On the Job

Many officers that consider enrolling in an MBA program ask, "What does an MBA do on a typical day at work?"

Below are some examples of what you can expect on the job once you graduate.

Tech Product Manager

Chris Barry
Product Manager, Microsoft
MBA: Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Chris Barry is preparing for another dog and pony show for visiting VIPs in Microsoft Corp.'s executive briefing center. As a product manager for the software giant's Tablet PC operating system, it's Barry's job to spread the word about the Tablet, a cross between a notebook computer and an Etch A Sketch. And, as in B-school, Barry gets graded on his performance.

"Microsoft is very data-driven," Barry says. "Each presenter gets evaluated by every attendee of every session. If something's out of whack, you'll hear about it."

Occasionally Barry escapes the Redmond campus and spends time in the field. At first he visited retail stores "in secret shopper mode" to see how well salespeople described the product; now he visits corporate customers to talk about their pain points. He expects to hear few.

"For the first time I'm working on something I'd play with on my own time."

Director of Business Development

Mitra Jerald, MBA
Director of Business Development

Mitra Jerald is pulling a power play. She's on the phone with Sao Paulo working out an international licensing deal for those three cherubic crusaders of justice, the Powerpuff Girls. As director of business development for Turner Broadcasting's Latin American division in Atlanta, Jerald finds new revenue sources for CNN EspaƱol and Cartoon Network Latin America -- like a data service that streams CNN news headlines to mobile phones -- then brokers the deals.

Fluency in Spanish and experience living in Latin America helps her day to day, but Jerald says long-term success boils down to one word: networking.

"Can you get the deals done?," she asks. "Do you know the right people? If you can't get along with people, you have no future in corporate America." And being tight with superheroes, even preschool ones, doesn't hurt. "Latin America loves the Powerpuff Girls," Jerald gushes. "You see people there with Powerpuff tattoos. It's insane." And that's no puffery.

Management Director

Stefan Stern
Divisional Director, Krispy Kreme
MBA: Univ North Carolina Kenan Flagler Business School

Stefan Stern is studying the sweet science of snack pastries at Krispy Kreme's Doughnut University. After college, this Peruvian native and graduate of the American Baking Institute ran a successful bakery in Lima for seven years, but realized "he still had some holes in his education."

"I knew a lot about running a small business but almost nothing about how to run a large corporation," he says. When you're the boss you make all the decisions - which means you also make a lot of mistakes."

So he attended the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler B-School, then joined Krispy Kreme in nearby Winston-Salem, where he's training to become divisional director for the company's nascent Mexico operation. But attending Doughnut U. is no cakewalk. Every manager spends two weeks in class, followed by 14 weeks in stores doing everything from mopping floors to fixing the doughnut machine.

Stern must spend another three months traveling with several divisional directors before he's on his own. Though Stern says he's learned dozens of new things at D.U., he looks forward to graduation - no small affair, incidentally. "They give you a certificate and have a real ceremony. And, yes, they serve doughnuts."


Nikki Fajana
Senior Consultant, IBM, New York City
MBA: Duke University Fuqua School of Business

IBM senior consultant Nikki Fajana had just touched down at LaGuardia Airport in New York, her home base, from Washington, D.C., where she's stationed every Monday through Thursday helping the company's government clients develop strategies for streamlining their operations.

"For the Department of Defense, I help achieve supply-space efficiency," she says. A soldier stationed in Iraq, for example, can't afford to wait a few weeks for a tank part he's requested, so Fajana and her team work with the DOD to "figure out how to consolidate and integrate so he can get that part faster."

Fajana has been a consultant with IBM since 2000--two years later, IBM acquired PwC Consulting to become the world's largest consulting company, with offices in 160 countries. The job keeps her traveling constantly ("It's always a pain going through security"), and she doesn't have even a desk to call her own. But Fajana's not complaining.

"I'm really comfortable living off my laptop and working from wherever I am," she says. "Everywhere is my office."

Associate Marketing Manager

Clare Kanter
Marketing Manager, General Mills

Clare Kanter is hard at work. Sitting at the cereal bar in General Mills's Minneapolis office polishing off a bowl of Oatmeal Crisp may not look like serious labor. But helping manage five brands for the company's Wellness Cereals division means keeping her spoon close to the product -- not something she learned at Wharton.

"Getting an MBA trains you for the job you'll have in 10 years -- your boss's boss's job," she says. "There's a gap between what I learned in school and getting to actually make those decisions."

For now, the associate marketing manager is busy developing long-term strategies, learning about budget allocation in a competitive market, working with the creative team on TV commercials, and, of course, gaining an appreciation for all brands of bran.

"We need to be up on what our competitors are doing and know what their cereal tastes like -- especially if it tastes better than ours," she says, adding quickly, "I don't eat cereal on the weekends."

Source: MBA Jungle & jungleonline.com