Just do it! Nike’s mission is about doing everything possible to expand human potential, from innovating sports and creating sustainable products, all while striving to have a positive impact in communities. Nike has become one of the largest and most recognizable athletic brands on the planet; and as the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel, it’s a first choice for many graduates across business schools. One alumna who gravitated toward this brand is Margaret Souther from The Wharton School.
With a passion for sports and an appreciation of forward-thinking, Margaret Souther, Wharton MBA ‘20, knew that working for Nike would be a good choice for her. Her internship with the company’s Global Member Growth team, which allowed her to work at the intersection of marketing, strategy and analytics, confirmed her interest.
In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear how Wharton’s MBA program taught Margaret how to feel comfortable being out of her comfort zone, which helped her to be successful at Nike. We also hear how her role has been an incredible springboard for her post-MBA career, providing her with the opportunity to try many different roles to grow an incredible brand and consumer base. Read on for Margaret’s story.
Margaret Souther, Wharton ’20, Manager of Global Member Growth, Lifecycle Strategy at Nike
Hometown: Scarsdale, NY
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Middlebury College: Economics
MBA program + concentration: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Class of 2020: Marketing & Operations
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 years, financial Services
Why did you choose to attend business school?
One of the main reasons I chose to attend business school was to expand my professional skill set. My liberal arts background at Middlebury gave me a great educational foundation across a variety of subjects, and I was able to acquire some more technical skills working at a financial firm, but I wanted to learn more about all aspects of running a business (strategy, operations, management, etc.). While I had a great experience at DWS, I also wanted to explore a path in either CPG or Retail, in an industry focused on serving the end consumer with tangible, real, relatable products, and where marketing is closer to the core business strategy. I based my decision on several factors, including the people, sense of community, strength of brand and alumni network, location, and marketing/retail learning opportunities.
Why Wharton? Which factors influenced your decision?
Wharton checked so many boxes for me, but one thing that stuck out immediately was the strong sense of community. I saw all of the different support systems in place for students to grow and succeed both personally and professionally – from cohorts, clusters, student life families, small group dinners, Thursday pub, leadership ventures, global immersion programs, intramural sports, etc. to alumni chats, networking events, industry-focused conferences, technical training. There were so many opportunities to meet and learn from a diverse set of peers. I also liked the overall Wharton culture – the same students who led a 100-person Marketing Conference on a Friday could be seen suiting up for an 11pm D-league hockey game that following Sunday. This strong sense of community was reinforced when I visited as an applicant in 2018 and got to attend a couple of classes and student life activities first hand. I was also attracted to Wharton’s strong alumni network and overall brand strength, drawing impressive alumni speakers and business leaders to regularly come and engage with students on campus. Lastly, I was excited about Wharton’s analytical approach to marketing, offering classes that offered both brand and numbers-driven perspectives to running a successful marketing strategy.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with the Global Member Growth team at Nike. I was looking for internships in CPG/Retail, but, as a former college athlete, was also hoping to incorporate my passion for sports and pursue that as a part of my career. While I also explored the idea of starting a marketing career in brand management, Nike’s Member growth team offered a great intersection of marketing, strategy & analytics, focusing on growth, engagement, and retention with its consumers – a skillset applicable to any brand. During my internship search, I made sure to talk to Wharton alumni at the various companies I was interested in to hear their perspectives and gauge the company culture. I also wanted to try something a little bit outside of my comfort zone – being an east coaster my whole life, testing out living in Portland for the summer was a fun adventure. Lastly, I loved that Nike is not only a global powerhouse in the retail/athletic industry, but also a purpose-driven, forward thinking company. In my initial conversations with the team, I would be able to learn a lot from my leaders and peers.
Why did you choose to work for your current company?
I had such an incredible summer at Nike that I decided to accept my full time offer there. I figured Nike would be an incredible springboard for my post-MBA career and offer the opportunity to try many different roles and help grow an incredible brand and consumer base.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career?
Wharton helped me learn how to navigate ambiguity and feel comfortable being out of my comfort zone, things that directly relate to starting at a big company like Nike, where it is important to network and be practice to learn about different roles and groups, and also identify the right cross-functional partners. I also think my experience helped me identify my professional strengths and work on some important skills like public speaking, structuring strategy, negotiating, etc. I also love that I have this whole new personal and professional network of people coming out of Wharton. I check in with many of my classmates on a regular basis, often discussing work and even bouncing ideas off of some of them. So many of my classmates are doing incredible things, I look forward to continuing to learn from them even beyond our 2 years at school.
What advice would you give to a current MBA student? What do you wish you would have known? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would say to just lean into your relationships – business school is such a unique time when you have the opportunity to meet a whole new pool of smart, interesting, driven people from so many different backgrounds, all in one place. Also, take advantage of the opportunity to get to know and learn from your faculty. Wharton professors have incredible connections and experiences as pioneers in their respective fields – I leaned into that a little via group lunches and one independent study, but wish I had taken advantage of them as a resource even more. Lastly, definitely take advantage of the student programs and learning opportunities offered, including things outside of your comfort zone, because when else would you have the time to take a modeling class or choose to sleep in a tent with two strangers in the middle of the Atacama desert?
Learn about more business school alumni like Margaret Souther by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.