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Tom S., Product Manager

Tom S., Product Manager

MBA GENERAL MANAGEMENT-A Day in the Life of TOM S, Product manager for a new online startup educational website that offers free exam prep.

What I Do

I work in the global securities services group and am responsible for creating investor solutions as a product manager. I deal with forecasting and new product ideas within Europe and the U.S. to drive sales.

This job requires a little bit of everything you learn in the MBA because it involves a lot of finance and market research skills (for forecasting) as well as operations knowledge because we also have to consider capacity constraints.

I am in my second rotation of a two-year, three-rotation program; each rotation lasts six to nine months. My first rotation was in New York, where I did process management, revenue work, and forecasting to support the pricing function of the business. After the third rotation, I will look at where I want to be within the banking firm for my first permanent placement role.

What I Enjoy Most

I love the global reach. As an American working in Europe, I might be dealing with people in Asia and trying to think about the best way to approach them. There are so many career opportunities and learning opportunities in different businesses, all within this organization; it’s definitely not static.

What I Enjoy Least

Because we are market-driven, the financial markets determine the success of the project to a great extent, regardless of our timing and diligence. This is both frustrating and exciting.

Why I Chose This Career

I chose a far-reaching company demonstrating the philosophy that individuals should develop their own careers within the broad organization and their own networks to support their goals.

I think they chose me because they saw a natural progression of experience and skill development in my prior jobs. This progression indicated that I would do well in an environment that rewards people who can take initiative with an open door and good networking skills.

Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career

The product management role requires not just strong technical skills, but good writing, speaking, and presentation skills—all the people skills. This is because you must operate in a cross-cultural organization where everything constantly changes. You must be able to multitask. And, in a big organization, you have to take pride in ownership of projects in order to drive things to a conclusion. Again, the skills in presenting and persuading become important.

Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path

Live with and master the Microsoft tools such as Excel and PowerPoint to enable you to manage projects easily and to be both quick and good. If you are interested in a broad rotational program, I would think that at least three years of solid prior work experience is critical; you need to show a track record of ability to make things happen (for example, in a six-month window) and the ability to develop a network. These are things that give the employer confidence that you will do well in a rotational program.

What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)

I had four years of experience before getting the MBA. Originally, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I was persuasive and a good writer, so I took a job in Indianapolis, Indiana, as a corporate lobbyist with a large health insurance company. I did that for three years.

Then I worked for an airline as a lead customer service representative. Although this role seemed entry level, I was able to lead a team of 20 to 30 people after only a few months and did this for one year.

During my MBA, I interned at a second airline as a senior financial analyst doing capacity planning. These combined experiences gave me a background in understanding customers and interpreting information, leading teams, and using numbers to support choices and decisions. Consequently, I think I was a versatile candidate for a rotational program.

Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)

  • MBA, Tulane University, A. B. Freeman School of Business, concentration in management and finance, New Orleans, 2011
  • Bachelor of arts major in Sociology, City University of New York, 2004
  • GED, SUNY, 1999

In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…

Look for a place where you can be somebody and not just a number. I chose a place where I felt that faculty and staff wanted to see what I could do and had high expectations of me to be involved. I became president of the class; this was important as a way of contributing, but I gained a lot of practice in leading, in time management and prioritization, speaking, networking, and multitasking. These are all things I do now on the job.

During the MBA, get what you can out of teamwork and learn to work well within the team. In an environment of team learning, it is possible to opt out of doing some of the work, but don’t do that. For example, there is always someone better than you at parts of the project. Learn from them—don’t just have them do the work.

Don’t think that you can sit in an MBA program and figure out what you want to do. It goes by too quickly for that. Keep working until you have a good idea which MBA career is appealing, then choose a school that sets candidates up well in that career. You may not know the company exactly, but you must have a goal in mind—industry, type of job, etc.

Then, when you do start your MBA program, attack it like a job. Ask yourself, “What are all the things I need to do, beyond the minimum expected, to do well and show that I get things done and belong in this industry or type of job?” Then do those things for the duration of the MBA program.