Outside of the most popular fields of tech, consulting and finance, MBA graduates pursue careers in myriad different industries—retail, consumer goods, manufacturing, real estate and more. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear from a Columbia Business School MBA alum who chose to follow a path in retail.
Griffin Dowdy, who graduated CBS in 2018, now works as a senior manager of strategy and programs at Walmart, the multinational retail corporation and world’s largest company by revenue. Walmart offers several career tracks for MBA students, including finance, marketing, eCommerce, operations and more. MBA internships are available in two locations, their Home Office in Arkansas and their eCommerce and Labs offices in Silicon Valley. Find out more about Walmart’s culture, the value of an MBA and firsthand advice about the recruiting process in b-school.
Griffin Dowdy, CBS ’18, Senior Manager of Strategy & Programs at Walmart
Hometown: Hendersonville, North Carolina
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Swarthmore College, Major in Sociology & Anthropology, Minor in Philosophy
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: Columbia Business School 2018
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Three, Consulting for a mid-sized firm that served colleges and universities
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1.5, retail finance and strategy at Walmart
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Business school was a platform for me to grow as a leader, develop financial and analytical acumen, expand my personal and professional horizons, and make a career change. It delivered on all of the above.
Why Columbia? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As a graduate of a small suburban liberal arts college, I sought a business school experience to complement my time as an undergrad, and Columbia Business School was right for me. It is part of a major university in a global city, it has a large alumni base and a strong brand, and it’s an institution I knew I would be proud of forever. I also joke that a big reason I went there is that they let me in.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Columbia transformed me as both a business thinker and as a leader. My roles in finance and strategy at Walmart have required the technical skill sets and broader business acumen developed in my MBA program every day. However, my most meaningful opportunity at CBS was the chance to serve on student government (Cluster F18 for life!) and work to bring together a diverse group of people through shared experiences.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned in Walmart’s E3 Finance & Strategy Program, the leadership development program that I chose full-time and now have the privilege of leading. My summer experience was a blast: working on impactful projects, meeting Walmart’s incredible leaders, and making close friends. Within a few weeks, I knew I wanted to return to Walmart.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Walmart’s culture and business model are totally aligned, and those are so important to picking where you go. We help people save money and live better every day around the world. That chance to serve so many people through our business, and to provide them the goods and services they want and need most… I just love it.
Advice to current MBA students:
In my role, I have the chance to speak with a lot of current MBAs, and I always share the following three. (1) Cast a wide net during recruiting. It’s a sales process and you will need to start with a lot of leads to find the right fit. (2) Don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental self. Business school has a way of eating you up otherwise. (3) Finally, pursue what you want, not what your peers want. Group think is real, and ultimately, you are the one who has to live your choices.
One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Consider lots of geographies and industries. Not only will that give you an advantage over some of your peers, it has the potential to connect you with the very best opportunities. In my case, being open to Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas was one of the best professional decisions I could have made.
One thing you would change or do differently?
There were some companies I knew weren’t right, and I stayed in their pipeline for longer than I should have. When you know it’s a bad fit, do yourself (and them!) a favor and move on.
Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
The first thing that comes to mind is how nice, approachable, and available the people were, even at the most senior levels. That sense of being welcomed was a big part of why I picked Walmart.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Getting admitted is not the finish line, it’s the start. A mentor of mine told me before I started business school that within a few months, I would likely know the company I would join after graduation. He was right, and I had no clue how fast it was all going to happen. Get ready for it!
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
There is a great combination of humility and competitiveness at Walmart. We have big goals and some of the world’s finest competitors, and we want to win. But we are committed to doing it in the best interest of all of our stakeholders. Our leaders embody this spirit of humility in everything they do, and that’s the type of leader I aspire to be.