Aggie HowlandCongratulations on your new role at The Avedis Zildjian Company. Can you tell us about why you chose to pivot, and your new responsibilities?

It came down to being at a crossroads in my career and following my dream of working in an industry I am so passionate about. It was a difficult decision to go out on a limb after 4 years at Kimberly Clark – such an amazing company to work for – but it paid off. 

 In my new role as Global Category Manager for Drum Sticks, Mallets and Alternative Implements, I own success of this category across the globe and simultaneously oversee broad, strategic plans as well as put out the daily fire drills. The company is relatively small – it’s a 14th generation family company – so it gives me a lot of opportunity to have my hand in different aspects of the business. It’s entrepreneurial in that I get to see the needle really move when I make a critical decision.

How you do you believe the CBPM set you up for success?

There is nothing like classic brand management training to set you apart from others. That training launched me into my first role at Kimberly Clark, and I’d argue I was strongly considered for this new role at Zildjian because I understand how to manage a business and cross-functional team. The career possibilities open quite a bit with this experience and training because it’s such a desirable skill set.

More than the skill set, though, the network of this program is amazing. It provides you with exposure to opportunities and companies you wouldn’t otherwise have, and the relationships you get to develop with top tier folks in the industry is something special.

Looking back, what are some of your best memories of your MBA experience at Wisconsin? Michael Weber Alumni

Playing Nintendo 64 in the Brand Center. Weekly basketball with classmates. Shooting a ridiculous video for the MBA Open House and winning the competition. Pulling together a band for the Arts Showcase. Watching my classmates present about their summer internships to our CBPM Advisory Board. 

But through all those experiences, the people. The opportunity to work and learn alongside such a solid group of 100 fun, hard-working and intelligent people made my MBA experience incredible. There aren’t many days I don’t think back and reflect about those 2 years of my life. 

Is there any advice you would give to a recent grad who is just starting out, post-MBA?

Two things: 1) Don’t be afraid to have a point of view and 2) build credibility and unity with your cross-functional team immediately – and don’t ever stop. 

You are hired for your fresh point of view. Your manager wants to hear it and if you’re smart about how you deliver, it can bring an incredible new life to old or stale situations. And regarding cross-functional teams, know that the ‘wheel’ you are the ‘hub’ of will not turn unless all your spokes are working. You need your cross-functional team unified and moving in the same direction to be successful, and you should leverage their expertise early and often. 

And what about advice for the CBPM incoming class of 2021?

There are so many things I could say, but most important is to be open to new experiences, companies, projects, classmates and opinions. The two years flies by but if you invest your time in learning all that you can from every angle, you will get so much more out of the program.