Cold Call Interview Series: Vanessa Brockway (NG)

Vanessa Brockway (HBS 2013)

Cold calls.  Your professors love them. You fear them. Your ed rep crushes them. We think it’s about time that this HBS staple gets the rebranding it deserves. Each week, The Harbus will chat with a randomly-selected member of the student body. This week, Katie Peek sat down with Vanessa Brockway (NG) to talk about Italian cuisine, the best fashion stores in Boston/Cambridge, and the dating scene at HBS.

KP: We have a lot to talk about, but you had a really cool summer last year – tell us about it.

VB: I had become obsessed with Italian cuisine as an undergrad when I lived in Florence, so once I got into HBS I decided to take the summer off and move to Italy to study wine and cuisine and the language. It was an incredible experience, kind of getting to live in Fantasyland for a while, and ignore reality.

KP: When on first dates, how quickly does that get worked into the conversation? I feel like it would probably be number three on my list after “I’m Katie” and “You looked taller in your profile.”

VB: I actually don’t know if it hurts or helps me – sometimes I feel like it weirdly actually slots me into this mother/grandma role, where it’s like “Oh, I come make the meatballs, you love the meatballs!” you know?

KP: Did the food love start at undergrad? Were you making the grilled cheese on the ironing board?

VB: I’ve always been really into art; I studied it in undergrad and always thought I wanted to be an artist full-time. It turned out I’ve kind of found cooking as my artistic outlet, so even if I’m working at my desk all day I can come home and play in the kitchen and create something and it’s a way for me to satisfy that creative outlet.

KP: What’s one other thing I wouldn’t know about you from your classcard?

VB: Hmm… when I was 15 I actually lived Yachtweek for most of a summer. I lived on a sailboat for a month or two and learned how to scuba dive, sail, all that stuff. It was amazing.

KP: If you had a relationship slot in the classcard, how would we fill that out? [Author’s note: male readers, you’re welcome!]

VB: That’s a tough one… Nothing defined in that slot, constantly evolving…

KP: Lines in the water but we’re open to newcomers?

VB: Yeah, nothing significant to report, but always open to interesting developments.

KP: How do you think guys from the North East stack up against Floridians?

VB: The one thing that is notably different about guys in Florida vs. everyone else is they take better care of themselves than I ever will. They tan, they wax, their hair is always perfect, eyebrows done, it’s kind of nice to be around guys where you’re like, “you’re actually not as well-groomed as I am!”

KP: What’s been your favorite unexpected piece of the HBS experience?

VB: This might be a cliché, but I would say the social scene – not the parties so much but people just literally want to constantly be around other people doing something fun that they all enjoy. No one came here to silo off by themselves and do an independent research project, people are constantly wanting to make plans, and you come to your inbox and you have 50 calendar invites for 50 different things that people find interesting. Just thinking about my calendar tonight I have the Southern Students’ Association Dinner, then karaoke with the section, then tomorrow night there’s a Celtics game, then Thursday we’re going to do an Ambrosia dinner for our Field 3 team – it’s just all week, there are a million events.

KP: Do you want to plug your Field 3 team?

VB: Sure, the company’s called Ambrosia, and we’re leveraging my culinary expertise from this past summer. It’s a delivery service that brings you exotic recipes with ingredients in proportioned packets to make cooking easier. In short, if you want to bring six people over to your house for dinner you get a pre-portioned ingredient package to create, for instance, a chicken curry dish with jasmine basmati rice, and it will take you no time and be so impressive. We’re launching on Friday! FRIDAY!

KP: What’s been your least favorite piece of the HBS experience?

VB: This is going to sound like a really nerdy answer, but I would say the lack of formal assistance in subjects that people might need more help in. If some people are having a harder time in Finance or BGIE or TOM, you really need to make your own way in terms of finding the services and people to help you. I mean, I would say my art training didn’t exactly give me the keys to TOM… I’m like, I can make a fishbone chart that’s really pretty? Does that help?

KP: Oh, I think there’s a definite boost for impressive visuals. Engineers love straight lines. Speaking of your outside interests, Bart suggested we talk to you because of the upcoming RLCG conference and your involvement with that what they’re trying to do with it this year?

VB: The reason I got involved in the RLCG conference is that I was going to be able to perform a functional role [Director of Marketing] for an event that I really enjoyed for retail, which I had a personal interest in. My role has been launching the conference, trying to get it well-known around campus, known among the fashion circles in New York and the greater Boston area, and just figuring out everything from what logo are we going to use to how are we going to promote it on campus.

KP: As a fashion insider, where are your favorite places in Cambridge to shop?

VB: The Tannery definitely is a great one, LF in Cambridge is incredible, and Anthropologie is always a good bet. In Boston there are some of the bigger name stores too, but I’ve yet to find a really niche great boutique in Cambridge.

KP: Are there ones you really like in Boston?

VB: My favorite brand is Reiss, and they have a great boutique in Boston. I also just for the first time went shopping the other day on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, and it was adorable. Not just clothes, but great home stuff too.

KP: Yeah, my best friend lives on Charles Street and every time I go over there I’m just like LETMEMOVEINWITHYOU.

VB: It feels like you can be a real person over there, instead of…

KP:  Some unhinged HBSbot?

VB: (Laughing) Exactly.

KP: I know, I just feel completely stretched all the time—where are you?

VB: I feel like it comes in waves. An hour will go by and I’ll feel on top of the world, and the next hour will be the end of it.  But then you look at what’s taken over our calendars, and it’s like, oh, dinner, happy hour, supporting my section in dodgeball.

KP: Hey, dodgeball matters, baby! [INSERT NUMBER HERE] points towards the SA cup!

VB: I just mean, I don’t know when flag football practice became the only thing in my schedule highlighted as urgent…

KP: Can’t miss it.

VB: No way! You don’t miss Clifton’s practice.

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