Melissa Tacey Brooks

M.S. in Commerce 2010 (Marketing & Management), University of Virginia

B.A. in History and Economics 2009, University of Virginia

After: Northrop Grumman Corporation, Financial Planning Analyst (Washington, DC)

Now: Booz Allen Hamilton, Lead Associate of People Strategy & Operations (Washington, DC)

Leveraging liberal arts with business

The advice of my first academic adviser really changed the way I looked at my undergraduate career. He told me to venture out and take advantage of all of the academic offerings at UVA. I really enjoyed doing that; I learned about subjects I would likely never get the chance to study again, with some of the best lecturers in the country. It set the foundation for me to discern what I enjoyed learning about and how I liked applying what I studied to daily life, and helped me mature to appreciate business. By the time I entered McIntire, I felt well-rounded, with a great foundation to build a business education and approach.

Most memorable class: Project Management

My favorite class was Project Management with Professor Ryan Nelson. I really liked his teaching style. He focused on the application of project management principles and gave us hands-on activities to reinforce important concepts. It’s the class I've applied the most in my professional career.

The value of Commerce Career Services

Commerce Career Services is a great network. I utilized CCS’ services primarily to focus on shaping my resume to distinguish myself from other job applicants. The staff had insight into how to stand out and tailor individual experience to each employer.

What makes the job great

I work with great people. Booz Allen Hamilton is full of talented people who like what they do. It fosters a great team environment, and each person is given a chance to provide ideas and insights to innovate delivery and support client needs. My leadership also emphasizes individual growth. It can be a lot of work and responsibility, but when your leadership believes in you, it is easy to self-motivate.

A typical day at the office

Booz Allen supports the concept of working at an office closest to your home. My team is spread out throughout the D.C. area, all the way from West Virginia to Maryland. On a typical day, we might gather in Mclean, Va., to have team meetings and accomplish anything that will be more productive face to face. Our team is currently developing Web-based and classroom learning material to support the rollout of a transformational IT system from the Air Force. Many days I attend lots of cross-functional meetings with IT subject matter experts and team leads so that we can sync up with needed action items and deliverables for the week.

Advice for future students interested in consulting

Consulting is a great industry to start out in, even if it’s not your end goal. You gain exposure to many business concepts and are given the opportunity to see things you like and things you don't like. Use your first job as a stepping stone to see what you are interested in and gain experience, and after a few years, don't be afraid to change course or try something new. Also, consulting is a very fluid industry; your first project may not be your dream job, but take advantage of every single opportunity. Don’t ever think you won't learn something from any position you are offered; do well wherever you are placed, and leadership will notice.

Importance of the Global Immersion Experience

Working with the Air Force, there are bases all over the world. I was sent to Hawaii to assist in a training event with employees from all over Asia. Having been exposed to business culture in Asia through GIE, and knowing some of the cultural differences to expect, I was able to proactively shape curriculum to encourage participation. It also helped in developing relationships, as the participants and we already had things in common with our travels.

Most memorable GIE cultural experience

My most memorable cultural experience took place one evening after a group dinner. One of my classmates invited us all to walk around an Indonesian marketplace. He approached a group of locals and started playing guitar with them. It turned into a group of Indonesians and Americans singing Jason Mraz songs together. That’s something I will never forget. We couldn't speak to each other, with the language barrier, but everyone could sing together.

Biggest take-away

The community. I actually value it more now than I did back then. As I've grown professionally and personally, I've found the people you experience such new and life-changing events with tend to stick with you. They are always special. Our M.S. in Commerce class does a good job of keeping in touch.

Life after graduate business school

A fellow UVA grad and friend of mine, Laura Pritchard, started a nonprofit gym in Atlanta called Urban Perform, which is now a part of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation Network. Urban Perform serves an economically challenged area of Atlanta by providing an affordable gym option and community activities to help battle obesity in that area. I've served on the board of the gym since 2012, and I love it. It is great to see how work makes a difference in a local community. I also enjoy running, cooking, and traveling, and I'm learning to rollerblade again.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

Check out the new restaurants. Charlottesville is such a foodie destination, and there are always new places opening up.