By Arial Starks
Ashley McLemore discovered her passion for finance while taking business courses as an undergraduate student at Mississippi State University, and as she learned more about the industry, she found herself drawn to it for reasons beyond her own career.
“I learned that women, Black people, and especially Black women were very underrepresented in the finance industry and even people with lower socioeconomic statuses,” says McLemore. “I just felt like the ability to do something I actually liked, but also use the skills that I would learn to help people in my community would be very beneficial”, she added.
“I knew I was only interested in coming to Owen because of the career outcomes Vanderbilt has,” said McLemore. “The school was very transparent when it came to the way the (MS Finance) program was structured, the way their graduates find jobs, and even just the entire admissions process. I knew once I applied that if I was accepted, I would come (to Vanderbilt),” she said.
McLemore leveraged the Mississippi State alumni network to connect with Dell Technologies, which ended up employing her as a remote Corporate Finance Intern in the summer before she joined the MSF program.
“I worked with Dell’s corporate clients, focusing on their process for exchanging laptops and desktop computers. My goal was to see if I could shorten the length of time it took the company to go through the entire process and how it would result in cost-saving initiatives,” McLemore explained.
McLemore started the MS Finance program in August 2021 and immediately took advantage of campus resources, especially the Career Management Center (CMC). Through several meetings with the CMC, she was able to take career assessments, map out her career trajectory, and connect with MS Finance alums.
MS Finance recruiting kicked off for her later that fall, and McLemore began interviewing and networking with regional finance companies. In December 2021, she was selected for a phone screening interview with Kroll Inc., formerly known as Duff & Phelps. In January 2022, the company invited McLemore to a Super Day; a couple of days later, she was offered a full-time position in their Nashville office as a Portfolio Valuation Analyst. McLemore accepted the role with Kroll in February.
“I am looking forward to joining Kroll so that I can apply and really feel confident in the skills I’ve learned,” says McLemore. “Even though it’s my first full-time role, I’m going into a position where I feel very comfortable, which I wouldn’t have been able to say a year ago before I joined the MS Finance program,” she added.
Since securing the position at Kroll, McLemore has focused her energy on her schoolwork and honing her soft skills with coaching sessions through the Leadership Development Program at Vanderbilt Business.
“My coach and I mainly focused on helping me find my voice and making sure my voice would be heard in discussions or at meetings during big conversations,” said McLemore. “We also worked on ways I could have a first good impression as well as leave a lasting impression during my first 90 days on the job. It was really beneficial to me to have those sessions,” she added.
McLemore credits the MS Finance program with helping her build the soft skills she learned through LDP and meetings with the CMC, but also with more technical skills she has gained like strategy and negotiation. “Negotiation was something that I wasn’t very confident in before, so I really learned different strategies and different ways to walk into a negotiation and the importance of being prepared. I also just learned to be more confident with negotiating so I don’t walk away feeling defeated.”
Click through the timeline below to see a visual of how Ashley McLemore got the job.