Real Humans of PepsiCo: Tiffaine Stephens, NYU Stern ‘20, Associate Marketing Manager
NYU Stern calls their curriculum “customizable to the core.” Students can choose from over 200 electives taught by top researchers and industry leaders and also have the option to select up to three specializations from more than 20 options. Many students choose to pursue their MBA at the Stern School of Business due to the program’s flexibility, which is further amplified by its unique city location that offers additional opportunities to its students. As someone who wanted to work on solving real-world problems with other students, this hands-on setting was ideal for Tiffaine Stephens, NYU Stern MBA ‘20.
After a career in pharma, which gave Tiffaine a background in understanding consumer-centric marketing, her interest started to grow for consumer packaged goods and technology. In order to make the pivot into a new industry, Tiffaine Stephens embarked on her business degree. Her internships at Chobani and PepsiCo allowed her to quickly apply what she was learning in the classroom while also expanding her network in the industry.
In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we see how Tiffaine Stephens’ MBA experience at the Stern School of Business taught her project management, problem solving, and technical skills to advance her marketing outlook — which ultimately brought her back to PepsiCo full time. Read on for her story.
Tiffaine Stephens, NYU Stern ‘20, Associate Marketing Manager at PepsiCo
Hometown: East Orange, NJ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Howard University: Marketing
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: New York University, Stern School of Business Class of 2020: Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 4 years, brand marketing at Eli Lilly and Company
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Prior to Stern, I worked at Eli Lilly and Company across various brand marketing roles where I was responsible for media campaign executions, consumer journey creation, and assistance with brand strategy development.
I chose to attend business school to pivot industries. I loved that pharma allowed me to understand consumer-centric marketing, but my interest started to grow for consumer packaged goods and tech. As a consumer, I was watching media rapidly change, and I wanted to be a part of that growth in an industry that was either serving as the catalyst or quickly adapting to the evolution of media.
Why Stern? Which factors influenced your decision?
I chose NYU Stern for a few reasons. The first thing that stood out to me was the flexibility in the curriculum. There were a number of classes that would allow me to work with other students on real-world problems. The second factor was the community. After attending Discover Stern Weekend hosted by the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), I knew that I could bring my whole self to the program. The third factor was location. As a Jersey girl, I was ready to return to the east coast, home of various industries and opportunities.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
During business school, I completed an in-semester internship at Chobani as a Media Strategy Intern and followed with an internship at PepsiCo during the summer. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the way that the food and beverage industry functioned at different company sizes. Interning during the semester allowed me to quickly apply what I was learning in the classroom while expanding my network in the industry. For my summer internship, I wanted to be in a culture-forward environment that helped me strengthen my strategic marketing skills.
Why did you choose to work for your current company?
My summer internship at PepsiCo was fulfilling — I got to work on a project that I was genuinely passionate about and had fun doing it! I saw the opportunity to strengthen my marketing skill set beyond media. The rotational nature of the organization will allow me to learn various elements of marketing: product innovation, communications, customer relationship management, and more. The fast-paced environment energizes me even in a virtual environment.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career?
My MBA experience at Stern taught me how to be nimble, project manage, and navigate ambiguous problems. My classes provided me with technical skills within marketing and adjacent industries.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
COVID-19 has forever changed human behavior and buying habits. As marketers, we have to be vigilant in our understanding of the changes and empathetic in our creative output. I think COVID is forcing the CPG industry to create more human-centric strategic frameworks — thus creative outputs.
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?
My advice to current MBA students is to take full advantage of your program. There is nothing more freeing than being a student — you can cold call experts in your field and explore as much as you want. Take classes that make you feel uncomfortable and the ones that help you solidify your skill set. I wish I would have connected with my professors more. When they offer time, take advantage of those opportunities!
Learn about more business school alumni like Tiffaine Stephens by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.