While I was at Royal Bank of Canada, I attended NYU. And that was one of the biggest elevators in my career. When I went into NYU, I felt like a fish without my water. And then I got there, the first day, I found my soulmates. I’m still friends with all the people from NYU! We are really close. It was one of the things, NYU was the perfect fit, but I would say that people should listen to their hearts when they choose their schools. I had the choice between Columbia and NYU, a classic choice in NYC when you get to that level, and those are 2 unique personalities. Go where you belong. Don’t let academia drive that choice. Because when you find the right people, specifically in an MBA program, you will naturally leverage the network much more. It’s not going to feel like networking, you’ll feel like you have your friends.
So I went to NYU, I joined for Microfinance - they said you had to know what you wanted going into the program. And what I found quickly was that I could not save the world, so that kind of broke my heart - I wanted to do Microfinance, I was fascinated by the field. And around that time, the seed of happiness got into me - that what you do needs to be what you love doing. And finance, while I did it well, was not the love of my life. But it was a hard horizon to change to marketing or customer experience. It felt unachievable. So when I was finishing my program, one thing I was keeping in check was “No matter what I do after, I will give myself a few years of having a job to make me happy.”
So the story of how I got the Jetblue job is quite interesting and funny: I was about to graduate, and everyone except me had an offer to go down pre-defined paths of the MBA - investment banking, strategy, data jobs. I kept saying “I don’t want to travel all the time, I want to do something where I can see the impact, and not feel like a cog in the system.”
So my friend made me go to this one event for a recruiter, and I promised to take 3 cards before I left, to justify attending. So I had 2 cards, I had a glass of wine, and then I see a woman who looks my age, who asks what I’m doing here, and I started talking about who I am, how I came all the way from Bulgaria, how I want to have impact, and how it’s difficult to find jobs with heart. And she said “Oh my God, you’re a great culture fit for my company!” And I looked at her, and got all pale, because she was a recruiter, not a student! And she said she was recruiting for JetBlue Airways. I said “I don’t know what I can contribute.” She said “You can contribute a lot, just leave it up to me to find a way to get you in.”
I didn’t think much of it, because that’s how it goes around MBA recruiting time, but a month later, they called me in for an interview - I got a demotion, I went into HR, and that was considered career suicide in the MBA world! Unfortunately, HR is not seen from the finance perspective as being what you do with an MBA. But the VP of JetBlue said that I was going to help build JetBlue up to be a world-class travel company.
So I started at JetBlue, I spent 1.5 years doing people strategy work, thinking about pay structures, labor negotiations with flight attendants, and then from there I spent a year in the finance group, overseeing the operations and the airports, so I made a deal with the VP of finance to allow me to travel to find savings, so during that year, I learned everything about airports - I pushed a plane, cleaned a plane, I flew a plane in a simulator, you name it, I
did it! I did find the money for the VP, and from there, I got noticed by the marketing and commercial groups (sales and marketing) and moved into marketing, where they gave me a cross-role between marketing and strategy. So for example, when we opened Cuba, we had to decide where to fly from to Cuba, in terms of sequence, how often, all these things. I also took over strategically the marketing campaigns to think about which times you advertise what geographies we fly to, international marketing strategy, thinking about how we spend our marketing budgets. And also being able to explain this to all the marketing teams. And then I managed sales and marketing just for LATAM in an interim fashion, which helped me get the job to become a customer experience director, under the leader who is now the President for