Meet Minnesota Carlson’s MBA Class Of 2020

Clare Smith

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Driven to succeed, motivated by challenges, energized by teammates, goofy, fun-loving, and thoughtful.”

Hometown: Sherborn, Massachusetts

Fun Fact About Yourself: I started swimming competitively at the age of four and never stopped! I swam on the Harvard Women’s Varsity Swim Team all four years in college and was co-captain my senior year.

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, Government

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: General Mills, Sr. Analyst of Mergers & Acquisitions

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment was managing a project from start-to-finish for the CEO and CFO of General Mills. I liaised with senior finance leaders to construct detailed analyses and engaged with key functional leaders to understand the tactical and operating challenges underpinning my quantitative findings. At the conclusion of the project, I created the materials and presented the findings to the CEO and CFO.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? “Genuine” best describes all the MBA classmates I’ve met so far. Every single person I’ve met is down-to-earth and open. My classmates are equally excited about being at Carlson and pursuing an MBA as they are about getting to know everyone around them. Every first-year I’ve met is eager to learn about and to learn from each other’s backgrounds, perspectives, and professional experiences. It feels real, authentic, and organic.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The key factor that led me to choose Carlson was the experiential learning opportunity through the Enterprise program. As part of your two years, students choose one of four Enterprises to participate in: Brands, Consulting, Funds, or Ventures. Each Enterprise is slightly different, but the premise of all of them is the same: to get a specific functional experience working with real companies to solve a given problem that company is currently facing. As someone who is looking to career-switch from mergers and acquisitions/finance to brand management, I am excited to have a hands-on experience in the Brands Enterprise before a summer internship. The Enterprise program provides an amazing, low-risk opportunity for students to put classroom learnings into practice and to experience first-hand different roles at different companies.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most looking forward to case competitions. As someone who is motivated by challenges and solving problems, case competitions will provide the opportunity to solve real-world problems in a competitive environment, enable me to put academic learnings into practice, and give me exposure to new industries.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The realization that I wanted to change careers led me to pursue an MBA at this point in my career. I have five years of professional experience across two different jobs. My first job out of college was an investment banking analyst at a middle-market firm, and the second, and most recent, was a mergers and acquisitions analyst at General Mills. Through project work at these two jobs, but perhaps more notably at General Mills, I was exposed to various careers outside of financial services and corporate mergers and acquisitions. At General Mills, I had the opportunity to work with managers across the organization in different functions, businesses, and geographies. Through these interactions, I learned that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and merchandising to have responsibility and influence over the P&L, while keeping the parts of my jobs I love: performing highly analytical and strategic analyses and working on cross-functional teams.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I first was confident in my desire to change careers. I performed enough personal introspection and research talking with people about marketing and merchandising to know that both careers had the types of responsibility, leadership, and influence I was looking for in my long-term career. Since I wanted to make this career shift and I knew that I could not easily, if at all, make the switch without an MBA, the question of if an MBA was worth the investment was an easy yes.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Online research only gave me the basic facts about a given school. Although it is necessary to understand a program’s structure and academic offerings, it was far more valuable for me to get as much face-to-face interaction with a particular school in order for me to truly determine my fit. As a result, I met with as many current students, alumni, staff, and faculty as I could to not only learn more about the program’s strengths or best attributes. More importantly (for me), I wanted to get a sense for the school’s culture. I attended lunches and other programs hosted by schools’ admissions. I signed up for class visit days where I sat in on classes with second-year students. I learned from these students first-hand why they loved the program, what their experiences were like as students, and how they were pursuing their career goals. Additionally, those visits gave me a sense of the faculty-student relationship and what an MBA class environment feels like. Beyond class visits, I also talked to alumni I knew personally or professionally to hear why they loved their MBA experience and what they believed were the benefits of that specific school, now several years out. Through all of these face-to-face, personal interactions, I was able to determine how each school fit my career goals as well as my personality and personal development goals.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After I graduate, I plan to work in one of three areas: B2C marketing, B2B marketing or buying and merchandising in retail.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years doesn’t feel so far away! I envision myself in a brand management/marketing or buying/merchandising role at a company that I am passionate about. I envision myself very happy with my career switch and excited about the responsibilities, influence, and leadership my role affords!

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