includes Darden alumni.
Fortive is no stranger to UVA’s Grounds, as the company spun-out of longtime Darden School corporate partner Danaher in 2016.
Spawned in part by a classroom collaboration with Professor Elliott Weiss and Kevin Klau (MBA ’02), now president of Danaher operating company Hach, Danaher grew to be one of the School’s most dedicated recruiters and has sponsored more than 150 Darden students for kaizen projects around the globe.
It’s a relationship Fortive has maintained post-spinoff.
Roth was working in human resources when she came to Darden, knowing that the goal of one day running an HR organization would require a better sense of the whole of a business.
“I got to the point where I was ready to make the transition to actually doing, instead of telling people what to do,” Roth said. “I wanted to do the implementation, and I actually used my Darden network to get my current job.”
Roughly 20 months after the spinoff, Roth continues to build the next generation of talent at the company. Fortive recruits MBAs from four schools: Harvard Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Darden.
“The Darden network has been really impressive to see. It’s nice now that people who are in those president roles know me, and I can talk to them about developing and taking risks on upcoming talent,” Roth said. “They know the brand and they know the quality of the people in the program, especially if it’s a Darden alum.”
When Roth comes back to Darden, which she does regularly, one challenge can be explaining the opportunities in a company that doesn’t yet have the name recognition of some of its peers. Roth said she explains the compressed path to leadership positions and opportunity to put their new general management background to work immediately.
“There is a really strong alignment between our culture and Darden, which is why we’ve recruited there for so long,” Roth said. “There is a really strong ability to both think strategically and also to get your hands dirty and go in and get things done. That combination is not always present everywhere, and I think it says a lot about Darden and Fortive.”
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. 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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