2017 MBAs To Watch: Erica Smith, Indiana University (Kelley)

Erica Smith

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Woman on a mission”

Age: 27

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a DJ for Scratch Music Group and have performed at events in Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Columbus throughout my five-year career. My premier client is Victoria’s Secret.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Howard University, Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Nielsen, Associate Client Manager on the Coca-Cola Professional Services Team, Houston, TX

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? PepsiCo, MBA Marketing Intern, Dallas, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? PepsiCo, Associate Marketing Manager, Dallas, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Indiana University Liaison for The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM), Kelley MBA Program Admissions Counselor, Kelley MBA Program Leadership Academy Participant, Kelley MBA Consumer Marketing Academy Spring Project Advisor, Kelley MBA Association Arts & Culture Committee Interim Chair, Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Ghana Participant, Kelley Black MBA Association Member, Black Graduate Student Association Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am definitely proudest of being the recipient of the Patricia W. Mulholland MBA Diversity Award during my business school career at Kelley. The Mulholland fellowship is annually awarded to a second-year minority MBA student who is recognized by his or her peers as a leader in the class who participates in panel discussions, mentors other students, or is heavily involved with extracurricular activities. My fellow members of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management at Kelley voted for me to receive this honor, which made it the greatest honor of my life.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proudest of an analysis I worked on as a Nielsen Analyst at the Minute Maid Business Unit of Coca-Cola that helped my brand management client sell in a new product to a major grocery retailer for approximately $1 million.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor at Kelley was Dr. Raymond Burke. I was fascinated by the shoppability and digital signage studies he shared in his Applied Marketing Research class.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Legal Issues in Marketing Management. The biggest insight that I gained from the course was the importance of inherent distinctiveness when choosing marks, trade dress and names for businesses and brands. This learning is especially applicable to my future brand management career, which will include new product launches.

Why did you choose this business school? I first learned of the MBA program at Kelley School of Business through one of my close friends who worked as an Associate Brand Manager at The Coca-Cola Company. She raved about the school’s reputation, particularly in the CPG marketing arena. After attending several recruitment events, visiting the school, and interacting with current students and alumni, I was completely sold. I’ve never looked back.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have enjoyed the opportunity to dive deep and focus on my dream career path of brand management throughout the majority of my MBA journey. From the electives to the Consumer Marketing Academy, I feel that the offerings at Kelley have prepared me to hit the ground running as an Associate Marketing Manager at PepsiCo this summer.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The most surprising aspect of business school for me has been the close-knit, familial environment at Kelley. I always imagined that business school students — at any institution — would be super competitive. Therefore, I was really surprised to find that the MBA candidates at Kelley are extremely collegial and supportive. Because of the intimate size of my class, which is comprised of 185 students, I have gotten to know several of my peers very well and am walking away from this experience with several close friends that I will have for the rest of my life.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know your story…then tell it! When completing an application for Kelley’s MBA Program, candidates should make sure to express the skills they have gained from their experiences prior to business school, describe how they can leverage those learnings to achieve their future career goals, and finally articulate how the unique aspects of Kelley’s MBA Program can help them achieve those aspirations.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Kelley School of Business is that it is located in a lackluster college town. “There’s nothing to do in Bloomington,” one of my church members in Houston proclaimed shortly before I moved to Indiana. In reality, Bloomington is a very vibrant town with over 350 restaurants, a robust performing arts scene, a rich sports culture, and beautiful natural scenery. I have truly enjoyed my time here.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was never attending an Indiana University home football game, mostly because I would have liked to see the marching band perform! I played clarinet in my high school marching band in Ohio.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Although she is probably unaware of this, I have always admired my Kelley MBA classmate Dana Gradl from a distance. She has always struck me as a very intelligent, down-to-earth, yet unapologetic and confident woman. She’s not afraid to speak her mind or step out of her comfort zone. She also serves as one of the leaders of Kelley Association of Women MBAs and is an active Hoosier Host. Dana will go far in life!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my mentors and clients at Minute Maid pointedly told me that I needed to break away from market research career based on my skill set and personality traits. They discussed the doors that an MBA could open for me in CPG marketing, and I listened.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working as a Nielsen Client Manager at one of the company’s East-coast based CGP clients to gain more custom marketing research experience.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would build a full-service Starbucks and gym in the Godfrey Center at Kelley for students’ convenient use!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to become Chief Marketing Officer of a consumer packaged goods company, entertainment conglomerate, or restaurant chain.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Without a doubt, I credit my parents most for my success because they have always told me the truth — about the world, about people, and about myself. All of the wisdom they have shared with me throughout my life has helped me become a better person, navigate life’s challenges more easily, and stay focused on my goals.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like my classmates to remember me as a woman who fervently pursued her dreams while helping others achieve theirs.

Favorite book: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Favorite movie or television show: Working Girl

Favorite musical performer: Prince (Rest in Peace!)

Favorite vacation spot: Oahu

Hobbies? DJing, dancing, mentoring youth, writing

What made Erica such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Erica Smith is bright, ambitious, hard-working. Combine that with a winning personality and there remains no doubt—Erica Smith is going places!

As program chair of the MBA Program at the Kelley School of Business, I set up a meeting with a few of our students seeking ideas to improve our program and climate for Under-Represented Minority (URM) students. The students had several great ideas for me to follow up on. But what I liked most about the meeting was that Erica and another student told me what they would like to do to make our program better. And they have been working feverishly to make it happen. Erica followed up the meeting I had called with a meeting invite where she had the agenda—she wanted me to give her a green light to follow through with a half dozen proposals. “Yes! And can I get more students to be like you…”

Erica Smith is one of those special people who get things done and is pleasant about it!”

Kyle Cattani

Chairperson of the Kelley MBA Program

Associate Professor of Operations & Decision Technologies

W. W. Grainger Inc. Faculty Fellow



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