The last couple of weeks were a bit of a grind but really showcase how great the Center for Brand and Product Management (Brand Center) is and how well they prepare us. I’m a first year MBA candidate at the Wisconsin MBA in the Brand Center and spent the last two weeks interviewing for summer internships. Over 7 days I interviewed with 11 great companies that came on campus (there were 12 total). As much as we remark on how much time it takes and how draining the interview process is, it is a huge advantage to have the training and preparation that we are given.
The 12 companies that came on campus this year were: S.C. Johnson, Intuit, Oscar Mayer, DISH Network, Schwan’s, 3M, ConAgra, Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, Hollister, WhiteWave and P&G. For someone looking at a job in Brand Management this lineup is tough to beat and these are only the companies that are recruiting on campus. I didn't do any off campus recruiting myself but a number of my classmates did using connections that the Wisconsin School of Business and Brand Center have. Almost every company I encountered offers more than one internship position to UW-Madison students and there are many that offer three. If you consider that there were 15 students interviewing for internships, 12 companies that came on campus and more than 25 offers were extended you can see quickly see that the odds are good. For more than a decade the Brand Center has had 100% summer internship placement.
It isn’t an accident that the Brand Center has such a great track record. All of us first year brand students had interview training almost every week starting first semester. These sessions are led by second year students that had success interviewing the previous year, and are overseen by one of UW-Madison’s career coaches. We learn about every type of question that is going to be asked and how to answer it. We learn how to approach interviewing from before the interview itself to the follow up. We learn about which companies are likely to ask which questions so that we can really prepare for what we are likely to be asked. We learn about what information our interviewers are looking for and how to help them find it by answering their questions in the right way. We learn about what questions are good to ask at the end of an interview and what questions aren't good (spoiler: don’t ask about the company culture in the interview! It’s an important question but one that you should ask at a recruiting event – not in the interview itself). All of this training ensures that when the day of the interview itself comes you’re going to come off as a professional.
Recruiting doesn't just take place in the interview though. We had multiple opportunities to engage with companies throughout the school year before they came on campus to interview. A few companies hosted us at their headquarters, some came on campus to teach us in applied learning sessions and all of them did an information session on campus (many of these sessions included free dinner and drinks). Long before the companies come on campus to interview there is plenty of opportunity to really get to know each company and the people that work there. Many of the people that you meet at these events are the same people that will be interviewing you. I played golf with the gentleman from SC Johnson that interviewed me, was part of a case competition judged by multiple interviewers from at least five different companies, and sat next to the CEO of WhiteWave during an advisory board dinner. I even competed for free iPads in a mock advertising agency applied learning session with DISH which was judged by the gentleman that interviewed me weeks later. The recruiting events that take place throughout the year ensure that by the time interviews come around you’ll have a great idea of where you want to spend your summer.
The last thing I’ll mention is perhaps one of the greatest assets that the Brand Center has, which is the advisory board. This board consists of very highly ranked individuals from a variety of industries that are truly committed to make the Brand Center a successful program. The fact that a bunch very successful people want to be on the board of an MBA program isn't that surprising. The fact that they know you individually, more than you may know them, is. One member is Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, who came on campus to teach a session on product innovation to the Brand Center students. Scott is incredibly engaged in the center and regularly checks in with the Brandies. When he asks questions about how things are going he is listening and taking notes in the middle of dinner so that he can act on the information later. I walked up to a senior manager at 3M and introduced myself since I had previously worked at 3M. After I told him that I had worked there he started asking me questions about my resume that he had clearly read before coming on campus for the advisory board meeting. The ratio of advisory board members to students is almost one on one during these meetings and presents the opportunity to network with some real heavy hitters. This group of people want to see you succeed, have the power to help you succeed and are motivated to take action to actually help you succeed.
If you come to UW-Madison and join the Brand Center you will have incredible access to people through the advisory board, will get to know the companies through recruiting events and will be well prepared to interview after all of the interviewing training. After all, getting an MBA isn't about what you do while in school, it’s about what you do after it.
Joe is a first year MBA in the Center for Brand & Product Management at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a BBA in Finance and Marketing in 2007. Joe has spent the majority of his career as a sales professional with 3M working in Los Angeles, CA and Denver, CO. Joe hopes to incorporate his front-line customer experience with a strategic outlook and his passion for good marketing as a brand manager.