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Leaving Nonprofits for the Corporate World

Duke Rodda MBA’13

Marketing Strategist, 3M

Duke Rodda

“I knew I was making a big leap, and I felt like they had the resources in place to help me launch my career."

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An unusual path brought Duke Rodda to Kelley. For starters, he earned his undergraduate degree as a pre-med student at Washington University.

“I had been very successful in a tough program,” he says. “But when the time came to sign up for the MCAT, I realized that medicine was something I was doing because I was good at it, not because I was passionate about it.”

Follow your passion

Pursuing what he was passionate about led Rodda to a position in online marketing at the nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union. After a few years, however, he realized that he would need an advanced degree to take on a more important role in the organization.

“That was when I started thinking about business school for the first time,” he says.

A chance meeting in New York City with Jim Holmen, director of admissions with the Full-Time MBA Program at Kelley, led Rodda to consider Indiana University. As he learned more about the program, Rodda realized Kelley had what he was looking for.

Trust the process

“The deal maker for me was meeting the Graduate Career Services team during Experience Weekend,” he says. “I knew I was making a big leap, and I felt like they had the resources in place to help me launch my career. When it came to business, I felt like I didn’t know anything. I put myself in my professors’ hands and trusted the process.”

It also helped that Kelley has a top-ranked marketing program. By the time he arrived at his General Mills internship after his first year, Rodda was ready to compete.

Find the right fit

“Of course I was nervous, but I trusted that because I was a Kelley student, no one had gotten better training than I had,” Rodda says—and he also knew the finding the right fit. “Very early on in the Consumer Marketing Academy, I started hearing from people who’d been successful in brand management for years that the most important thing to consider is cultural fit. What I discovered is, when you’re not the right fit, you’re not speaking the same language as the people around you. You can’t do your best work because you’re not communicating. So when I started looking at full-time positions, culture was very high on my priority list.”

He found that culture at 3M, where he will be working upon graduation as a marketing strategist in the Integrated Marketing Development program.

 “3M is an innovation company, and it’s a very creative culture. It actually reminds me a lot of Kelley—really smart people who are working really hard, but without the level of personal ambition that keeps them from being collaborative,” Rodda says. “If you’re struggling with a problem there, you can ask the people around you, ‘Hey, have you got 15 minutes to brainstorm?’ And you jump in a room and whiteboard it out from multiple points of view.”

Today, Rodda finds himself exactly where he wants to be. “Career flexibility is a huge luxury. Maybe I’ll go back into nonprofit work in the future—I have a lot of peers at Kelley who are doing just that.”

Published June 26, 2013