There are many reasons I chose to attend the Wisconsin School of Business when I decided to pursue my MBA. These included the small class size, which would allow me to develop quality relationships with all of my classmates and give me more opportunities to take a leadership role within the program, the engaged alumni base, which I knew was a testament to the people who went to UW as well as the program itself, the city of Madison itself, and more. The most differentiating factor, however, was the specialization model that UW uses to structure its curriculum.
Having majored in business during my undergrad years at the University of Virginia, and having been a general management consultant in Washington, DC for four years, I knew that I had a strong base of business fundamentals, and I was not interested in attending a program where I would spend the entire first year of classes reviewing material that I was already familiar with, therefore spending a lot of money, and sacrificing a lot of time, to not garner much value. By going to Wisconsin, on the other hand, I would be able to avoid this dilemma. Because of the specialization model, I would be able to develop new skills immediately that would enhance my preparedness for an internship and full-time position in the field I was most interested in – brand and product management.
Many companies recognize the value of recruiting from UW for this reason – there are a number of very intelligent students who have already learned skills that will help them to make significant contributions during their summers and beyond. As such, the Center for Brand and Product Management has been fortunate enough to have a large breadth of well-respected companies coming on-campus, and returning each year, to recruit its students. Last year, for instance, we had thirteen companies come to interview students for brand and product management internships.
That being said, there are many more than thirteen highly reputable companies out there that need brand and product management interns that do not necessarily know of, or see, the value that Wisconsin School of Business students can offer. As such, many companies tend to focus their recruiting efforts on the traditional “big name” schools like Harvard, Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, etc. When UW students try to recruit at companies that are off-campus, we often get turned away, or we have a much harder path, since we do not attend one of the company’s “core” schools. I experienced this first hand a number of times last year. However, I am not writing this to complain that the MBA internship recruitment process is broken. Instead, I am writing this to explain how the specialization model of the Wisconsin School of Business helped me overcome this (many times) hurdle.
During my internship search, I was interested in working for many of the on-campus companies, but I also wanted to see what kind of opportunities were available off-campus. After networking with multiple alumni, submitting dozens of applications, and participating in a number of phone screens, I was finding that I wasn’t having much luck advancing in the recruiting process. That all changed when I got a phone call back from the recruiter at Abbott, a medical device and nutrition supplement business headquartered just outside of Chicago. Before I even had much of a chance to talk, he explained to me that Wisconsin wasn’t typically one of the schools that they recruited from. However, before I was able to think, “well here we go again,” he informed me that the reason he was calling was specifically because he noted that I was specializing in brand and product management. The position that was available was very much a product management role and it required more than just a basic level of marketing to succeed.
After this call, I proceeded to go through the interview process with Abbott, and I ended up receiving an offer for the position. I accepted the internship and was tasked with developing and launching an entirely new global marketing campaign for one of Abbott’s tissue heart valves – a product with over $250 MM yearly revenue. In completing this task, I was able to exceed management’s expectations and launch a creative and innovative campaign, in no small part thanks to my specialized curriculum at UW. As such, I firmly believe that the specialization model not only helped me stand out from the crowd and get the internship in the first place, but also to succeed and thrive during my internship.