When did you graduate from Gatton and what degrees did you earn?
I graduated with summa cum laude honors from the University of Kentucky in 2018 with a B.S. in Accounting and B.B.A. in Finance ( I completed UK's dual degree program during my undergraduate years.) I also completed UK's One Year MBA Program in 2019 also with summa cum laude honors.
Tell us more about Churchill Downs’ Business Leadership Rotation Program and the work you did there.
I started with Churchill Downs in May of 2019 as a part of its initial cohort for the newly minted Business Leadership Rotation Program. During the two-year program, the analyst is meant to rotate through four six-month positions across a variety of business functions both at the corporate level and specific segment level. I was fortunate enough to have experienced rotations across a variety of functions that overlapped with my strengths while challenging me to learn in new capacities; my rotations included stints with the Corporate Business Development team, the Corporate FP&A team, and the Gaming Operations - Finance team. Throughout these experiences, I was tasked with tangible and meaningful projects such as leading due diligence efforts and developing market research insights for a $50M acquisition, developing dynamic financial models that provided key guidance during negotiations that resulted in $8 - 10M of incremental profit for the company, and even building financial reports and presentations for the Board of Directors and Executive Management to guide their strategic discussions. The program is truly a wonderful opportunity for any young professional looking for a well-rounded experience centered around developing leadership skills along with a comprehensive understanding of how each component of the business works together to create sustained growth and success.
Can you expand on how the MBA program at Gatton helped you achieve the career milestones you have?
The One Year MBA Program at Gatton set me up for success and prepared me for a corporate career in a number of ways. Prior to completing the MBA program, I had developed my technical skills well, particularly in my areas of study, and felt I had great leadership potential, but wasn't sure how to put it all together to become the sort of well-rounded collaborative leader I envisioned for myself. Fortunately, the MBA program pushed me out of my comfort zone to gain the sort of real-world experience I needed to get me over the proverbial hump. The fast-paced team environment challenged me to collaborate effectively with a variety of individuals while thinking critically and strategically about how to deploy and develop my own skills for the greater success of the team.
What is something people might not know about being in your line of work?
I could speak to some of the common notions about a career in Corporate Finance, but instead, I'll answer this one with a more broad approach because I think there is a lot that people don't know about Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs, of course, is home to the Kentucky Derby, but we do so much more in the world of entertainment. In addition to running the Kentucky Derby, we own and operate 16 industry-leading regional casinos and historical and live racing facilities across the U.S., we own and operate the most profitable online sports and horse race wagering platform in TwinSpires, and we are proud to be heavily involved with the communities in which we operate, supporting over 600 nonprofits annually. We are always looking to grow through diversification and provide our customers the best-in-class experiences, so there is never a dull moment working at Churchill Downs.
What do you love most about your job?
Being challenged daily. There are so many talented and intelligent individuals employed at Churchill Downs that I'm not able to become complacent. The motivation to perform and perform well is ever-present.
Do you have any career advice for current students or recent graduates?
Don't be afraid to fail or put yourself out there. I can remember quite vividly being afraid of failure, or not wanting to put myself out there because the opportunity for failure was present. I realize now that moments of "failure" aren't really failures at all. They are key moments to learn from your past experiences and to apply those insights to your life to become the best version of yourself. The most pivotal and developmental moments of my life have come from these sorts of experiences.
Which living person do you most admire?
This is the first question that has really stumped me. I admire so many, from family members to strangers. I admire both my mom and my brother dearly. They have shown me the true definition of consistent determination while instilling me the values I use on a daily basis, and together they provide mentorship with a true balance of truth and grace. John Cirigliano, a friend, mentor, and current Lexingtonian, has also had a lasting impact on me professionally and personally. I could speak about the magnificent quality of his work or his immense intelligence and creativity, but instead, I'll mention how much I admire his depth of character and his dedication to serving the greater good.
How do you manage a healthy work/life balance?
In a world where the lines between work and home life are blurred even more by a worldwide pandemic, this can be a difficult task, especially for a young professional trying to show dedication and commitment to his or her work. In order to maintain a balance between the two, I try to be as intentional as possible by providing myself opportunities to do things I like outside of work. The principle of force rank prioritization can help with this by obligating an individual to think critically and make difficult decisions based on what is most important. Along with this, I believe it's important to acknowledge that "off days" happen without letting it totally derail you.
What is something (either personal or professional) that you are most looking forward to?
There are so many individuals that have dedicated time and resources to help me succeed, so as my experience grows and I have more to offer, I am very much looking forward to paying it forward through mentoring other young professionals.