Reena Desai ’00

1. What was your major/minor and when did you graduate?

I majored in business administration and graduated in Ma 2000. My class was the last to graduate under the name Mary Washington College. I still remember how hot the weather was on my graduation day and how surreal it felt to receive my college diploma.

2. What is your current position (title, company, location)? Can you describe a typical day?

I am a Mission Support Analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice in Richmond, VA. The most interesting part of this job is that there is no ‘typical’ day. One day I could be busy analyzing data related to the operational and administrative performance to identify areas of improvement and the next day I could brief executives and large groups on topics relating to the threat review and prioritization process. I have autonomy in this position and utilize my business skills to support executive management on making important decisions that impact the entire Richmond field office.

3. How did your major prepare you for your current job?

I majored in business administration because I knew the knowledge would benefit me no matter which career path I took. I am thankful that I made this choice because it provided a solid foundational knowledge of business and helped me develop leadership skills. I apply these skills every day at work.

4. How did you become interested in your field?

My parents were small business owner for 30+ years and encouraged me to learn about business from a young age. I was destined to have a career related to management, customer service, and data analysis from growing up in a family of successful business owners. I get my strong work ethic from my family.

5. What’s the best career advice you ever received?

If you can learn to be yourself without concern for how you are perceived or whether it matters, then you will be accepted everywhere. People judge you based on how you carry yourself, not what you look like. At least, those who matter.

6. Was there a professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you or helped you when you were at UMW?

My business professor, Patricia Metzger, left a lasting impression on me. I remember taking her cost accounting course during my last semester in college. I was having a difficult time concentrating on the subject towards the end of the semester due to experiencing a hardship in my personal life. I remember coming to her office hours to explain the situation. She was empathic towards me and said everything will be okay in the end even though it did not feel like it in that moment. She was right. I did not know about her illness at that time and she died 2 months after sharing her wisdom with me. I miss her very much and will never forget her.

7. What’s your fondest memory of UMW?

One word. Seacobeck. Need I say more?

8. Are there any special accomplishments you’ve achieved after college that you’d like to share?

I lived overseas in Norway to work for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2009. Specifically, I supported NATO’s Joint Exercise Division with building details for major exercise scenarios and acting as the technical interface between the scenario team, NATO’s modeling and simulation teams, and software development teams. I travelled most of western Europe during my time overseas and experienced a lifetime of adventures. Norway has a special place in my heart.

9. How would your family or friends describe you in seven words or less?

Emotionally strong, enthusiastic, genuine, self-aware, and nonjudgmental

10. In one sentence, what advice would you give current business students?

Nothing is going to feel right in your life until you make peace with your past.