By Heream Yang
Olivia Rovelli (MMark’18) fell in love with marketing early on in her undergraduate career at Wake Forest University. “I knew I wanted to do something with business,” Rovelli said. I love psychology, I love people, (and) I love brands, so I thought (marketing would be) a good mix of all these aspects.”
Outside the classroom, Rovelli’s passion lay in health and fitness. As a certified fitness instructor, she regularly taught group classes at the university’s campus recreation center. Merging her love of exercise and marketing, Rovelli initially wanted to launch her career in sports marketing. However, after completing an internship during her senior year, she decided that her passion for fitness didn’t translate into a full-time career she wanted to pursue.
Instead, Rovelli began hunting for general marketing and brand management positions. But the deeper she went into her postgraduate job search, the more she realized that she needed an advanced degree to get the kind of job she really wanted. “That’s when I knew I wanted to take my marketing curriculum and go one step further with it,” Rovelli said. She began looking at Master of Marketing programs to fill in that education gap.
Rovelli’s older brother attended college at Vanderbilt and then went on to get his Master of Science in Finance at Owen, so she already knew about the school. “I decided it would be super smart to get my (Master of Marketing) at Owen,” she explained. “My brother was in the MSF program while I was a senior, and he went to Vanderbilt (as an undergraduate), so I knew I loved Nashville already, I knew I loved marketing, and I thought this would be a perfect fit.”
Competitive, not Cutthroat
When Rovelli entered the Master of Marketing (MMark) program in the fall of 2017, she never expected to find a community of lifelong friends. Her class of 15 students became extremely close over the course of the school year. “All of us girls were like sisters by the end of it,” she said. Whether they were watching the Bachelorette on Monday nights or attending Cyclebar classes that Rovelli taught at the Gulch, the Master of Marketing class developed an unbreakable bond.
The students’ close camaraderie carried over into the classroom. While they were intimidated by the prospect of taking classes alongside more experienced MBAs at first, they were able to leverage their own strengths as social media savvy millennials. “We held our own,” Rovelli said. “We honestly pulled out some really awesome millennial things that (the MBAs) didn’t know about, so we were at an advantage there.”
For example, in one of their marketing classes, the students were tasked with creating an advertisement for a fashion brand. Using Canva, an online graphic design platform, Rovelli and her classmates created a commercial featuring Emma Stone. “All the MBAs’ jaws just dropped and they were like, ‘These kids are going to shake this up,’” Rovelli said.
Rovelli enjoyed collaborating with her classmates and thrived off of the supportive atmosphere she found at Vanderbilt Business. “We were all super close and very collaborative, not cutthroat,” Rovelli said. “I love that whole vibe, and I am competitive. I have that drive in me and I still do, but you should be able to lift people up and work together and get things done.”
Nashville to New York
While Rovelli fell in love with Nashville and the south, she ultimately decided to look for full-time opportunities near her home in Connecticut. “I went to school in the south for five years… so it was kind of bittersweet leaving Nashville, but something always pulls (you) back to where you’re from,” she said.
Rovelli’s recruiting process can best be described as networking, networking, and more networking. She attended all of the on-campus info sessions she possibly could and conducted multiple networking calls with alumni. Rovelli also flew up to New York City for coffee chats, and says that in-person meetings were a large part of her recruiting success. “It shows that you care and that you’re really determined and want to put the effort in,” she said. “Showing (up in person) is so huge and so rare these days in the age of technology, so it’s nice to create that physical connection with someone.”
Armed with her Master of Marketing degree and networking connections, Rovelli ultimately landed a job in New York City, where she works as a Senior Analyst for Global Loyalty Partnerships at American Express. She partners with major brands like Sephora, The Cheesecake Factory, and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to develop gift card loyalty programs for American Express customers, who can redeem the points they earn from transactions for rewards like gift cards, flight miles, and hotel stays. “We definitely stay ahead of the game and think outside the box, which is pretty fun since it allows me to bring my creative energy and my marketing background (to my work),” she said.
Having worked at American Express for several months, Rovelli has no doubt that the company is a great fit for her. “I wanted that big corporate feel with a solid reputation and amazing marketing program, but I also wanted to be able to have my life and my flexibility and love the people that I’m working with,” she said. Rovelli especially enjoys the work-from-home Fridays, as well as the inspiration she gains from surrounding herself with a workforce that is over 50% women.
Reflecting on her journey from North Carolina to Nashville to New York, Rovelli says she’s grateful for each step of the way and where she is now. “(American Express) is big on lifting each other up and it’s a really positive environment to be around and to start out as my first job, so I got really lucky,” she said.