2021 MBAs To Watch: Natalie Marinello, University of Wisconsin

Natalie Marinello

Wisconsin School of Business

An explorer striving to accumulate knowledge and experiences with a dash of ‘save the world’.”

Hometown: Aurora, IL

Fun fact about yourself:  During my tenure as Regional Manager for Davos Brands, Jonathan Goldsmith (famous for playing the Most Interesting Man in the World in the Dos Equis commercials) was an investor in one of our brands and I was able to spend an entire week with him (which included attending the Kentucky Derby) during an activation in one of my markets.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Marketing 

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Davos Brands, Regional Manager—Upper Midwest

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Danone North America, Broomfield, CO (Worked Remotely due to COVID-19)

Where will you be working after graduation? AppHarvest, product marketing manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Certificate in Environmental Sustainability and Social Responsibility
  • Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship Enterprise Development Fellow
  • Recipient of the Women in Business Award of Excellence Scholarship
  • Case Competitions: IGNITE Case Competition (Best Presenter Award), Intuit Product Pitch Competition (First Place), Net Impact Case Competition (Finalist), Graduate Marketing Network Competition (Best Presenter Award, Consulting Award)
  • Leadership Roles: Co-President, Food & Wine Club; Vice President, Graduate Marketing Network; Board Member, Net Impact; Co-chair of the 2021 Wisconsin School of Business Case Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? A motivating factor for me to pursue my MBA was to learn more about how business can be a force for environmental sustainability and help combat the climate crisis. During my first semester at the Wisconsin School of Business, I participated in a case competition where teams were tasked with recommending opportunities for growth for a local Madison company named American Provenance. Prior to returning to school, I worked with the 1% for the Planet organization, which is a network of companies that pledge 1% of their gross sales to environmental nonprofits around the globe. After analyzing American Providence’s target consumer and the company’s overall brand strategy, I recommended that American Providence join 1% for the Planet to help build brand awareness and reinforce their commitment to minimizing their impact on the planet. My team agreed to present this proposal and I ended up winning the Best Presenter award and American Provenance decided to move forward with the recommendation to join the 1% for the Planet network. It was amazing to see the influence I could have as an MBA student and incredibly rewarding to know that my team and I helped make a positive impact not only on a local company, but also on the planet.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Looking back at my professional career, I am most proud of my continuous effort to push myself out of my comfort zone and tackle new experiences and challenges. I have a strong internal desire to explore, simply for the sake of expanding my understanding of the world around me and this is evident in my professional life. I have worked with several iconic brand names in various positions from sales roles to business development to marketing with the goal of building a complete sense of the brand building process.

These experiences strengthened my flexibility, as I had to adapt to different organizational challenges and structures, such as when I transitioned from Newell Brands, a global organization with over 50,000 associates, to Davos Brands, a company of 50 employees. Working in various business functions also led me to appreciate the different components necessary in building a comprehensive business strategy. Seeking new opportunities for growth challenged me to continue to adapt to new structures, places, people, industries and so much more, accumulating more skills and experiences along the way.

Why did you choose this business school? I was attracted to the Wisconsin School of Business because of its specialization model. This enabled me to hyper-focus on marketing and brand management, what ultimately led me to choose this program was the people and the culture. Wisconsin’s motto is “Together, Forward” and the school does a brilliant job of reinforcing the importance of teamwork and cooperation. When interviewing for the program and speaking with previous students, I immediately felt a sense of community and belonging. There are many aspects of MBA-life that can be competitive (case competitions, recruitment etc.) and it was important for me to find a program that emphasized a supportive and collaborative culture and I found that at Wisconsin.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? While I am incredibly grateful for all my UW MBA professors, there is one specifically who stands out for not only teaching my favorite subject, but also challenging my preconceived notions and creating an incredibly engaging classroom atmosphere. Jan Heide, professor of Marketing Management, has completely reinforced my love for marketing. His impassioned teaching style inspires all students to actively participate and share their viewpoints during class. Through these robust discussions, I gained new points of view from the experiences and perspectives of my fellow classmates. Professor Heide has expertly chosen memorable business cases that highlight key marketing principles, helping to solidify these concepts and making them easier to recall. I am so thankful for the experience of being in Professor Heide’s class and the lessons I learned will stay with me throughout the remainder of my career.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could turn back time and relive my MBA experience (and how I wish I could do just that!), I would attempt to prevent my “imposter syndrome” from affecting my confidence. While at school and during my summer internship, I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent and talented people, which can be quite intimidating and led me to question whether my own knowledge and skills were adequate. I have learned that it is important to approach new opportunities with both humility and curiosity, but also to have confidence in my own personal capabilities and unique point of view that I bring to an organization and the different projects I work on.

What is the biggest myth about your school? There is a myth of ‘Midwest friendliness’ which posits the idea that those living in this region of the country are among the warmest and most welcoming in the nation. While I cannot quantify the friendliness of Midwesterners or people at UW and measure it against that of other places, I can absolutely confirm that I have felt incredibly appreciated and supported during my time at the Wisconsin School of Business. Also, I can verify that people in Wisconsin and at UW really do love their cheese curds.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spent a lot of time and effort on my application essays. Not only did this give me an edge during the application process, but it also encouraged me to engage in a process of deep self-reflection and analysis and consider why I was returning to school, what I hoped to get from the experience and to effectively articulate these thoughts.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire so many of my classmates! One fellow student in particular that I look up to is Chelsea Johnson. Chelsea is just so authentically Chelsea. She has this innate confidence and fearlessness in who she is that I marvel at. Chelsea is usually the first to ask the questions the rest of us are thinking of, but too afraid to admit that we do not already know the answers to. Her curiosity combined with her courage helps our entire MBA class have more thought-provoking and insightful discussions. She inspires me to believe in myself and place less emphasis on how I am being perceived. Also, her Goodreads account is wildly impressive and motivates me to read more.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I am very impressed with how quickly the Wisconsin School of Business adapted to the virtual environment. When my class was notified the school was going completely online back in March 2020, my professors had about a week to develop a virtual format for their classes. They did an incredible job in keeping us all engaged and responding to any issues and concerns.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Growing up with a reading specialist for a mother, I was constantly surrounded by ever-evolving stacks of books. My mother also informed me at an early age that I shared a birthday with both C.S. Lewis and Louisa May Alcott, further cementing my fate to be a life-long bibliophile. Her encouragement and love of reading inspired my own passion for storytelling. While attending Indiana University, I searched for a way to integrate this passion into my career and studied everything from journalism to communications to film and television. During in an introductory marketing course at the Kelley School of Business, I became fascinated with the concept of creating shared myths that can influence a global audience. And the rest, as they say, is history! I am also the first person in my entire family to pursue an MBA and I must credit my mother’s enthusiasm for education for instilling in me a similar passion for continuous learning.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Work in a position that enables me to use my education and experiences to make a positive net impact on the environment, either in a CSR role or marketing for an environmental sustainability-focused organization.

2) Work on an international/global project.

What made Natalie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Natalie is engaged not only in the Center specifically but across the MBA. Her energy and positive attitude have been a huge boost to her classmates throughout the past, very challenging, year. She has been a source of positive energy in the classroom, during our virtual social events, and with the numerous prospective students she has happily connected with over her year and a half here. She has served in several leadership positions including Co-president of MBA Food & Wine Club, Vice President of GMN and Board Member for Net Impact. Natalie is the type of MBA you hope for in your program. With her can-do attitude and abundant willingness to help and take charge, when necessary, she’s the future business leader we love having here at the WSB.”

Sarah Kervin
Assistant Director, Marketing Centers
Wisconsin School of Business



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