February 2020 Alumni Spotlight
Marxe Alumni Spotlight with Kristina Wilson-Rocheford, MPA ‘13
In this month’s spotlight we talk to alumna, Kristina Wilson-Rocheford who is the new Senior Writer for the Supplier Responsibility Team at Apple. Wilson-Rocheford tells us about her decision to get her MPA at Marxe, her past role at Nestle and the United Nations, and more.
Tell us about your decision to go back to school. How did your time in the Marxe MPA program aid you in achieving your career goals?
I moved to NYC after undergrad to pursue a career in acting, but quickly realized it wasn’t where my true passion lay. I knew I wanted to find a job where I could make a difference in people’s lives, and at the time, I was really passionate (and still am) about gender equality and addressing gender-based violence. I was volunteering quite a bit with the New York Metro Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women, and through that experience, I decided to set a goal for myself to work for a non-profit or a government agency working on those issues. I began applying for a number of non-profit jobs, but quickly realized that these organizations didn’t see in me the right experience, or even my commitment due to my background. So I decided, in order to demonstrate my commitment to entering this field, I needed to go back to school.
I looked around at a number of schools, not quite sure what I was looking for, but I decided I should find a program that interested me and challenged me to learn new things and build new competencies. I attended an open house at Baruch, and when I learned about the MPA curriculum, I felt it ticked off all the boxes, and would give me a well-rounded education.
I always tell people, that while I learned a lot from my professors at Baruch, I really learned the most from my classmates. Baruch has this unique ability to attract established professionals in their industry who are looking to move up in their careers. Hearing their perspectives in class, learning from them about the realities of their jobs in government and/or non-profits was invaluable. They helped to ground me in the realities of the professional world that I would encounter when I graduated, and challenged me to think in new ways about a number of issues.
I saw the notice about UN internships through the Baruch Listserv. I had always dreamed of working at the United Nations, and figured it was worth 30 minutes of my time to fill out the application, even though I was sure I would never get it. Fortunately, I was wrong, and I managed to secure an internship at the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. I don’t think I would have taken the chance on that opportunity if it wasn’t for the confidence I was building at Baruch – I wouldn’t have even learned about the opportunity if it wasn’t for the career services provided by the school!
You worked at the UN in communications roles. Can you talk about that experience and its most challenging aspects?
Walking into the UN as an intern was an incredibly intimidating experience. I was working as a receptionist. and now I was working alongside some of the smartest, most accomplished people I had ever met. Not to mention, all of the other interns in my cohort came from Ivy League schools or had previously worked or interned at other UN and government agencies. Talk about impostor syndrome! I never imagined it would turn into a full-time job, so I made an agreement with myself to work as hard as I could, meet as many people as I could, and walk away with, at a minimum, some great experience and a good recommendation for my resume. Thankfully, I clicked with the team and they decided to keep me on as a consultant, which eventually turned into a full-time role.
Working at the UN was a pivotal point in my career. Our organization was very small, so I was entrusted with a lot more responsibility earlier in my career than I would have working at a very large organization. It definitely felt like a “baptism by fire,” in that you were really learning as you go, and constantly having to push yourself out of your comfort zone. The expectations and the stakes were high, and while that was incredibly stressful, it pushed me to do things and achieve things I never thought were possible. My first project out of my internship was managing an entire event track at a high-level forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I always joke that if I had applied for the job I was given at the time, they wouldn’t have hired me. But at the end of the day, I was successful, and was able to look back and say “Wow! I actually did that!” It was a huge confidence booster for me, and it was an experience that I look back on when I find myself taking on a role or a project that is really challenging. It was a feeling of, “well, if I can do that, I can do anything.”
Until recently you were managing executive communications and thought leadership at Nestle Waters. What did that entail? What initiatives did you work on?
I’ve had the unique opportunity to build a career working at the intersection of business, purpose and communications. I always like to say that, as a communicator, my power to drive positive change is to get organizations to consider what they want to be able to say about themselves, and then to figure how to make it true through action. When I first started at Nestle Waters, my role was to act as the go-to communications person for all things related to our sustainability efforts. In that role, I was helping to shape and deliver those messages, but through the voices of our executives and our presence at various events and speaking engagements, such as the Aspen Ideas Festival or Sustainable Brands. My job was to find and create opportunities to gather the right people around the table to have the conversations, and potentially create the partnerships, that would help us move the needle on issues related to plastic, water and health. I love that, even though I no longer work in the arts, I still get to be really creative everyday, whether that’s through writing articles or speeches, or just figuring out the best way to tell a compelling story.