Originally posted by Scott A.E. Smith.
One of the first things you learn in the Corporate Residency MBA program is how important it is to manage your own personal ‘brand’. Whether you’re in the classroom, at a networking event or in a job interview—and whether you’re interested in marketing, finance or international business—you have to remember that you are the only brand manager of the ‘you’ brand, and it is a full-time job. For this week’s interview, we connected with a second-year MBA student who has full-time experience managing two brands—one in the consumer division of a major packaged goods company, and the other being her own: the Michele Brown brand.
Michele Brown is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, where she studied Health Science and Biology. After graduation, she worked at the Middlesex–London Health Unit (dealing with vector-borne diseases) before deciding to start her MBA here at Dalhousie University. And for her Corporate Residency, she accepted a role as an Assistant Brand Manager at Johnson & Johnson. Michele lists a number of reasons that made this particular opportunity so appealing: “It’s a global, values-based company with well-established brands and a major employer in my hometown of Markham, Ontario—and it also allowed me to leverage my health science background.”
For her Corporate Residency, Michele was responsible for helping to develop and implement both long-term strategic brand marketing plans and annual business plans for Johnson & Johnson. She also provided analysis and recommendations on in-market results to senior management, and worked with cross-functional teams on launches of new products and claims including, in one instance, the development and launch of a social media campaign!
Michele has a great story about her Corporate Residency that speaks to the importance of differentiating yourself—or ‘branding’ yourself, in other words:
“The first day on the job, the group brand director sat me down and said, ‘There are two things you will need to be able to do to be successful here:
1) You need to be able to think strategically. This is much harder to teach, so we hope you have it in you. However, having great ideas isn’t good enough, you need to also be able to…
2) … demonstrate leadership. Without that ability, you’ll never be able to convince/gain alignment of cross-functional partners or the executives to your great ideas, in which case they will never be executed and will therefore be useless to us.’
This is something I worked hard at over the course of the eight months and am still working to improve. As I wrap my mind around the idea of ‘selling my ideas’, I find myself participating a lot more in class this year, and taking more risks with the suggestions I make.”
Michele has just accepted an offer from J&J and will be returning full-time as an Assistant Brand Manager in their Marketing Department after graduation. Five years from now, she hopes to be a Brand Manager or Senior Brand Manager with Johnson & Johnson.
Looking back on her experience with the Corporate Residency MBA program to date, she says:
“I can say with absolute certainty that I have changed ten-fold since I’ve been in the program—particularly since I’ve returned from my Corporate Residency. I was definitely shy when I entered the program in July 2010. I looked at my fellow classmates and the ‘second-years’ with an unbelievable sense of awe and admiration.
However, I’ve since realized that my experiences are worth sharing, too! My time at J&J has given me a huge confidence boost. One of the most important things I learned there was that strategic thinking does not equal strategic contribution. You can’t just be thinking great ideas, you have to share them and sell people on them! You have to get other people as excited about your ideas as you are if you want them to be implemented, and that takes leadership and charisma.
Not only did I learn how to manage a consumer brand when I worked at J&J, but I learned that I have to manage the Michele Brown brand, too.”