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Center for Brand Leadership

Kelley Advantage

The Center for Brand Leadership is a close-knit group of top MBA students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners who share a wealth of industry knowledge and contacts.

Marketing to Make a Difference

Rezarta Haxhillari MBA’13

Assistant Marketing Manager, General Motors

Rezarta Haxhillari

“It wasn’t ‘figure it out or fail’ at GM. There are so many Kelley alums there—from marketing managers to directors to VPs. They were my cheerleaders.”

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Rezarta Haxhillari wanted a career where she could improve people’s lives. When she first graduated from the University of Michigan, she felt the best way to do that was in the nonprofit sector. She worked as a Michigan state organizer for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, at the political action committee Progressive Majority, and as a marketing professional at her alma mater.

At Kelley, however, she found other ways to make a difference, moving from nonprofit marketing to the consumer products world. Through the Consumer Marketing Academy, Haxhillari has been able to immerse herself in the day-to-day realities of corporate marketing—from company visits and guest speakers from top consumer products companies to a real-world consulting project for Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine brand.

Putting theory into practice

“Nestlé came to us with a real business problem, and our team had seven weeks to come up with a solution. We’d check in with our manager at Lean Cuisine to give progress updates and ask questions. It was like an internship before the actual internship—it forced me to put the theory I was learning at Kelley into practice almost immediately,” Haxhillari says. By the time she began her internship at GM, she was ready.

“I felt a weird combination of confidence and nervousness,” she says. “I had faith that I’d been prepared well, but because it was my first corporate experience, there was added pressure. Will I understand the culture? Will I fit in?”

Haxhillari needn’t have worried—she did fit in.

“It wasn’t ‘figure it out or fail’ at GM,” she says. “There are so many Kelley alums there—from marketing managers to directors to VPs. They were my cheerleaders. It was a good reminder that no one does it alone. The really successful people are the ones who know when and how to ask for help.”

Internship leads to a full-time position

Her successful internship led to a full-time position as an assistant marketing manager in GM’s marketing department. There, she’ll work on GM’s OnStar system, as well as its infotainment team, which oversees technology and content across the entire vehicle dashboard.

“This really is the best fit for what I wanted to do in my career,” Haxhillari says. “OnStar is a product that saves lives every day—it makes a huge difference in people’s daily lives. With GM, I also have the opportunity to make incredible changes in the world. Just look at Detroit—I grew up here, and I saw the devastation the economic downturn caused. But GM stayed committed, it has continued to produce better and better cars, and the city is really coming back.”

Kelley helped Rezarta be bold in planning her future.

“Your internship is finding out what you want to do. I’ve seen lots of my classmates go from finance to marketing, or choose careers at companies they never imagined they’d consider,” Haxhillari says. “I took risks. I wasn’t always sure. But I had faith that I could be successful, thanks to my preparation at Kelley.”

Published June 26, 2013