A few weeks ago, I was featured in an article in which I walked through my journey as an MBA student at Owen, which led to me securing a job as an Associate Brand Manager with Amplify Snack Brands based out of Austin, Texas. While I was very flattered to be considered for this article, I felt the end product fell short of my full story. More specifically, I believe the story left out the most influential aspect of my MBA career which not only helped land me my dream job but has also fundamentally redefined the true value of coming to Vanderbilt to earn my MBA. The missing piece? My involvement with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures.
So how exactly did this interdisciplinary, student-run organization enable me to get a job in marketing at a better-for-you snacking company? By consistently providing experiences to challenge me as a leader, by broadening my intellectual perspective and graduate school experience beyond the walls of Owen, and by being part of an organization committed to being more socially conscious in all respects.
I did not know a damn thing about social enterprise prior to stepping foot on Vanderbilt’s campus. Honestly, I had never even heard the term. Despite that, the TFC still allowed and encouraged me to take on leadership roles, knowing that the true benefit would be my personal development in these roles. I always knew I wanted to “do more” with my MBA and the TFC was the perfect spot to cultivate that desire. Over the last two years I have been selected onto the TFC programming board, I have led a team to Guatemala as part of Project Pyramid, I have led a trek to Tupelo, Mississippi, I have led a trek around Nashville, and I have led a team as part of the Social Enterprise Consulting course. Each one of these experiences have been incredibly influential leadership development opportunities which have substantially benefited my abilities as a socially conscious leader. They have also been signals to employers showing my proactive intentionality to continue to develop myself through unique opportunity that are atypical to your average business school student.
Although I am focusing on it second, my personal favorite aspect of the TFC is the commitment to interdisciplinary experiences. I could have easily spent the last two years siloed within the Owen walls, never considering what is going on at other parts of campus. Yet after one information session, I understood the true value of a place where some of the sharpest minds on campus could converge to discuss different approaches to solving social issues. For example, I once found myself eating tacos with a fellow TFC board member Jordan Jurinsky, M.Ed. Community Development and Action ’19. While the initial purpose of the lunch was to catch up after our summer internships, our conversation diverted into discussing irrational decision making influenced by misconstrued ideologies around social norms. These are not the sort of conversations you have sitting around the lunch table at a business school, but instead a prime example of how the TFC fosters these unique relationships and allows someone like me to learn from a peer like Jordan. Now imagine being asked in a job interviewed to explain why a consumer may choose one product over another and be able to weave in a conversation like this to help articulate your point. I can tell you first hand, it impresses the people on the other side of the table.
Finally, there is the rewarding altruistic aspect that underlies all of the experiences provided by the TFC. This organization is set up to develop the next generation of leaders to go out and make positive change in the world. We constantly challenge each other to think critically and beyond the obvious whether we are in a classroom, on a trek, or having one of our Monday lunch check-in meetings. These thought-provoking conversations can be difficult and frustrating, but there is nothing better than seeing someone become inspired to seek out more information to continue to find solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems. Because at the end of the day, we want to see good things happen. This may not be the most career related aspect to the TFC, but if you find yourself in an interview where they do not appreciate this sort of work, you may need to ask yourself if that company is where you want to start your new career.
At this point you may be asking “Brandon, you seem so passionate about the mission of the TFC and promoting social good, why are you not starting your career in the social enterprise space?” Fair question. While at some point I would love to end up working in the social enterprise space, I know at this point in my career I still have skill gaps and other experiences to gain before I can be a true asset to a social enterprise organization. In the meantime, I am going to go out and be the best brand manager I can be while learning everything possible about how successful organizations operate, to eventually be able to be of true value to an organization in the impact space. Also, social change and impact are not limited to just social enterprise organizations. There is a role for any organization to play their part in doing good. Maybe one day Amplify Snack Brands will have an opening within their corporate social responsibility division, and that’s where I find I can make my impact. While at this time I don’t know if that opportunity will ever exist, I do know that I have my experience with the TFC sitting in my back pocket ready to be leveraged to get me my next job.