Rachel MacKay

At the time of this interview, Rachel worked as a Director of People Operations at Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters.

Why did you major in econ?

I chose economics because I loved the creative and analytical thinking required for every class. I could take economics classes on a broad range of subjects too (e.g., education, advertising, finance). Also, I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I wanted to do when I grew up; however, I knew an economics major was a solid foundation to build upon.

I now work as the Director of People Operations at the Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters. Commonwealth Joe is a start-up coffee producer and distributor based in Arlington, VA that was founded by several UVA graduates. My job is to build out our People Operations department from the ground up, to include establishing how our company does talent planning, recruiting, onboarding, performance, training & development, and succession planning. Since this company is a start-up, everyone is a jack-of-all trades. I’m also currently running with several operations initiatives including a new market expansion effort and a fundraising effort.

Which economics course was your favorite and why?

I really enjoyed Behavioral Finance. It’s at the intersection of psychology, economics, and finance, and I thought it was particularly applicable to how I would relate to money after I graduated. 

How did you find your way to your current position now?

I worked at a large consulting firm for about 6 years post-graduation and I found the Commonwealth Joe opportunity through my network. I decided to make the jump to the start-up world because I saw I had the opportunity for a steep learning curve here. I had been doing strategic consulting within an HR department at my previous company and knew what an HR department should look like. I knew I’d immediately deliver value at Commonwealth Joe while learning the ins and outs of a fast-growing beverage company.

Some advice for current students?  

Follow your passion and invest in your network. You can use the skills that you’ve learned in school in a variety of capacities. If you are unsure of what your passion is, then chase the biggest learning opportunities. You’ll learn your strengths and what you enjoy pretty quickly, and you can pivot from there. Your background doesn’t matter; the authentic relationships that you build along the way will help you get you where you want to go.