Kate Pepper is from the small town of Cartersville, VA where she grew up surrounded by so much family. Kate is completing a dual degree in Digital Marketing and Management Consulting and Analysis and will graduate next week.

After graduation, Kate will be joining Capital One and will work as a Management Rotation Program Associate in Richmond, VA.

We recently asked her to share both her Virginia Tech and Pamplin journeys with us.

Why did you choose Virginia Tech?  When and why did you choose MGT?

I had absolutely no clue where I wanted to go to college yet alone what I wanted to study. To keep my options open, I applied to nine different schools. My parents are so supportive and took me to tour all of the schools, but nothing felt special. Virginia Tech was the last school I had on my list to visit. I knew I would be happy at any college I went to, but I wanted that “special” feeling that everyone talks about. I remember walking around the Virginia Tech campus during the tour and being so excited. It seemed like a special place that I wanted to be a part of but I just kept wondering if it was the right place for me. Later in the tour, we learned about the Pamplin and all of the different majors that it had to offer. I remember hearing about the Business Undecided major for students who were interested in business but were unsure about the specific major. I immediately knew that that was what I wanted to do.

Name some of the internships, if any, that you had during your Virginia Tech and/or Pamplin journey.

I had the amazing opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant for Dr. Philip Thompson’s Principles of Management Class. This class was during COVID and was offered online. I would occasionally attend some of the live Zoom classes to answer any questions that students had. My favorite part about working with Professor Thompson was that he allowed me to assist him in his individual research. I researched gender and employee voice behavior, examining the differences between prohibitive and promotive voice. I met with Dr. Thompson on Zoom regularly to discuss my findings. It was such an enriching experience to be able to be a part of the research side of a professor’s work. . 

This past summer, I was a Global Communications and Brand Engagement Intern at Markel Corporation. Although this role was more focused on marketing, I was able to utilize many of the skills that I had learned from my management courses. I analyzed enterprise social networking services to improve internal communications. I performed competitive analysis on marketing activities and used this research to strategize tactics for Markel. I had the opportunity to present the information to executives of the Fortune 500 company. From my classes in Pamplin, I was well equipped to work on a summer-long project with a group of interns, collaborating and sharing ideas to deliver our proposal.

Were there any specific classes that you remember as validating your major choice to date?  

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the relationship side of management in my Organization Behavior class with Dr. Ward. On the more analytical side, I have loved learning about the process approach to quality improvement in my Product and Quality Leadership class this semester with Professor Deck. These two specific classes have validated my choice in pursuing a second degree in Management. 

“Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech is unlike any other. It is filled with professors who have had many years of real-world experience, teaching students skills that can be applied outside of the classroom. In my experience in Pamplin, I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and accomplished things I didn’t think I was capable of. I have been awarded so many opportunities that have lead me to uncover some of my passions and goals.”

Has there been a faculty member or staff member within Pamplin and/or the MGT department that has served as a mentor or source of inspiration for you during your journey? 

Professor Steven Skripak has served as a mentor for me during my college journey. He taught my first ever college class in 2018, Foundations of Business. He brought in so much real-world insight, applying what we were learning to his own experiences from working in Corporate America. Professor Skripak and I kept in touch after the one class that I had with him. I would pop in his office occasionally, updating him on my time at Virginia Tech and hearing about his plans to travel to Europe. He wrote many recommendation letters for me without hesitation. He even connected me to a former student of his who was offering free career coaching! After he retired, I wasn’t sure if I could still reach out to him to get advice. After all, he was done with his work. During my senior year, I was having such a hard time making a decision about my career after graduation. I wanted to talk to someone who would give me unfiltered, honest advice. The first person that came to mind was Professor Skripak. I anxiously called him, nervous that I was bothering him in his retired life. He offered me so much knowledge and guidance, connecting me with even more people to talk to. Without his help, my college experience and future plans would have gone very differently. I am forever grateful for his mentorship.

What advice would you provide to an incoming Pamplin freshman? 

I would tell an incoming Pamplin freshman that it’s ok not to have a plan for your life after graduation. It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do, where you want to be, or where you want to end up. Let your experiences in Pamplin lead you to discovering your passions and don’t rule anything out. Keep an open mind and pursue as many opportunities as you can, no matter how intimidating they may be.

What/who is your inspiration for leadership?  

My dad is my inspiration for leadership. I have had the unique opportunity of watching my dad and uncle grow the family business from the ground up. My dad is the smartest and most hard-working person I know. His drive, creativity, and opportunistic thinking go unnoticed. He is a well-admired individual and has a great influence on people. Having such a great role model to look up to while growing up has benefitted me more than I will ever know. My dad has always pushed me to go after my dreams, encouraging me that there is nothing I cannot achieve. He demonstrates grace, humility, and passion in everything he does and I aspire to be as great a leader as he is someday.