By Arial Starks
As an undergrad at Belmont University, Kristen Westerbeck found a marketing internship for Nashville-based Jackalope Brewing Company in January 2011, where she went on to earn a full-time position after graduation the following year. During her time at Jackalope, she was able to move up in the company, eventually earning a promotion to Marketing Director in May 2018.
After 8 years with the brewery, Westerbeck decided in 2020 to pursue an MBA at Vanderbilt, with the intent to wed her interest in sustainability with a marketing career.
“One of the owners at the brewery was an environmental lawyer who studied at Vanderbilt Law, and she had a big sustainability background, so a lot of the beer was brewed sustainably which piqued my interest,” Westerbeck said. “I wanted to learn more about this sustainable aspect of marketing, and I knew beer wasn’t the right market for me to do that in, so that really was the catalyst for me deciding to jump out on that limb and pursue an MBA.”
After early conversations with the Career Management Center (CMC), as well as Mario Avila at the Turner Family Center (TFC), she determined that her interests were a better fit for a career in operations, despite her marketing background.
Westerbeck identified opportunities to grow through clubs on campus and external organizations like the National Black MBA Association. “Through my roles as the President of the Net Impact Club, VP of Operations Management Club, and other leadership positions, I really developed my soft skills in a safe, risk-free environment,” she said.
She earned a Global Operations Internship with Nike by way of the 2020 National Black MBA Association Conference, which ended up leading to a full-time offer after she completed it in the summer of 2022.
Westerbeck says she is forever grateful for the countless resources, challenging curriculum, and flexible focus of the Vanderbilt MBA program, which all equipped her to land her dream job.
“For me, it’s crazy to look back over my career thus far because it’s never been about the salary or the title, but for me it’s been about figuring out what I want to do with my life and my time while I’m here. Part of that comes from me just wanting to have some fun and do some good at the same time and balance those equally,” she explained. “Being hired on with Nike and being able to be on the forefront of a company that is not only making large changes internally, but also has the ability to do good in other companies fits into those 2 categories for me of ‘have a little fun while also doing a little good.’”
Click through the timeline below to see a visual of how Westerbeck got the job.