Consulting and finance may top a lot of lists of MBA candidates’ career goals; however, the advanced degree can support various paths. When Julia Liu decided to pivot into marketing and brand management, she found numerous supportive resources at Duke Fuqua. Read on for her experience in this edition of Fridays from the Frontline.
How Fuqua Helped Me Pivot into Brand Management
By Julia Liu, Duke Fuqua Daytime MBA Class of 2024
After nearly four years of working in digital marketing and launching campaigns for clients in industries spanning consumer packaged goods (CPG), tech, and entertainment—I learned three things about myself.
1. I loved marketing and wanted to continue working and growing in the field.
2. I was interested in pivoting from the services/agency side to the brand side. I essentially wanted my clients’ jobs as brand and marketing managers, who lead brand strategy and make strategic decisions for the long-term growth and success of an individual brand or portfolio of brands.
3. I enjoyed working on campaigns that involved tangible products and wanted to explore brand management specifically within the CPG industry.
With these three realizations about my interests and career goals, I decided to pursue my MBA at Fuqua with the goal of pivoting into CPG marketing/brand management.
Prior to starting at Fuqua, I heard from numerous marketing students that Fuqua offers a wealth of resources aligned with my career interests. This was undeniably true—within my first few weeks as a first-year student, I began to feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of opportunities available to me. Additionally, I felt a little lost among peers who were recruiting for consulting or banking, two of the most commonly sought-after industries and job functions for MBA students.
Looking back on my first year at Fuqua, these were the four essential resources I leaned on to stay focused in my journey of recruiting for marketing and brand management.
In addition to the Marketing Management core class for first-years, I chose to enroll in a number of marketing elective courses including Market Research and Strategy/Tactics of Pricing. The marketing professors at Fuqua are highly respected and knowledgeable in their fields of research, and I enjoyed speaking with them after class or during office hours to pick their brains on trends in the marketing landscape. The in-class and after-class discussions further confirmed my interest in marketing, which helped me anchor to my career goals rather than getting distracted by other paths and resources available at Fuqua.
To supplement my in-class experience, I also sought experiential learning opportunities. Early in my first year, I participated in the FoundHERs Challenge, in which teams of MBA students work on a project for a female-founded startup. Startups vary across industries including FinTech, health care, CPG, climate, and more. Given my career interests, I chose to work on a project for a snack brand to learn more about the CPG industry.
Later in the year, I also participated in various case competitions including the PepsiCo MBA Invitational Case Competition, the Mars Wrigley Brand Management Case Competition, and the Fuqua Brand Challenge. Each case competition helped me visualize and understand what types of projects I could be working on as a brand manager. I had a lot of fun working with my teammates to solve challenges that were unique to each brand!
Career Management Center (CMC)
The CMC assigns each first-year student a designated career coach, a CMC professional who specializes in the student’s industry of interest, and a Career Fellow, a second-year student who mentors first-years through the recruiting and internship process. Throughout the year, I worked with them very closely.
My Career Fellow recruited and interned in CPG brand management, so she could offer specific advice based on her own experience. My career coach was Shawn Pulscher, Sector Director for Consumer Goods & Retail. From resume and cover letter refinements to case interview prep, they supported me through every step of the recruiting and interview process.
The Duke MBA Marketing Club thoroughly prepared me for every aspect of the recruiting process while providing a supportive, close-knit community of friends with similar career interests. One of the most rewarding and instrumental programs offered by the Marketing Club was Marketing MILE (Marketing Integrated Learning Experience).
Led by second-year students who went through recruitment for marketing internships, MILE is a 6-session program that prepares first-years to succeed in the marketing recruiting and interview process. In addition to MILE, I also found many other Marketing Club events and resources to be incredibly helpful including the Marketing Symposium, club mentorship programs, and mock interview practice with second-year students.
To explore and learn more about marketing opportunities across various industries, I attended events hosted by the Duke MBA Tech Club, Retail and Luxury Brands Club, Food and Agriculture Club, and Media, Entertainment and Sports Club.
Each of the above resources and experiences validated my passion for marketing while sufficiently preparing me for internship interviews. By the spring of my first year, I decided to accept an internship offer from PepsiCo Frito-Lay and was excited to spend my upcoming summer in Dallas, Texas interning on the Cheetos brand team.
Reflecting back on my recruiting journey so far, I am extremely grateful for the endless support I’ve received and the abundant opportunities Fuqua has given me to pursue my career goals. Now as a second-year, I’m excited to pay it forward as a Career Fellow and a Marketing Club VP co-leading MILE to support first-years who are on similar journeys as mine last year.