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Ryan Ward

Coursework, Alumni & Opportunity: A Guide to Life After Graduation

by Ryan Ward Wednesday, May 24, 2017




When asked how my experience at the Wisconsin School of Business influenced my decision to accept a position at Intuit upon graduation, that is my answer.  To be more specific, that is what helped me prove to Intuit I had earned an offer following my internship, after that the decision was rather simple. 

The coursework in our program is varying but I found my interest peaked the most in Data to Decisions, Marketing Analytics, New Product Development and Business Strategy.  This helped confirm the direction I wanted to move my career.  The role of product manager required a mix of the quantitative proficiency, creative problem solving, and strategic thinking.  Layer Intuit’s deep emphasis on customer empathy and leading design principles and I quickly identified my target. 

Enhancing the more traditional coursework are the company led applied learnings. For me, these sessions became less about gaining specific skills and more about studying the potential recruiting partners of our program.  I absorbed company values and specific roles but most importantly, I learned which companies I may be a fit and which industries in which I am not interested.  

At least three of these applied learnings have been steered by Intuit.  The first applied learning I attended was focused on learning from customers and was led by an expert in this subject, Scott Cook, the Founder and Chairman of Intuit.  Since then we have had another customer empathy session with Scott, and worked a live case with Center for Brand and Product Management alumni, and current Intuit employees, which once again married strategy and customer insights. The exposure confirmed what I already believed.  I want to work at Intuit. 

As noted above we have had significant exposure to alumni.  Intuit has no dearth of representation from Wisconsin and the Center for Brand and Product Management.  From a mock interview with Justin Tokarz, and information sessions with Ryan Beal and Scott Hannan (one of Intuit’s most ardent promoters), to engaging conversations with Adam Williams and Topher Stephenson, I quickly understood what Intuit was all about, and how I could apply my previous experience as well as what I was learning in class at Intuit.  

Those interactions have become increasingly valuable.  One interaction stands out as it directly led to my internship and ultimately a new path in my career.  Had it not been for a case competition, at which Intuit was a sponsor, I would not have met Michael Hitchcock, a product manager at Intuit and Operations and Technology Management MBA from 2014.  Following the case competition, I told Michael I wanted to interview for the product manager position and he opened that door.  If not for the Wisconsin School of Business, my coursework, our alumni connections and the case competition I likely would have not had this opportunity. 

After the summer, the question was not whether I wanted to work for Intuit or be a product manager, it was whether my wife and I wanted to live and work in California.  Ultimately, she reminded me that the coursework, alumni and opportunities guided us to Intuit and California so we shouldn’t try to force it somewhere else.  Also, it was cold in Chicago.