We got in touch with three members of the M.S. in Commerce Class of 2016, who specialized in Marketing and Management, after they had a chance to experience the real world for a few months. Read on to learn what post-grad life has been like so far, as well as what aspects of M.S. in Commerce (MSC) they’re finding to be the most valuable so far.
So, the first year out – how has life been?
Ryan: The biggest change has been the fact that work ends at the end of the day and you can leave feeling like you accomplished something. Each day I feel super prepared, far more than I would without the program!
Julia: It’s quite the change from when we were in the MSC, in terms of having more time. Also, now, there is a deep appreciation for what you get done because it has an end goal for someone else and feels purposeful.
Ryan: I’d say it’s pretty similar for me. There’s a lot you carry over and use from the MSC– even just vocabulary is incredibly useful to bring over, like talking about capabilities and positioning. It adds a different level of legitimacy to what you are saying because it sounds like you know what you are talking about. Because, to a certain extent you do!
Julia: The business acronyms are vital!
What specifically did you learn from your MSC classes that has been applicable to your job?
Julia: I’ve been surprised at how much of what I learned in MSC has already helped me in my current job – especially Social Media and Digital Marketing with Professor Montgomery because I did not go specifically into Social Media. But, everyone this age pulls from digital; I pulled a lot from Social Media and from Strategy and Systems with Ira Harris. There is a reason they tell you that you’re going to use a lot of the information after you graduate.
There are a few things specifically from Professor Montgomery’s class, like being able to pull Facebook insights of audiences. It’s a comfort level with a lot of different things that you don’t realize until you are doing it. Like, I say this as a joke around my office, but I am a lot more proficient at excel than a lot of my other coworkers are. And, I attribute that to Professor Netemeyer (Marketing and Quantitative Analysis).
I’d say its mostly just remembering the technical things. People will have to teach you again, but it’s such an asset if you’re already comfortable with things like Facebook insights – knowing what to pull from that will make you a lot more prepared.
Logan: I think the best thing McIntire did for us was prepare us for a heavy workload. The teamwork skills we built have really paid off too. For me, the Social Media class was the most valuable, just because its most related to what I do.
Ryan: I’d say there are a couple things. One is Professor Harris’ class, Strategy and Systems. A lot of my role is competing around competitive intelligence: for example, what new products are my competitors coming up with, what capabilities does that take away from us, and how do we pivot to one up them.
Beyond pure marketing are two things. One is focusing on analytics – I’ve never been in SPSS here and I seldom use excel, but I’m also not in a client-facing role. So, any insight I can gain from analytics on a webinar – say, how many engagements did it get, is it better or worse than last time, did we make the money we spent – can be really helpful to know when you can’t get that information as a client.
The other part is Project Management, though nowhere near as technical as what we learned in Professor Sarker’s class. Instead, it’s the process of working with a group and understanding the different stakeholders and responsibilities – everyone has different levels of expertise that you may not have so it’s just a coordination of efforts. Being able to manage that and knowing who to go to for what and how long it will take is valuable regardless of what industry you are in.
Julia: I would totally agree with Ryan about the group work, because when people come out of MSC their role is not super specialized yet so you need to work with a lot of people to get what you need. So, for me, it’s understanding how to keep schedules and keep people talking and happy at the right times. That is a skill I definitely would not have had before Comm School: managing peers effectively.
If you could distill the MSC program into one idea, what’s the best thing McIntire gave you?
Julia: I think public speaking is a lot more applicable than it would seem. I lead client calls multiple times a day, and that’s public speaking. I have to organize my thoughts, think on the fly, and answer questions. The MSC provides you with the tools in your pocket for how to talk to people, and how to let people know things badly in a nice way. You just become much more comfortable with the kind of conversations businesses have.
Does that extend to written communication too?
Julia: Absolutely. Definitely written stuff. I have to do recaps after every call, break it down, say who is doing what next, break it down by topic, and then understand someone is just not going to read it, so I have to do highlights. But, it’s definitely the written and verbal comfort and familiarity with discussing things in a business vocabulary or even demeanor. You definitely get professionalism from MSC.
Logan: Definitely communication skills. The hardest thing about being in the working world is communicating effectively with clients. Sometimes, people just literally do not read what you send them. It’s all about being clear, concise, and following up – which is a skill that we definitely worked on in the program.
Ryan: For me, I can distill it into two ideas. One is getting in the habit of analytics. One of the core things McIntire realized early was that analytics is an important part of business today. I think it really got me in the habit of backing up things I say. If I have an idea or want to propose something like a different direction with a product, I can reference a number to back up what I’m saying.
The second thing is it helped me figure out – and I think a lot of this came out of Professor Harris’ class and also Professor Maillet’s class (Foundations of Global Commerce) – is knowing how to ask the right questions. A lot of times in the Comm School you can figure out things by being resourceful. There are just some things you have to ask.
Off the top of my head I remember specific instances where I asked a certain question and used specific vocabulary and someone higher up in the meeting said: “That’s a really good question, that’s a good way to think about it.” It get’s you in the mindset of “we’re faced with this problem, what do we really need to know, what is superfluous detail, and how can we get to the core of it.”
Julia: Also, after the fall you feel like you can do ANYTHING!
Ryan: That’s true , and that’s another thing – confidence. You don’t want to fall in the trap of “oh I went to UVA, so I know everything,” but at least you feel like you have been exposed to everything. So, you can go into your job saying nothing that gets thrown at you is completely foreign.
-Interview by Spencer Kulow and Christin Wade-Vuturo