Many career changers pursue MBAs in hopes of becoming consultants. For Gouri Shintri, MBA '09, it was the opposite approach: She enrolled at the Tepper School after working in technical consulting, with aspirations of switching to upper management.
She was attracted by the school’s strength in technology leadership; for a woman with an undergraduate degree in computer engineering, it seemed like a natural progression. But within a month of arriving on campus, other disciplines tugged at her interest, notably marketing, which she views as one of the most efficient ways to quickly learn the full workings of a company, thus providing a more direct route to management.
So the first order of business was to join the Tepper Marketing Club, which offers networking opportunities, career services such as building interview and resume skills, and case competitions to enhance MBA students’ experience in the field.
“Especially for a career changer like myself, a lot of these initiatives give you exposure and help you reaffirm that the decision you’re making is right,” says Shintri.
For members of the 33 different professional and social clubs offered to Tepper School students, extracurricular offerings can be as valuable as what is taught in the classroom. The Marketing Club, for example, presents a speaker series in which industry professionals from heavy-hitters such as Microsoft, H.J. Heinz, and Merck come to talk about what their day-to-day work is like.
New this year is a marketing symposium series aimed at preparing first-year students for their summer internship interviews, which generally happen just as marketing concepts enter the first-year curriculum in Mini 3.
“You’re doing this fresh off your feet,” explains club president Anne Bustillos. That’s where the new Marketing Education Series comes in: Students learn the types of questions they’re likely to encounter during an interview, and experienced second-year students walk them through a framework for effectively answering typical questions such as managing new product introductions, or how they should evaluate potential new markets for existing products.
Internship roundtables, resume and market reviews, and mentoring partnerships between first- and second-year students round out the preparation.
For Shintri, the internship proved to be a key post-MBA career platform. Working as an associate brand manager for Heinz North America, she was asked to help redefine the iconoclastic glass ketchup bottle for a new generation of consumers.
Now at the start of her second year, she has already received two full-time offers, including one from Heinz.
The Marketing Education Series also serves to prepare students for case competitions, and the club itself offers access to both internal and external competitions. By mid-September, the Tepper School had already played host to two major events: Innovation Works, which is geared toward entrepreneurship, and the Heinz Case Competition, which was co-hosted with the Graduate Finance Association.
In the case of the latter, Heinz provided all of its own judges, most of whom were brand managers from the company’s other consumer packaged goods product lines. Students were asked to use pricing data and information about relationships with retailers to determine how best to drive top- and bottom-line growth for Heinz Ketchup, that company’s flagship, which had seen declining sales after moving to packaging with an upside-down dispensing design.
Bustillos says the early competitions are an exciting way for students to dive headfirst into the business of marketing.
“It’s the perfect storm,” she says. “They haven’t gotten completely into their studies yet.”
Speaker series and case competitions also help students to connect and network with alumni, many of whom gladly volunteer their time for such events, Bustillos says. Several serve as personal mentors to the students they meet; Bustillos, for example, is interviewing with one alumnus at his company in California.
“They’re here to help, and it’s another channel to use,” she says. “I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have some kind of relationship with an alum. That’s just Tepper.”