Sharing her MBA experience at William & Mary's Mason School of Business, Nicole Berner discusses the importance of alumni networks. She also explains the unique opportunity Mason's Executive Partners program provides for career growth and development.
Name: Nicole Berner
School: MBA, Mason School of Business, College of William and Mary
Profession: ExxonMobil, Boston MA.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
I was evaluating MBA programs based on the quality and competitiveness of the program as well as the environment. William and Mary has a top program that is very competitive with the best schools and companies but still provides a supportive environment. I feel the Mason School of Business has the best community and environment to setup any student for success. Upon speaking to the Admissions Director, Amanda Barth, about the program, I could tell that I would be evaluated on more than just grades, test scores, and work experience. William and Mary provides a supportive community and positive work environment. The Mason School of Business evaluates you beyond your resume and looks at your potential and how you can contribute to the school and society as a whole.
What do you think is your program's greatest asset?
The Mason School of Business’s greatest asset is the Executive Partners program. This program is filled with numerous active and retired business executives from different fields, industries, and backgrounds. These partners are able to offer a wealth of knowledge, industry insight, and personal experience/mentoring to any student willing to take advantage of the program. I personally sought out many of the Executive Partners to learn more about their career path, background, and job experiences in order to learn more about job roles I would enjoy and to prepare for interviews. They were also able to provide leads and contacts in many companies to assist in the job search.
When it came time to look for jobs, did you find yourself interested in a new career that you hadn’t considered before doing your MBA?
Upon entering the MBA program, my mind was set on working for a big marketing company like Nike or Coca-Cola, especially with a focus on sports-related businesses. However, once I got into the classroom and started networking with Executive Partners and speaking with different companies at career conferences, I became more aware and open-minded about the opportunities other companies could offer me. I expanded my horizon from researching and exploring sports marketing companies to including manufacturing, hospitality, pharmaceutical, and energy companies.
How much are you in touch with the alumni network? Are they helpful in making connections with companies? What did you learn about creating and utilizing networks during your MBA?
You live or die by your network. I am very much a true believer that networking is one of the most important aspects of any job. William and Mary’s alumni network is vast and is a great way to tap into different companies and learn more about the corporate culture and evaluate whether it will be a good fit for you. Combined with the Executive Partners Program, William and Mary students have access to numerous resources for both personal development and job sourcing.
Did you do an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
I interned at ExxonMobil while attending my MBA. I was unsure of what to expect from a Marketing internship with an oil company full of engineers. I was delighted to discover that all of my preconceived notions were inaccurate. My internship with ExxonMobil was full of collaboration from all levels of employees including executives. I enjoyed working on a team and being able to contribute and having my ideas heard on a project that was going to be implemented in a matter of months. I was able to learn firsthand how the role of Marketing evolves in a technical company and involves the different backgrounds of engineers, marketers, and other roles in order to come together and make a business successful. While I was there, I was also able to network with fellow William and Mary MBA alumni in different areas of the company and gain valuable insights. From these connections, I was able to foster a network of mentors and confidants that I know I can turn to for advice.
Advice for Future Applicants
If you had the chance to do your MBA program again, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?
If I had the chance to do my MBA program again, I would challenge myself more by taking more classes outside of my Marketing concentration. During my Second Year, I specifically concentrated on taking all Marketing-related classes in order to gain as much experience and knowledge as I could. If given the opportunity to retake my MBA, I would have taken more Finance related classes to become more adept in fields that supplement Marketing roles and are vital to understanding business as a whole.
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