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Real Humans of Microsoft: Jamell Culler, Michigan Ross ’19, Azure IoT Product Marketing Manager

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Microsoft is woven into the fabric of business. You probably even have one of their products open on your computer right now—from Excel and PowerPoint to Word, likely even running on their Windows operating system.  Or maybe you’ve checked LinkedIn today—a company that Microsoft acquired in 2016.

While several long standing building blocks of business can be attributed to Microsoft, the tech company continues to innovate and pursue new foundations for the future.  This potential for shaping the reach of new products and services is what drew Jamell Culler, Michigan Ross MBA ’19 and Azure IoT product marketing manager, to Microsoft.  In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, learn how a Ross MBA supported Culler’s vision and how to make the most of b-school life.

Jamell Culler, Michigan Ross MBA ’19, Azure IoT Product Marketing Manager

Jamell Culler, Michigan Ross MBA ’19, Azure IoT Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft

Age: 28
Leland, North Carolina
Undergraduate Institution and Major: 
North Carolina State | B.S. Business Administration
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration:
Ross School of Business | Class of 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: I worked in tech prior to attending Ross. Specifically, with an enterprise software vendor for four years. I launched my career via a global sales training program. Following training, I focused on commercializing database platforms and business intelligence as part of our customer’s digital transformation journey. For the latter part, I then became a business development specialist for the sports and entertainment industry.
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I’ve recently joined Microsoft, via the OnRamp program, where I work within the cloud marketing organization as a product marketing manager and business planner. I am essentially responsible for driving adoption and consumption of Azure cloud services.

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I knew business school was in my future when I graduated undergrad. I wanted to take on a complex sales role to grow competencies in commercializing emerging technology. Selling innovation is a different business than selling lollipops.

Being a tech nerd and wanting to run a business, I felt a sales role was an integral part of my journey to becoming a business executive. At the end of the day, the lifeblood of any organization is the revenue it can generate.

Once I felt I had a handle on that process, I knew I would want to shift my career into a function that involved more day-to-day strategy work. My brain works best coming up with and testing new ideas. I identified business school as a way to take on sales experience, then sharpen my skills to take on a different type of role.

Why Michigan Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
This will sound cliché, but I wholeheartedly mean this. It was the people. When evaluating business schools, once I felt certain that the program would present the professional opportunities I sought the conversation shifted to fit.

For me, it was important to be a part of a community I felt comfortable with. We would be spending a lot of time together and absolutely help shape one another. I felt most at-home when visiting Ross. The connections felt natural. The people felt genuine and fun.

It was also location. I made it a point to not apply to schools in big cities. In self-reflection, I wanted to isolate myself from being able to easily do things I have always done. A small town would inherently have me take on new experiences with communities of people I don’t typically get to interact with on a day-to-day basis. A big city would make it easier for me to remain within the bounds of my comfort zone. I desired the former.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The MBA experience helped me become a more structured thinker. There are BIG ideas then there are JAMELL ideas. Learning and applying different frameworks to my thought process has assisted in me being more efficient in viable idea thinking. In my current role, I absolutely need to push the bounds of innovation, but where they can be pushed today is more practical.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Microsoft and it validated that I could work as a technology strategist with a non-technical background, in a culture that aligned with my personal beliefs and preferred working style.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I felt conviction in returning to Microsoft knowing the organization was investing heavily in some cool emerging technology areas and I would have the opportunity to shape how a major global brand went about bringing that to market. It aligned with what I wanted out of an opportunity post-MBA.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Be extremely intentional about the work environment you want. You can take on the coolest role ever, but if you had to do it from a shoebox with spiders as co-workers, you likely wouldn’t enjoy it.

The job search is deeper than the actual job itself and you should think about the work experience holistically as someone who is going to have to live it out every day.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I am not sure if there is one thing I would do differently. I am happy with how things played out. If I must call out something though, it would be to remain vigilant in your hunt until you sign an offer letter. It can be natural to not search as hard once you have secured something you like, but use the time allotted to gain as many relevant opportunities as possible. Then you get to the champagne problem of choosing between a few amazing opportunities instead of having that decision be made for you.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
No surprises. I knew what to expect coming in.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Think of yourself as a college student and not a b-school student. Meaning, leverage and take advantage of opportunities within the entire university. You are a complex human, you are not just a b-school student. Go engage beyond the bounds of the business school.

–What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
I get to help shape innovation and commercialize emerging technology. I love getting lost in new use cases where a piece of technology changes how an organization thinks about doing business.

Also, getting paid again after two years of fun-employment feels pretty good too!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.