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Former English and political science major Rachel Warzala Chesley ’11 helps companies, boards of directors, lenders/creditors and buyers through the logistics and challenges of financial restructuring as a consultant for FTI Consulting.
What does your current work entail?
I am a consultant providing communications counsel to companies, boards of directors, lenders/creditors and buyers as they prepare for, execute and emerge from financial restructuring.
How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most?
From my time at Dickinson and my first postcollege jobs, I developed a core set of skills in synthesizing complex ideas and communicating in writing and verbally. I’ve been in strategic communications since 2014 and leading FTI Consulting’s restructuring communications offering since early 2020.
I get up in the morning excited to help clients working through challenging moments—for themselves and their businesses. I work a lot with teams that are grappling with huge inflection points for their business, and they have to take in that information while also being responsible for communicating it to others, which is tough, emotional work. Helping clients work through the strategy, logistics and emotions of those highly charged situations so they can come out on the other side communicating effectively is the best part of my job.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path?
The biggest thing I took from Dickinson was the ability to think critically and execute on self-directed research. When I get ready for a pitch or client meeting, I often ask a supporting member of my team to put together a briefing package—what is this potential client facing, why do they want to talk to us, what is happening in their ecosystem that we should be aware of, who else should be involved in this conversation? I’m always looking for that liberal-arts mentality to bring the best thinking to how we approach and tackle our clients’ problems.
What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson?
Serving as a class officer and having the chance to plan activities like Senior Week was a ton of fun.
How has Dickinson’s focus on global education impacted your life or career since graduation?
I did not study abroad, but I have always valued the global perspective at Dickinson’s core, and it is impossible to work in business right now without understanding and valuing a global context. Most recently, FTI Consulting supported a major international airline in their Chapter 11 filing and process, as it navigates the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on travel. I worked with a global team of communicators in the U.S., Brazil, Colombia and Mexico over the course of three weeks as we prepared for the filing, developing 100-plus pieces of material across three languages and eight geographies. Here’s an infographic we created for them in Spanish, Portuguese and English to explain the process—what it means and, more importantly, what it doesn’t mean.
What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?
Beyond meeting my husband and the best friends of my life, my greatest memory from Dickinson was the work on my senior thesis in English (major shoutout to Professor of English Carol Ann Johnston, who is a truly amazing scholar, teacher, mentor and friend). The entire senior seminar process was amazing—the two-semester seminar, the feedback sessions, the ability to dig meaningfully into a topic of my own design. It was the greatest moment of my educational career, and if someone gave me the chance to do it all over again, I would jump at it. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity through their major or capstone course to conduct a substantial piece of written research to take full advantage of it.
How do you stay involved with Dickinson?
Because the opportunity to enter this industry fortuitously fell into my lap years ago, I love paying it forward and making connections where I can. The biggest place where I feel like I can move the needle is giving alums and current students visibility into consulting. I do a lot of informational interviews and vetting and passing along of resumes—both for the strategic communications segment in which I work and for other practices within FTI.
What comes to mind as something unforgettable that you’ve done since you graduated?
My work has taken me to some cool places and given me great opportunities at key moments in my clients’ business lifecycles. Some fun highlights: I’ve managed an executive transition in Dublin, spent time with a major global conglomerate in Tokyo, briefed an executive team on the Chapter 11 process in Paris and announced a transformative specialty pharma acquisition in San Francisco.
Published August 14, 2020