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Danielle Gapsch MBA’20

Before Willamette MBA: Program Assistant at Pacific Lutheran University
After Willamette MBA: Parts and Accessories Analyst at Volkswagen

Why did you decide to get an MBA?

I got my bachelor's in business administration at Pacific Lutheran University. Going into my senior year, I felt that I really do enjoy business but that I didn't know enough to be useful to an organization. My undergraduate studies gave me a good general knowledge, but I wanted to dig deeper and increase my earning potential. I did the math and found out that having a bachelor's in business can only get you so far, so I decided to get an MBA. I felt that it was the perfect timing.

I found Willamette MBA and I'm really glad that I picked Willamette MBA. The small cohort was helpful for relationship building. I know that most of the people I went to school with, if I were to reach out and say that I’m looking for a job, I know they’d help me look for a job at their company and recommend me and vice versa. I also really liked the electives. I got to really tailor the final year towards my interests and learned a lot. The alumni network has been really nice for informational interviews and assistance with interviewing at their companies or putting a good word in.

While I was at Willamette MBA, I concentrated in global management and operations, analysis and systems. I completed a year-long internship with Nike as a supply chain security analyst and that was a great experience. Having Nike on a resume -- or Intel or HP or you know big companies that Willamette MBA’s Career Management has strong relationships with -- can really open doors for you.

Did you have other business-related experiences prior to your internship at Nike?

When I did my one-year study abroad in Vienna, Austria, I had the opportunity to do a five-month internship at a startup incubator. That was a cool opportunity. When I came back, I looked for an internship because I wanted to continue to build my resume, but I was just having absolutely no luck. Looking back on my resume it makes sense now that no one was calling me.

I met a coffee roaster who was just starting his business and I was able to intern for him for three or four weeks. He didn't even know he needed me, but I convinced him that he needed me. I told him that I would love to help him, but I couldn’t lose money helping him, which meant that I’d like to get paid in gas and maybe lunch money sometime.

I helped him create a data system to keep track of his beans and his roasts. I set up QuickBooks for him and got him rolling on good business practices because he had the passion for the coffee, but not for the paperwork. And that was something I could put on a resume. Don't give up hope if you're having a hard time finding an internship at a big company. The internship at the startup incubator and the coffee roaster were both unpaid.

What got me to where I am today is just being able to express my ability to want to learn. And making sure that potential employers understand that I may not have 100% of skills needed for the job right now but that's okay because I can gain those skills and bring other things to the table.

Could you tell me more about the process of getting into the rotational program at Volkswagen?

I started applying to full-time positions the first week of school in my second year. I was an applying machine. I went to Career Management for a lot of strategizing on where to apply and who I can contact in the companies I’m applying to. I also went to Career Management for help with narrowing down the jobs I was applying for based on whether those jobs and companies would be a good fit for me.

I applied for the Volkswagen rotational program in September and I thought I wouldn’t hear back from them. Two months later I got an email that said I made it to the first round and was asked to do a recorded interview. I made it through that round and I got an actual live interview. That one was a bit of a trip. I got the invitation email late on a Sunday night and I had gone to bed already. Luckily I woke up early, checked my email, and found out that my interview was going to happen in less than an hour. The internet at my house wasn’t good, so I had to race to school.

For the final in-person interviews, Volkswagen flew out 60 people to Virginia, so I flew out in the last week of January. It was a super competitive program. They got thousands of applications, and I was really surprised I was invited for the final round. It was two whole days of interviews, but it was a good experience.

What is a rotational program like at Volkswagen?

Basically, you're hired into a position and then you go to three different teams and they give you an idea of what you might be working on and it's all project-based. When I initially applied I just applied for the overall program and then during my initial interview they asked me to rank my top three. I got interviews for my top two and after the final round I was offered both.

How did you decide to say yes to Volkswagen?

Volkswagen is really trying to get more women in the automotive industry and I want to be part of that change.

I didn't know anything about cars and didn’t have any automotive industry knowledge. I can change brakes and I can check my oil, but I didn’t know anything about engines or anything like that, so it was a bit of a stretch. I was up front about my lack of knowledge with Volkswagen, but I said I’d love to learn. Most of the people who made it to the final interview were big car people, they were talking about Top Gear constantly, and I was like, “Cars. Yeah. Vroom vroom.”

Could you tell me more about your primary responsibilities at Volkswagen?

After sales is an umbrella for everything after the car has been sold to the dealer. Think parts, accessories, service, customer retention, and even collision. My first team was on parts and accessories, so selling parts and accessories to the dealers for them to sell the customer. For example, when you go to a dealership, there are two Volkswagen Jettas, one has no floor mats, no bells and whistles and another one has floor mats, trunk liners, a sunroof and all the bells and whistles. There’s a price difference, obviously. When the dealer orders a vehicle, they can put on as many accessories as they like -- after the car leaves the factory but before it gets to the dealer -- to make the vehicle more attractive to the car buyer. I was doing a lot of analysis for after sales accessories.

Right now I'm in wholesale, selling to dealers who are selling to auto body shops and collision shops. That's a whole other ballgame.

What do you like most about your work?

I like that I'm getting a good understanding of after sales: what kind of data is being reported and what kind of data the team uses. I really like the project-based nature of my job, but that also means sometimes I’m slam packed and sometimes I have free time to do LinkedIn Learning or take Volkswagen classes. I have a lot of freedom and can make it what I want.

What do you think is most important for Willamette MBA students to know about rotational programs?

If you're the kind of person who needs regularity and more structure, rotational programs probably aren't for you and that's okay. This isn't for everyone. I often don't know what I'll be working on day-to-day. For example, I was working on a project and I received another request that took me quite a while to finish. So you’ll have to be able to stop and start frequently and be okay with that.

You have to be like a sponge because the whole point of rotational programs is to learn. If you don’t like the idea of being the least knowledgeable person in the room at all times, a rotational program is also not for you.

You mentioned that you had less than an hour to prepare for your second interview with Volkswagen. What interview strategies or advice do you have for future Willamette MBA students?

Do some research before an interview. I had done the prep for my initial interview, so I looked back on my notes. I looked at Glassdoor really quickly and made sure I had an answer for all of the questions provided by previous interviewees and most of them were asked. I was in a study room, so I had the whiteboard in front of me so I wrote as much as I could just in case one of the questions was: “Name your favorite Volkswagen.” To be honest, I didn't know that much about cars so I had to look them up online. I thought, “That one looks dope, I'll write that down.” I had two answers for that question: the Beetle because it's iconic and I wanted one growing up and then Arteon because it's sporty.

One of my classmates and I did an outrageous amount of interview prep. We would sit in a room for hours and ask each other questions and critique each other’s answers. Find a classmate you can practice with because an answer may make perfect sense in your head but for someone with no context they might think you sound crazy. What was most helpful for me was cutting out fluff because when I’m nervous I tend to go on and on.

About five minutes before an interview, when my heart is racing, I’ll do the power pose for one and a half minutes and focus on deep breaths. I tell myself, “I'm going to rock this. I got this. I've prepped for this.” Do your best and everything will turn out for the best.

Danielle Gapsch MBA’20

Danielle Gapsch MBA’20

Willamette University

Early Career and Career Change MBA

Salem Campus

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.