It is hard to believe that my MBA experience is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday that I was researching MBA programs and trying to find the one that was best for me. But looking back to 2018/2019, I remember certain aspects of the Wisconsin School of Business (WSB) that stood out to me that ultimately helped me choose UW-Madison and the Center for Brand & Product Management (CBPM). So, let me take you on my journey in hopes that it will shed light on the MBA and specialized career track program specifics that drew me in.
Just to provide some context, I was a US Navy Supply Corps Lieutenant for the past 8 years, so to say I was a career switcher would be an understatement. But I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Marketing because of my undergrad experience and my general excitement and interest in the industry. I started making a list of items that were important for me and my family and looked for fit with the WSB. In no particular order, here is how I chose the WSB and CBPM:
Midwest location and networking opportunities
I am originally from Ohio, so getting back to my Midwest roots was important. In addition to the general location of the MBA program, I learned that the WSB has amazing connections with great companies for internships and full-time opportunities. I thought about where I wanted to end up and what industries would be ideal, and then cross checked them with what opportunities were available through the WSB.
Brand management specialization career track
To be honest, I had no clue what brand management was until I started researching more and talking with people in the industry. Once I learned what skills and traits made good brand managers, I looked at what skills I had attained from my past 8 years. To my surprise, there were a lot of overlaps, even though the industries were vastly different. My general interest in brands, advertising campaigns, strategy, and the skillset needed for this role confirmed my selection to go into the CBPM specialization model.
Now that I am wrapping up my final year of the program, allow me to share my opinion of the specialization model for the brand management career track: it works! The specialization model provides guardrails with a clear path of expected courses and career building events. As a career switcher, I really valued this. When it came time to interview and network for summer brand management internships, I felt poised and confident. Fellow interviewees from different programs (who shall not be named) were not as prepared – some did not even know what brand management was. Simply put, the specialization model gives you a leg up because from day one you are learning the specifics of brand and product management, which can be a huge competitive advantage.
Strong CBPM alumni network
The CBPM alumni network is the heart of the program. Prior to my admission to the program, I was contacted by numerous Badgers, all with great stories to tell with very honest feedback. I never felt like they were trying to sell me on the program and I really valued that. Because I had established these relationships prior to starting school, the alumni made me feel welcomed before I ever stepped foot in Madison.
Throughout my time in the program, I have had several conversations and mentoring sessions with alumni – they are always willing to help! There are Badgers everywhere and no matter if it is a job lead, a simple cup of coffee, or even a beer and some cheese curds, they are there for you. This was a major reason why I wanted to become a Badger, because you become a Badger for life and feel a sense of obligation to pay it forward.
Highly engaged career services department
My initial expectations for a career services team were networking opportunities and internship/job placement success. However, I learned that the WSB career team provides multiple industry connections with fortune 500 companies, face-to-face informational sessions, on-campus recruiting events exclusive to the program, in-depth interview training, 1:1 coaching, job searching/application best practices, effective networking, and overall professional development. This was way more than what I was expecting a career services team to do for me. While I knew other programs had some similarities, I was not convinced that their career teams would provide me these additional services, which further affirmed my decision to come to Madison.
Looking back, the career services team at the WSB is the best of the best. They always make time for you and are actively engaged to ensure you are on the right track. The team helped me secure my dream internship and a full-time job in brand management for after I graduate. While I initially valued simply networking and job prospects, this team delivered on so many different levels that were crucial in propelling my new career forward.
Overall program fit
Prior to choosing the WSB, I wanted to visit the school and get a feel for the city, students, faculty, and staff to ensure I was a good fit with the program. Wisconsin does a nice job with their preview day, and I was able to see a “day in the life” of an MBA student with current MBA candidates. After meeting everyone and exploring the campus and Grainger Hall, I felt that my personality and goals aligned with the program.
Even though I only visited once, it was well worth it to see everything in person. You will be spending two years of your life in this city, and a great deal of time with fellow classmates, faculty, and staff. It is so important to feel comfortable because it enables you to be yourself and fully immense yourself into the program with no regrets.
I hope these insights help anyone who reads this article and who may be having a hard time prioritizing what or how to choose an MBA program, specifically the WSB. It is not a perfect science and there is a lot learning along the way. However, once you start realizing what you want to get out of the program, these pieces all start to come together. I can truly say that I have enjoyed my time here in Madison and am happy I chose the program and the CBPM. I was able to grow both personally and professionally, make lifelong friends, experience learning opportunities unlike any other, and have the most fun I have had in a long time. The experience goes by quick, but the takeaways last a lifetime. And in the end, these are the things that matter most when looking back on the MBA experience.
Together forward and On, Wisconsin!