Alice Rackley joined Waitrose as a graduate trainee in 2003 after reading philosophy, politics and economics at York. She spent six years on the shop floor before becoming a senior consultant at Deloitte in 2010. Two years later she joined Marks & Spencer’s ecommerce division and has worked in Mumbai since last October on the retailer’s new-store projects. Rackley, 32, studied at Imperial College Business School in London.
When and why did you decide to do an MBA?
I enrolled at Imperial in September 2009. I had been working for Waitrose and I wanted to accelerate my understanding of business and spend some time building my confidence for the next move.
What was it like?
Imperial was a great place to study. The location is perfect, right across from the V&A cafe on Exhibition Road, and I had some superb lecturers. My cohort was very international, which brought a positive dimension to group work.
The single most important aspect of my MBA, however, was networking. I spent a lot of time asking retail professionals how they built their careers. Making connections and building relationships secured my job at Deloitte.
What was the hardest part of the course?
The hardest part was getting on to the course. It took more than a year to research business schools, attend open days, secure a loan and study for the GMAT entrance test: getting my verbal reasoning and maths up to scratch was like going back to school. I was still working full time and couldn’t tell my employer what I was up to.
What part did you most enjoy?
Imperial emphasises working collaboratively with professionals in the wider world. The best part was completing the innovation, entrepreneurship and design module with a group of peers and two probation officers. They had a not-for-profit idea designed to rehabilitate young offenders. We built a business case and applied for third-sector funding and support. It was a brilliant way to put theory into practice.
Do you ever think, thank goodness I did an MBA?
Without an MBA I wouldn’t have been able to make the transition from store management at Waitrose to consulting at Deloitte. It opened doors for me and my career since has been very rewarding.
What value would you put on your MBA?
Networking and completing a final project with Asda were really valuable. I have made lifelong friends and had fantastic experiences. It’s hard to put a price on that.