One of the highlights of my first semester with the CBPM has been the “Day in the Life” visits to Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, Target and SC Johnson. While these companies do come on campus for recruiting and networking events, it was a very different experience going to their space and trying to understand what their work is like.
The first visit was to Neenah, Wisconsin, where Kimberly-Clark is located. We arrived on a Thursday evening, and attended a networking event and dinner with ABMs and senior leader at KC. There were also MBA first-years from University of Michigan and Washington University present at the event, which gave us an opportunity to interact with our peers from other schools. The next day, we were taken through two case studies – one focused on crisis management on social media, and the other on innovation at KC. The former was an interactive session where we were given incremental information and asked to offer recommendations. This helped us don the managerial hat and assess the situation carefully, and we could understand why/why not our recommendations would work. The second case study was about the brand Poise, and how the innovation process was spearheaded by a consumer insight, and the subsequent challenges of going-to-market with a new product. As a career-switcher, this case gave me keen understanding of the various facets of brand management at a CPG company.
In late November, we visited General Mills and Target in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had one day split between the two companies, and there was so much we learned in that short period! General Mills was first, and our alumni at the company had a thoroughly informative schedule mapped out for us. We got to interact with senior leaders in Marketing and Consumer Insights, who spoke to us about their career in and before Mills, and what stood out about the company and the industry that made them stay. We then had 6 AMMs and MMs present a short “Whip” story – which was essentially a project they had worked on and the progression from Opportunity to Insight, Action, Outcome and Key Learnings they gained from it. This was followed by interactions with other managers who were not alumni of the CBPM. The entire visit was packed with case studies in different formats, which was extremely useful and interesting as we were trying to understand how working at Mills would be.
Next, we went to Target, which was a whole different world altogether! The position was that of a Senior Buyer, not a Brand/Marketing Manager; and the business to be owned was the category itself, not just one brand. This was a whole new concept for me, and the talks with the senior leaders in this vertical gave us some insight into the role and the strategic decision-making involved. For one, the Senior Buyers we interacted with mentioned that negotiations were key to the business, and this made us don the “retailer” hat and look at the CPG industry from a different perspective. We had a case study here as well, where we had to analyze a situation and offer recommendations based on the 4 Ps in Marketing, the Target way. Three teams got to present their work and a rough outline of their plan to the assembled group. The main take-away from this experience, for me, was that understanding the Category side of the business would help in Brand, and vice-versa.
Our last trip was to Chicago, to visit SC Johnson, in the first week of December. Like our other visits, senior leaders and alumni spoke to us about what we could expect from SCJ, their internship and full-time experiences, and the kind of skillset and mindset we would require to be successful at the company. The career progression was very clear, and it was interesting to note how all the speakers mentioned that the work was consistently challenging, which appealed to me strongly. Next, we got to hang out with ABMs individually, and ask them about their experiences and day-to-day work at SCJ. This was followed by two case studies, which were as far apart as can be in terms of business needs! The first one was on ZipLoc, and the innovation process that led to launching the latest Easy-Open Tabs version of the product. We were taken through the core issue, consumer insight, product innovation and the marketing options they had while keeping in mind budgeting and spending. This kept us focused on the product specifics but also the big picture, which was to own and grow the ZipLoc business. The second case study was about the Museum of Feelings, an initiative in New York spearheaded by the Glade team. The goal here was to create awareness of the brand, and while this was not a product innovation, I looked at it as an innovative marketing strategy.
These visits, in conjunction with our Applied Learning classes over the semester, gave us a different dimension of understanding as to the kind of career we could expect post our MBA. In my opinion, this is the reason why the specialized program works – we get to have such deep-dive experiences in our field of choice in the very first semester at school, which also helps us figure out where we would like to work long-term.