Real Humans of 3M: Bridget Nyland, Harvard ‘19, Strategist
As a trained chemical engineer, Bridget Nyland always had a passion for science — and changing the world with it. Following a rotational program at a Fortune 500 chemical company, which transitioned into a technical sales position with customers in the biopharma, refining, and chemical industries, Bridget Nyland realized she wanted to become a leader in the science business world and inspire companies to see ESG as a core business imperative.
To find her way into leading cutting edge science companies, she embarked on her MBA from Harvard Business School. With HBS’ unparalleled reputation for unlocking leadership opportunities in the science realm, it was the natural choice for Bridget to get the resources she needed to help drive the revolution of science forward.
Her time at HBS, which included an internship with Dow Chemical, made her realize that what excited her the most was commercializing and scaling new technologies, and she was inspired to gain experience launching and marketing new products.
Leveraging leadership lessons and problem-solving skills learned from her time at Harvard, Bridget went on to become a strategist at 3M, a multinational leader of launching and marketing products. With over 60,000 products under several brands, 3M is best known for brands such as Post-it, Scotch-Brite, Command, Ace, Futuro, and Nexare. At 3M, Bridget Nyland helps apply science and innovation to find solutions that make lives better, and the frameworks she learned through her MBA have prepared her to handle strategy, supply chain, and more.
Learn how Bridget Nyland uses her Harvard MBA every day in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni.
Bridget Nyland, Harvard ‘19, Strategist at 3M
Hometown: Ridgefield, CT
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Villanova University: Chemical Engineering
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: Harvard University, Harvard Business School Class of 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 6 years, Air Products
Why did you choose to attend business school? I became an engineer because I wanted to change the world with science. Before my MBA, I worked for Air Products, a Fortune 500 chemical company. I began in an engineering rotational program and my first job was doing construction management in Louisiana. I became interested in the commercial side of the business, so I did a role bidding out large hydrogen plants and then in technical marketing. I took my final leap to the “dark side” (how engineers often refer to the commercial side!) by rolling out into a technical sales position in San Francisco. For three years, I helped customers in the biopharma, refining, and chemical industries improve their processes with industrial gases. We also had a small pipeline of customers so I was responsible for building out the territory — cold calling, segment strategy, industry networking, marketing campaigns, the works!
I realized I was having the most fun interacting with my customers who were driving the cutting edge of science forward. I saw the people leading those companies and noted that almost all of them had MBAs from top tier schools. I realized that while I could get there without an MBA, a full-time MBA would unlock many more opportunities for me. I also saw an opportunity for businesses to do more when it comes to their social responsibility to their communities. I saw the impact of communities whose jobs had been outsourced, but I also was inspired by companies using sustainability as a value proposition. I wanted to be a leader in the science business world who could inspire companies to see ESG as a core business imperative.
Why Harvard? Which factors influenced your decision? I had a hard time deciding which school to go to. I had heard stories about the high pressure environment of HBS and was wary of it. Truthfully, I was scared that I had somehow snuck into HBS and that I wouldn’t stack up — an imposter syndrome run wild. I spoke with many students and respected advisors and I felt assurances that my worries were overblown. I also did some introspection — would I regret not taking the offer years from now? (Yes.) Finally, one of my goals for getting my MBA was to find my way into the leadership of cutting edge science companies. HBS’ network is unparalleled for accessing those kinds of opportunities down the road.
Having been through it, I can confirm that while HBS is a lot of work and asks a lot of you, it also is a tremendously supportive place. My sectionmates have become like family (I met my boyfriend in my section!) and I’m so glad I went.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with Dow Chemical for the summer. Dow has a great MBA development program that accelerates you into business management roles. I was inspired by Dow’s vision around sustainability and was impressed with everyone I met in the program. It was also a really interesting time to join Dow because they were actively working through the Dow-DuPont merger and the IPO of the new Dow.
Why did you choose to work for your current company? While I really enjoyed my summer at Dow, I also realized that what excited me most was commercializing and scaling new technologies. I wanted to get very good at launching new products and excel in marketing them. 3M is the world-class leader in using science to launch and market new products, so they came to the top of my list. In addition, the 3M Strategy & Marketing Development (SMD) program provided me the opportunity to not only develop the marketing & strategy skills I was looking for, but also get to experience managing a team and leading recruiting. In most Fortune 500s, I wouldn’t otherwise get those experiences until later in my career.
I also had the chance to meet the 3M team during internship recruiting and knew that their warm and supportive culture was something that aligned to my values.
Finally, I believe large companies have a tremendous ability to scale sustainability and was impressed with 3M’s approach to sustainability. That belief has only gotten stronger, particularly as 3M just launched our new, ambitious sustainability goals.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career? My current job is working as an internal consultant within 3M. I tackle questions as diverse as “What should our strategy be for this new product launch?” to “How do we construct the right supply chain for this division?” and beyond. I also manage a first year strategist and led recruiting for HBS.
I use my MBA every day! I use the frameworks we learned in business school to quickly frame problems, pull out the most important information, and make sure I’m focused on answering the right questions. I regularly flip back though notes — BSSE, Clay Christensen’s trademark class, has guided many of my projects, as have classes like Rebecca Henderson’s Reimagining Capitalism. I rely on leadership lessons to understand how to build rapport among my teams and create buy-in among the right stakeholders. I also rely on leadership lessons as I manage an intern and first year strategist. Finally, classes like Authentic Leadership Development form my foundation, making sure I’m solid on my values and boundaries and forcing me to make sure that I’m not sacrificing my personal relationships because of my job.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans? COVID has impacted my career in two ways. First, it’s given me opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I’m passionate about mindfulness in the workplace and creating empathetic, transparent organizations. My first managerial experiences were both virtual relationships, during a crisis. I learned how to use mindfulness and transparency to both create a welcoming home for our new hires and build trust in a virtual environment. I was grateful for some of the online courses 3M offers for first time managers and our internal mindfulness group, 3M Inspire, to help provide a good foundation for that experience. I lead virtual meditations every Monday to help bring a little ease and calm into a stressful time!
Second, it has reiterated the need for my career to be tied to purpose. During COVID, I witnessed and was so inspired by the mountain-moving efforts of colleagues rushing to provide the world the PPE it desperately needed. It emphasized for me the need I have to be part of something bigger than myself.
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?
- Everyone told me to spend time really reflecting on what you want your life to look like and what you want out of your career. While I did that (and I’m grateful for many of the values I was able to clearly articulate as a result), I still wish I had done more. Take at least an hour each week to spend time journaling and intentionally exploring career opportunities.
- I objectively worked too hard during my MBA. Learn for the sake of it, but also feel empowered to prioritize developing deep relationships with your classmates. You can recover from a bad cold call, but you won’t get another chance to make those relationships.
- Take care of yourself. It’s a FOMO environment and you need to develop coping skills otherwise you’ll burn yourself out trying to do everything. On the plus side, if you develop skills now, you’ll be set up to thrive under any pressure in your career. I highly recommend reading “Burnout” before starting your MBA and developing practices to release the stress cycle every day. Work out, meditate, call your family and friends at home — it’s important!
- Take advantage of the unique opportunities during your MBA. I was able to take an immersive class at Harvard Law that introduced me to many current & future leaders in climate policy. In addition to my summer internships, I interned during the semester with an impact investing company & Blueland, an eco-focused DTC start up. All of those opportunities taught me unique skills (I can now talk to carbon credits, sales strategies in rural Africa, and green influencer marketing with some level of sophistication!) but more importantly, it broadened my horizons for future career possibilities and expanded my network.
Learn about more business school alumni like Bridget Nyland by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.