“I knew I wanted to stay in marketing, but I was ready to make the shift to consumer-facing brands,” Olszewski says. “I wanted to work with a brand, go into a store and see people use and enjoy it.”
Olszewski sees consumer decision making as the ultimate challenge: he was interested in analyzing why consumers make certain decisions and determining how he could use different marketing strategies to influence those decisions.
“In insurance, I was analyzing risk and selecting insurance coverages for mid-sized companies who were concerned with managing insurance costs. Now, I'm analyzing consumer decisions and exploring ways to meet their needs profitably. My work, whether that be a specific ad campaign I've worked on, a price change I've recommended, or a new product launch that I'm managing, is affecting millions of people every day. To me, that is much more exciting and satisfying.”
Kelley made Olszewski’s shortlist because of its reputation in brand management. The Kelley MBA program has been ranked among the top schools for consumer marketing by Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
But Olszewski’s first impression of Kelley’s culture made a lasting impression. Before he attended Kelley’s Experience Weekend, Brandon reached out to a second-year student for recommendations on what to see and do in Bloomington. He received a two-page email.
“You could tell people had a passion for the program and were willing to give back,” he says. “I had an awesome experience with every single person I met.”
While reputation and cultural fit are important, what cinched his commitment was Kelley’s unique approach to career development. Through career-focused Academies, MBA students get “on-the-job” experience as they develop a strategic approach to marketing and a holistic view of business.
In his first year, Olszewski chose the Consumer Marketing Academy, where marketing acumen is honed with practical lessons and real brand challenges.
“The Academy immerses you in brand management,” Olszewski says. “It gives you direct experience and deeper understanding into the day in the life of a brand manager before your internship—and that’s a competitive advantage.”
Brand managers from Whirlpool, Target, General Mills and Kraft, for example, lead MBA students in interactive sessions on how to apply Nielsen data or how to work with a creative team. And those discussions inform hands-on applications. During the Academy, students work on actual projects for a consumer packing good companies.
CMA’s Company Treks gave Olszewski further opportunity to explore his favorite companies and meet with top brand managers, like those from Eli Lilly, ConAgra, Scotts Miracle-Gro and MillerCoors, among others.
“Part of being in the CMA is getting exposure to different industries to see what it’s like to work there, experience their cutting-edge work, and broaden your perspective and your network,” he says.
His defining moment, however, was with the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Program. There, marketing insights took the global stage when he and a team of four other MBAs worked on a consulting project with a nonprofit in Guatemala focused on helping impoverished youth find jobs. For their last two weeks of the project, they travelled to Guatemala to meet the students, learn firsthand about the challenges and pitch their recommendations.
That’s when his personal career goals came into clear focus.
“You spend a lot of time in business school focused on maximizing profits and driving topline growth. In the Globase experience, those metrics didn’t apply,” Olszewski says. “In the long-term, we all want to be successful in our careers and our lives—and figure out along the way how we can make an impact.”
His ultimate career goal is to become an effective executive known for his ability to lead and manage teams.
“That's it. I'm passionate about leading others and feel that if I'm effective at it then I'll have a satisfying career, I'll be a valuable piece of any organization, and the business results will follow.”
With its entrepreneurial culture and cross-functional teams, Scotts Miracle Gro gives him that freedom to pursue his career goals, get exposure to a wide variety of projects and develop his leadership skills.
“I'm barely two months into my career at Scotts and I'm already in charge of a multi-million dollar new product launch. I'm responsible for coordinating and leading a team made up of associates in sales, creative, R&D, supply chain, legal, etc., to ensure a successful launch. I'm not sure I would get this same level or responsibility this early in my career at other companies.”