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Real Humans of Accenture: Whitney Jordan, NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA ’22, Senior Strategy Consultant

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In this edition of our ongoing series, Real Humans: Alumni, we explore the intersection of fashion and business as experienced by Whitney Jordan, a recent graduate of NYU Stern‘s Fashion & Luxury MBA program. Read on to discover how Stern prepared her to move from being a merchant in retail to consulting for the industry out of Accenture.

Whitney Jordan, NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA ’22, Senior Strategy Consultant at Accenture

Age: 35
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio, but I have lived in NYC for 12 years
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Northwestern University, Art History
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA Program, Class of 2022
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 9 years, Early employee at Rent the Runway; Merchandising at Macy’s; then Merchandising at J.Crew
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1 year, Consulting
Current employer and title: Accenture, Senior Strategy Consultant, Consumer Goods & Retail

Why did you choose to attend business school?
Two primary reasons drove me to attend business school. First, I was working as a buyer at J.Crew. Although I loved product, I knew that long term, I didn’t want to be a chief merchandising officer. I always try to follow my gut, and after several years as a merchant at top retailers, I wanted to explore the intersection of fashion and business. I was also interested in the burgeoning influences of technology, supply chain, and sustainability in fashion, and I knew that business school could elevate my critical thinking on these issues. The second reason is that my interim supervisor at J.Crew went to business school. He had carved a niche for himself working in retail strategy, from roles at Target and West Elm to his current role, and that appealed to me. The light bulb clicked when we were in a meeting, and he was discussing EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization). I didn’t know what it meant and, afterward, vowed to learn and get myself “on the other side of the table.” 

Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
NYU Stern, and its one-year Fashion & Luxury MBA program, were a natural choice. Even though I had worked in retail, I didn’t have exposure to industry executives and thought leaders, which is a core component of the program. Post graduation, I wanted to stay in retail but pivot in function. Having a tailored curriculum that combined my professional experience with a robust academic foundation was unlike any other program. Finally, I liked the people. During the early stages of business school planning, I received advice to take note of the people (i.e., current students and alums) you meet from each school. Their personalities will reflect the school’s ethos, and I 100% believe that for Stern. Every person I talked to was warm and social, and even though it’s in the heart of New York City, Stern fosters a personable, collegiate environment. IQ and EQ are real! 

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Strategy and relationship building is imperative in consulting, and business school is a primer for both. In my program, we read dozens of fashion-specific case studies ranging from the global expansion of Starbucks to new technology rollouts at Zara. Case studies allowed me to 1.) see how modern business leaders think and 2.) role play to understand how I would handle diverse scenarios. As a result, when working with a consumer goods company to streamline their supply chain processes in my current role, I brought a multi-pronged approach to my workstream.  I learned how to create and foster purposeful relationships in business school, which I continue to lean on for advice, networking, and personal connections. This behavior extends to consulting because having a client-centric mindset results in valuable project work.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Because of my program’s structure (3 accelerated terms without a break), I didn’t have a traditional summer internship. We had three in-semester experiential learning opportunities, called Stern Solutions, however, which mirrored consulting in several dynamic ways. These hands-on projects were with prominent fashion and beauty companies like Estee Lauder and Calvin Klein, and we were presented with a business case. I conducted industry research, benchmarking, consumer interviews, and in-person client meetings. Each Stern Solutions project concluded with a final deliverable presentation with real-time feedback from our clients. These informed my decision to pursue consulting because they were mini-consulting studies, and with each checkpoint, I enjoyed seeing us get closer to a solution.

At Stern, I was fortunate to have a work-study position at the Berkley Center of Entrepreneurship as a graduate advisor to their Stern Venture Fellows and Stern Venture Studio startup accelerator. Weekly, I met with fashion, beauty, and digital startups, advising them on topics ranging from wholesale strategies to product development to QA testing. Utilizing my merchandising background, I also had a “Brand Desk” where I held office hours with individuals on branding-related questions. Engaging one-on-one with brands and doing deep dives into their concerns further underscored that consulting was a good fit.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiables (I founded the diversity employee resource group, Unity Crew, at J.Crew), and it was an integral piece of my job search. With Accenture, most Black female consultants I knew worked there or were former employees. It was important to see myself reflected in my work environment, and not only reflected but as engaged employees and senior leaders. I also wanted a firm with a strong retail presence to align with my background. With Accenture’s acquisitions of retail strategy firms Kurt Salmon and HRC Retail Advisory, it was a no-brainer. It’s normal to hop on a call and see someone wearing their natural hair or a working mom with their kid in the background. Accenture is unique because we are so large, diversity and inclusion are intrinsic to our values.

How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
It’s an exciting time to be new to consulting because COVID has disrupted entire industries. At Accenture, I am learning about new technologies and processes, including fringe ones, to respond effectively to clients and maintain a competitive advantage. Traveling has also been impacted. Although remote work is convenient, as we start traveling again, I have found in-office engagements necessary to building community and increasing project engagement. I try to go to the office 1-2x a week because I often meet someone new while there.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search? 
Start early. Because my program was one-year long, I had to be thoughtful in my job search. Based on my interests, I attended career panels, connected with alums, and made pros and cons lists. It was clunky. I was essentially beginning again in the networking process and forming my voice, but gradually, I became better. By my second semester, I had connected with key recruiters, had the final version of my resume, and had a shortlist of target companies and roles. By November, I had my dream job offer, two months shy of graduation.

–One thing you would change or do differently? 
This was challenging because some of my program was remote, but I wish I had engaged more with the greater NYU population. Going to Northwestern, I valued that NYU is a top-tier research university with multiple schools. I wish I had attended a law school lecture or a theater performance at Tisch. Even volunteered more with the undergraduate population. Interdisciplinary studies are crucial to being a leader, and NYU excels at it. I am also disappointed that I never saw Scott Galloway.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Shortly after receiving my offer, an Accenture senior leader connected me with two female managing directors in consumer goods and retail. Even though I would be starting my career as a generalist, I appreciated that they set me up for success and invested in my interests and long-term goals. I also valued that they were female leaders: a mother and a woman of color. I’m still in contact with both; one staffed me on my first project!

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Celebrate your wins! It is an uphill journey to get into business school. When you arrive and other ambitious, bright students surround you, it can feel anticlimactic, especially once grades, internships, and job offers enter the mix. But, it’s important to be mindful of the moment: being in an MBA program and the empowerment of committing to elevating yourself and your future. When I would complain about school’s difficulties, my aunt would joke, “It’s called a Master’s for a reason!” So, when students are in a challenging period, my advice is to try and reframe their thinking to acknowledge the noteworthiness of pursuing your MBA. It is a standalone accomplishment.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.