The UW A.C. Nielsen network branches far, wide, and deep. The alumni & industry professional network was one of the key reasons that I chose to enroll in the UW MBA program over other research-related programs. Since then it is has unbelievably met – and exceeded – all possible expectations. I’ve utilized this network in a variety of different ways on a variety of different occasions. I personally envision the UW network in tiers- each having their own respective roles and benefits. In the first tier- the innermost circle- are of course my classmates who have really become life-long friends. In the second tier is my industry mentor, in the third tier the EAB board members, and in the final tier – last, but certainly in no way least – is the larger alumni network. Every Badger remembers their own personal and powerful experiences as students in the program, so I won’t touch on these relationships too closely. Instead let me dive into those other tiers!
The mentor-mentee program is designed to provide students with a direct line connection to professionals out in real market research world. This is a relationship I have benefited from time and time again. Tara Marotti from Burke has not only connected me to members of her industry for advice and for networking but has been there on a personal level for me during life-changing professional events. Always available to talk through curriculum choices, job opportunities, negotiation tactics and more, my relationship – and friendship – with Tara is something I constantly appreciate and plan to continue long past graduation.
Members of the EAB Board have made a commitment and a promise to the UW program and the students are so grateful. While they may only physically visit Madison two or three times per year, their door is open year-round for guidance and professional counsel. When trying to determine what type of research role I wanted to enter post-graduation I reached out to Julie Norvaisas from LinkedIn to discuss some of the nuances between UX and Marketing Research. Julie, a UW alumna herself, not only spent multiple hours with me – on the phone or at a nice quiet brunch – but she connected me with multiple people within her team, so I could get balanced perspectives to make an informed decision. These conversations helped me better understand my industry and help plan for my short-term and long-term goals. When the Board comes to town, things are always just as exciting. Just being able to listen in as these industry leaders discuss trends in market research, innovative methodologies, and expected hurdles in the industry is extremely beneficial. Then, being able to sit with them and talk about these subjects in one-on-ones is invaluable to learning and growth. It was through my conversation with John Copeland of Adobe that I realized how big R-programming was going to be for data analysis. I was able to kick-start my R training early and immediately enrolled in classes the next semester. Did I also mention that through the Board – and John – I received my internship and subsequent job offer from Adobe?
It wasn’t until my second year that I truly started to utilize the greater A.C. Nielsen & WSB alumni network. I thought it would be intimidating to reach out to someone I haven’t met and ask for advice. Yet, as soon as they heard the words “A.C. Nielsen” or “Badger,” they were immediately willing to help. Utilizing the greater network, I was able to reach out to members of the tech industry and the Bay Area to understand more about their market research journeys, management paths, and even salaries, which helped me make informed decisions about job offers and my future. For example, I never imagined that someone so high up at Google - that I hadn’t spoken a word to before this conversation - would be willing to give an hour of his time- no qualms- to answer all my (lengthy) questions. It was an eye-opener.
So, what does this all mean in the end? All of these tiers - in one way or another – had a positive, direct influence on my time here at Madison. They’ve helped me shape my goals and my passions; they’ve helped me change or evolve my perspectives. The network at UW is a truly invaluable and priceless resource that can’t be really articulated in words. There is this unknown “it” factor that defines UW that I love. What I didn’t realize coming to UW is that you’re not inheriting a network, you’re inheriting an extended family. I only hope to pay it forward in my future.