When scanning over your cereal box, you’ll probably see the infamous “General Mills” logo plastered on it. With more than 100 brands in more than 100 countries on six continents, General Mills is one of the world’s leading food companies whose purpose is to make food the world loves. From Cheerios to Pillsbury, our pantries are full of their portfolio brands. One foodie allowed his passion to lead him to this multinational manufacturer and marketer, and as an Associate Brand Manager, he is getting to know these popular brands inside and out. That foodie is Chicago Booth MBA graduate Matt Lieberman.
After four years of advertising, Matt Lieberman wanted to explore the brand-side to round out his skillset, and decided to pursue his MBA degree at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear from Matt about how his hands-on experiences, combined with valuable networking opportunities at Booth allowed him to transition into brand management. Read on to see how Booth gave him the industry exposure he needed to fulfill his goal of working across the diverse portfolio of General Mills.
Matt Lieberman, Chicago Booth ‘18, Associate Brand Manager at General Mills
Hometown: Cranford, NJ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Pittsburgh: BS in Economics, BA in Urban Studies.
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: University of Chicago, Booth School of Business Class of 2018
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 4 years, advertising
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in advertising and I basically just wanted to move to the brand side. Brand-side marketers develop these high-level brand strategies and then agency partners are responsible for bringing specific elements of them to life. I was looking to transition to brand management to craft comprehensive brand strategies that extend across all 4 of the marketing Ps (Product, Promotion, Price, Place). I knew that I needed to round out my skill set to handle the cross-functional nature of brand management and that an MBA was a requirement for most brand management positions, so it was an easy decision to go to business school once I learned more about what brand management roles entail.
Why Booth? Which factors influenced your decision?
The biggest drivers were the hands-on experiences available to marketing students, the Kilts Marketing Fellows program at Booth, and the location. Booth offered several lab classes where students can work on projects for real companies and the school also has a very strong relationship with Nielsen and students can analyze scanner data in courses (and about 75% of my time in my current rotation at General Mills is spent poking around various Nielsen platforms). I feel that the New Products and Innovation lab course provided me with a great handle on what brand management truly entails and also a better understanding of the innovation process, which is incredibly important to any publicly-traded CPG company that is incessantly pressured by the Street to bring new products to market. The Kilts Fellows program offered an invaluable mentorship program with industry leaders, access to a tight-knit Fellow network, and tuition support. On the location side, I knew I wanted to live in a big city and after spending essentially my entire life in or around New York City, I was looking for something a little different. Most Booth students live in downtown Chicago and it afforded a great opportunity to experience all the city had to offer.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Summer Strategy Intern. I came into Booth gung-ho about CPG brand management but I decided to intern at DSG because I have always loved sports and wanted the chance to see what sports retail was like. I had worked on Post Foods, Nestle, and Procter and Gamble accounts when I was in advertising and had some understanding of the general nature of CPG brand management but outside of watching a bunch of sports I had very little familiarity with what working in sports retail entailed. I had a lot of fun and met some great people.
Why did you choose to work for your current company?
General Mills had been one of my target companies coming into business school. They have such a diverse portfolio of iconic brands and a strong (and in my opinion warranted) reputation of developing marketing leaders who are well-equipped to serve as the “hub of the wheel” and smartly manage their brands. I also knew I preferred to work in food over any other industry. Brand managers need to know everything about their brand and category and as someone who enjoys eating and tracking the dynamics of the grocery space food is a natural fit.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career?
Lab classes are certainly helpful, but a lot of brand management skills are pretty general. I think the most useful aspect of my in-class experience at Booth was just getting lots of mental reps working out the different ways to approach problems and make data-informed decisions on the best paths forward. I will give a special shoutout to Daniel Bartels’ Consumer Behavior course which in addition to being incredibly fascinating also helped shape my approach to creating consumer-first marketing strategies. And then outside of the classroom, it was excellent to be able to leverage the Booth network and pillory Boothies who came before me who went into brand management with a bunch of questions about working in brand management and tips for recruiting and job success during coffee chats.
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?
Don’t take grades too seriously (at least at a school like Booth with grade non-disclosure). You’ll still retain a decent amount and this frees up more time for recruiting, hanging out with friends, and personal time to goof off. If you’re an introvert, don’t be afraid to carve out some time for yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Make sure to reach out to plenty of alums (and second-years) who worked or interned in your goal recruiting areas to get a feel for what different companies and roles are like. And perhaps most importantly, don’t put too much weight into any individual piece of advice. I’m just one person who is having a hard enough time determining the best way to market pizza rolls to the masses. The odds that I know the optimal way for a random reader to maximize their utils during their MBA are pretty low (though I hope I’m able to impart some wisdom to some folks).
Learn about more business school alumni like Matt Lieberman by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.
To see what current students from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business are up to, visit their Real Humans: Students profiles.