Master’s in Marketing: Tat Whitley, University of Texas (McCombs)

Student Name: Tat Whitley

Graduate Business School: University of Texas McCombs School of Business

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: I’m a natural leader who loves social sciences, data, and working with others toward shared objectives.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020

Undergraduate School and Major: Rhodes College, History.

Current Employer and Job Title:  H-E-B, Financial Analyst.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My proudest career accomplishment was before business school.  Since high school, I had wanted to be a high school football coach and teacher.  I structured my academics, internships, and extracurriculars during undergrad to help achieve that goal.  After leaving Rhodes, I had an incredible two years teaching high school health and coaching football and baseball in Austin, TX.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student:  Receiving the Student of the Year award from my classmates was an indelible experience. Receiving their votes was humbling and gratifying.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?  Apart from growing up a Longhorn fan and having a deep connection with Austin, I decided on McCombs because I wanted to recruit in Texas, loved the curriculum design, and knew I had three other large cities in Texas that I could have as my next home.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Marketing over an MBA?  Admittedly, I didn’t think I had the work experience or background to enter a prestigious MBA program.  I was also pivoting my career and knew I needed more analytical skills and a depth of knowledge to open career opportunities for myself.  Perhaps this is confirmation bias, but I think the McCombs MSM program did just that for me, and I would choose the MSM over an MBA again.

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career?  This question is tough.  I’m torn between Consumer Behavior in a Digital World with Adrian Ward and Kevin Williams’s New Venture Strategy.  Ultimately, I’d say Consumer Behavior because I loved learning about consumer psychology and study design and then utilizing my social science background to create data-driven research.  The class has helped me approach broad business questions with a research mindset to determine how my team might answer them and the limitations and challenges we’ll face while figuring a solution to our problem(s).

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program?  I think a lot of finding a job out of graduate school is on the student.  My view is that career management will work relentlessly to get your foot in the door, which is how it worked out for me.  It’s up to you to seize the opportunity and demonstrate your competencies for the role and the unique characteristics that differentiate you from other candidates when you go through the interview process.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience?  Before we went virtual due to the pandemic, we had all of our classes together.  That provided a lot of opportunities for us to bond together.  First and foremost, my cohort was quite diverse.  That was an immense value add to the overall program and my experience in it.  It also never felt competitive amongst each other, and everyone was willing to help. My classmates are selfless, gritty, and empathetic humans.  They are incredible.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning?  Raji Srinivasan is my spirit animal.  She was featured on Poet&Quants a couple of years ago for an undergrad faculty spotlight article.  Raji is relentless in her pursuit to enrich students’ lives in and out of the classroom.  She’s all business and is candid, straightforward, and enthusiastically empathetic to her students.  I took her Marketing Metrics elective, and we had less than twenty students enrolled.  It was great and reminded me of my undergrad experience.  Participation was mandatory, but you know it’s a stellar class when two hours fly by.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program?  Demonstrate interest.  My undergrad GPA was lower than the average undergrad GPA for every grad program I applied to and received acceptance to all seven programs where I applied.  I have no data to support this fully. Still, I do believe showing interest, whether it’s contacting current students and alums, taking school visits, emailing academic and career staff, or taking the time to build your personal brand, can be equally if not more important than your GMAT/GRE test scores and undergrad GPA.

What was your best memory from your Master’s program?  I have two endearing memories.  The first was placing 3rd in a case competition among twelve teams of McCombs MBA and MS Marketing candidates.  The competition was right after the fall midterms, and while most students got a breather, my team worked tirelessly to do well in the case competition.  We ended up reaching the finals and placed the highest of the three MSM teams.  My other favorite memory was my cohort celebrating the fall semester’s conclusion at a Christmas-themed bar with karaoke.  We sang (poorly), danced, and drank the night away.  It was just a perfect time to relax and connect with the cohort outside of the classroom.


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