I had the great pleasure of interviewing a Class of 2015 Alumnus, Stephen Griffiths. The following is a summary of our interview where we covered topics like what Stephen was doing pre-MBA, why he chose UW-Madison, what he has been doing since graduation, and what new and exciting things are on the horizon for his career? Stephen has proven to be an excellent Alumni of the Nielsen Center and a resource for current and prospective students alike.
Pre-MBA, Stephen worked for Nielsen BASES which operates as a consulting arm of Nielsen. BASES has been trusted for years as the standard for new product testing in many Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) companies. After about 3.5 years of writing surveys, writing reports, and reporting to clients, Stephen ran up against the classic consulting problem: not seeing the results from the research put into action. His love of storytelling and for seeing companies make meaningful changes led to a desire to pursue a career path where he could directly impact decision making. An MBA seemed like a good route coupled with the intention to work within a leading CPG company.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison stood out to Stephen as the premier MBA for marketing research. He had weighed the options between master’s in marketing research (MMR) or an MBA. Stephen decided that he wanted to be in the role of a holistic research partner not a supplier. Many MMR are focused on the skill sets needed to be a world class researcher. An MBA from UW Madison in the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights would provide the training in necessary skill sets but also the business knowledge and experience that comes with a broad focused MBA. Stephen had enjoyed the research part of his job at Nielsen, and was willing to be technical in the future, but also wanted to answer the broader business questions and apply the research to drive results. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was the best choice to achieve these goals. The quality of education was further enhanced by applied hands-on learning sessions on Fridays where students get exposure to current industry topics and can hear from and network with leading companies. The Executive Advisory Board was another key factor for Stephen in choosing UW-Madison and the Nielsen Center advisory board is made up of dozens of high-level industry professionals in the marketing insights and research industry from both the client firms and suppliers. The Executive Board Meeting each semester is a valuable resource for the students to meet with and learn from leaders in the field. All these elements enhanced the quality of the education and helped differentiate the Wisconsin School of Business and the Nielsen Center from other degrees.
In addition to the quality of education at UW-Madison, the job placement for the students in Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights is very high and has strong connections to some of the largest and most prestigious companies in the country, including CPG firms. It seemed to be the ideal place for someone who wanted to be on the client side of research. Many MBA’s do not have the connections and placement track record for insights roles that the Nielsen Center at UW-Madison has, so for Stephen the choice soon became clear. Stephen attended school and was able to land an internship at Proctor & Gamble for his summer internship.
Since graduation from the MBA program, Stephen took a full-time opportunity with General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he still lives with his family. Stephen took a role as a Global Consumer Insights Associate in an analytics role working with brands like Larabar, Fiber One and Nature Valley. The Nielsen Center education gave Stephen more of a technical edge versus his colleagues at the same level from different programs. In that role he was focused on Nielsen data, segmentation, marketing mix and market structures.
After some time in that role he sought a change and wanted new experiences, so he joined the Convenience and Food Service (C&F) team working on growing hot food and bars, and innovation projects for the C&F space. Here Stephen enjoyed deeply understanding the consumer and what the C&F consumer wanted. He worked on bringing to market a new hot food option in the form of a Pillsbury Stuffed Waffle, which was a taste focused product and was sold in stores like Seven 7-Eleven. It proved to be one of the largest innovation product launches for C&F in a long time.
Following his time in that role Stephen recently joined the Cheerios brand in the Cereal Business Unit. Being a lead insights role on a brand means you are focused on brand strategy, packaging work and innovation. He can address a lot of business questions that touch the Cheerios brand and work with cross functional teams to solve big challenges. He enjoys the fact that it provides an opportunity to leverage all your knowledge and experiences like innovation or analytics to answer important questions and be an impactful resource for the brand and the company.
In addition to this new role, Stephen is excited about new changes in his career. He is particularly grateful that General Mills recently updated its paternity leave policy to 12 weeks paid time off. He took advantage of this when he welcomed his newest addition to his family, a baby boy born this summer. This generous policy allowed him time to spend with his family. Stephen also launch a new podcast focused on the insights industry called Digging For Insights. Stephen interviews leaders in the marketing insights space to cover a wide variety of related topics. Recent episodes include topics like “Career Advice and & MR trends with Lisa Gudding, EVP at IPSOS” and even an interview with the Nielsen Center’s very own Kristin Branch as part of a Grad School Series. You can find Digging for Insights wherever you listen to podcasts or at DiggingforInsights.com.
I am grateful for the opportunity to interview Stephen and learn more about his background. I am also privileged that I will get to work alongside him at General Mills this coming summer and continue to learn from his breadth and depth of experience.