A mere 21 months ago, I joined the A.C. Nielsen Center with 10 highly accomplished classmates. I had dreamed of being in marketing insights since my undergrad and I was nervous. I was in some ways the odd one out with a nontraditional background in entrepreneurship; spurred initially by need to have a part-time job during acute illness as I finished undergrad, and then swept along to almost double-full-time for several years by its rampant success. While I already knew I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, I did not yet know how to communicate that confidence in the corporate setting.
I was excited to learn how to take the leap into the marketing insights industry through industry knowledge, as well as building the skills to be a successful cross-functional team member. What I didn’t realize I would also need to do, and would end up valuing just as much, was be enculturated into the corporate world so that my skills would be as visible to those who just met me as they were to those who worked with me.
The A.C. Nielsen Center has a wide variety of friends in the marketing insights field, who generously provided their time to prepare us with industry knowledge. Being exposed to the latest methodologies in current topics courses, hearing marketing insights experts from diverse industries discuss and debate the trends every semester with our External Advisory Board, and going on trips to see marketing insights “in action” with companies, and many other steps, the friends of the A.C. Nielsen Center have been invaluable to me. They have helped me see the trajectory of people in the field – supply side and client side, across a wide variety of industries – and their wisdom for how to move forward into marketing insights, as well as practical advice for speaking with internal clients and developing research projects, has been extremely helpful during my project assistantship, internship, and job search.
Outside of the A.C. Nielsen Center, the full-time MBA at the Wisconsin School of Business has helped me improve my understanding of the cross-functional skillsets needed to communicate with internal stakeholders and make sure my insights are “sticky.” I have learned how to communicate with prospective brand managers, glean important information from financial analysts, and figure out how to align my insights with supply chain – or, occasionally, help them align their supply chains to the insights! By speaking a wider language of core business skills, I feel like I am not only more capable of understanding the needs of my internal (or external) clients when developing research projects, but I feel I can better communicate why those insights are valuable to my stakeholders in a tangible way.
One of the most important things I learned during the full-time MBA at the Wisconsin School of Business was only tangentially related to classwork, learned through observation of classmates and regular interaction with them. Where in my previous work, it was best to come off as firm but mildly non-threatening to encourage people to adopt my insights into their worldviews, in the corporate world “mildly non-threatening” reads as “not confident” or “non-impressive.” People in my class as a whole hold themselves with a certain level of straightforward nonchalance that reads as highly confident, and it’s only through their consistent surprise early on at my skillsets or my deeply developed strategic opinions, that I realized I needed to be enculturated into this same way of expressing myself to be able to actually signal my value in a corporate setting. This is the great value of a full-time MBA immersion experience. Unfortunately, though it took a little time to truly learn and understand, it was a great help during my internship and throughout my second year.
Throughout my 21 months at the Wisconsin School of Business, I have learned how to express myself with confidence, and have been thoroughly prepared with the skillsets to go out into the world as a marketing insights professional. I’m excited to see where the rest of my career will take me, and look forward to developing valuable skills and insights I can give back to the program to help other students evolve.