This year the Center for Brand and Product Management has partnered with the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights to bring a new Alumni Lunch and Learn series to the MBA students. The first two, held this September gave us the opportunity to attend sessions with alumni Zach Smith and Sarah Jones. During these sessions both Sarah and Zach shared their experiences and answered any questions related to their job and career. As a current first year MBA student, I’ve found these sessions extremely helpful in painting a picture of potential career paths and projects that might occur after graduation.
For anyone that did not get a chance to attend these sessions, here’s a snapshot of Zach and Sarah’s career paths and a key takeaway from each of the sessions.
Zach Smith graduated from UW Madison 2015 with an MBA in Marketing Analytics and insights. After graduation, he returned to PepsiCo as an Associate Insights Manager. Over the next few years at PepsiCo, Zach worked on the Tropicana, Naked Juice, and Quaker brands in a variety of roles including Marketing Insights and Media Analytics. Zach currently leads the Media team for Quaker Foods North America. He is responsible for planning advertising campaigns for the entire Quaker portfolio of brands, including Quaker Oatmeal, Cap’n Crunch, Life and Chewy.
During his time at PepsiCo, Zach was been able to work in roles that he did not originally imagine himself in. One of the biggest takeaways from this discussion was the idea that your career may not be as straightforward as you imagined. Zach ended up as a Sr. Marketing Manager working with ad and media teams which was an area he had never considered while in the MBA program. Throughout the discussion he stressed the idea of taking advantage of the opportunities or promotions that come up even if it may not be what you had originally planned.
Sarah Jones graduated from UW Madison in 2006 with an MBA in Brand Management. Following graduation, she headed to Kraft Foods as an Associate Brand manager. Over the course of nine years at Kraft Sarah led a variety of business and equity teams including Oscar Mayer Bacon, Hot Dogs and the Oscar Mayer Brand Equity team.
In 2016, Sarah headed to Amazon. She now leads the Amazon Partner Brands team for the new Amazon Fresh Stores and is responsible for the growth and strategy of brands like 365 by Whole Foods Market, Happy Belly and Solimo within the expanding set of stores.
During Sarah’s 15 years of experience working with brands, she says that one of the most important things for current students to have is a point of view and an opinion. She said that early on in her career there were times that lack of knowledge and confidence led her to keep silent or not push an idea hard enough. She stressed that it is important to have a strong voice (even if it is not always right) because you will get further in your career in a faster amount of time by stating your opinions.
These sessions have been fun and interactive ways to get to know alumni and learn more about the companies and roles available upon graduation. I personally, am looking forward to the next one!