Booth MBA - Interview with 2018 alum Matthew Lieberman

  • Applicant Profile

    Hello! Starting off with your applicant profile where did you go to college, what was your major, and what was your GPA?

    I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 with a BS in Economics and BA in Urban Studies with a 3.99 GPA. I spent my entire junior year abroad at the London School of Economics.

    If you're comfortable sharing, what was your GMAT score and how was your GMAT experience?

    750 overall, 49 quant, 41 verbal, 8 IR, 6 AWA. My prep period covered about 5-6 weeks. I took a Kaplan practice test cold and scored somewhere around 480, then just bought all the official guide books and studied like crazy and basically shut myself off from the world for about a month. I had consistently scored between 740-760 on the GMAC diagnostic exams so I was elated when I saw my actual score on the exam but it wasn’t terribly surprising.

    What was your work experience and extracurriculars prior to business school?

    I spent 4 years working in advertising in New York City, doing a mix of digital strategy, analytics, and paid media management (paid search (e.g. managing ads on Google) and paid social (Twitter and Facebook) campaigns) for a variety of different clients including Post Foods, Gillette, and AARP. I enjoyed my work but wanted to take greater ownership over brand strategy and move client-side. Working on a variety of different brands allowed me to experience how marketing differs across industries and I found that I was most interested in consumer goods (CPG) marketing.

    My biggest activities outside of work all revolved around running. I was an avid marathon runner and had completed 5 by the time I was applying. I also volunteered as a guide with Achilles International, where I helped guide blind runners in weekly workouts and guided a blind runner through the New York Marathon.

    What made you ultimately decide to pursue your MBA?

    Most brand management positions in CPG require MBAs so it was an easy decision to go for my MBA. I knew I wasn’t going to work in agencies my entire life and an MBA would help me shift outside of adland.

  • School Selection

    Given your career goals stated in the first question, what schools did you decide to apply to and why?

    London Business School, HEC Paris, Columbia Business School, Booth, Kellogg, Johnson, Wharton. The European schools were on my list because I had interest in living abroad (and I seriously considered LBS but soured on HEC Paris once I realized their brand awareness and value is pretty low at most US employers). I liked CBS because my entire family lives within like a 20 mile radius of Manhattan and besides college I spent basically my entire life in either New York or New Jersey. Booth, Kellogg, and Wharton are all respected schools and Johnson punches above its weight in CPG placement.

    What type of research did you do on these schools before you applied (campus visits, coffee chats, etc.)?

    I visited HEC Paris, CBS, Booth, Kellogg, and Johnson. They were all decently helpful in understanding the cultures of each school and I’m guessing the ones outside of New York appreciated me schlepping to their campuses. I also attended some information sessions that schools hosted in New York that honestly weren’t all that informative as all of the schools seemed to trumpet the same benefits (active alumni network with pay-it-forward culture, top professor, prestige, etc.).

    Which schools were you ultimately accepted into (any any scholarships) and could you walk us through your decision?

    • Booth (with 40k scholarship)
    • Johnson (with 35k scholarship, kinda weird they gave less than Booth)
    • HEC Paris (with 15k scholarship)
    • I had an interview invite with Columbia but cancelled the interview after I got my acceptance from Booth.
    • Interviewed with LBS and bombed the impromptu presentation portion (my prompt was on the implications of some arcane financial regulations and I didn’t understand half of the acronyms in the prompt itself)
    • Dinged from Wharton without interview
    • Dinged from Kellogg after interview (but they interview everyone so don’t read too much into that. As a top marketing school Kellogg gets a ton of people with similar profiles to me while I think Booth really liked my relatively uncommon background).

    What advice would you give to future MBA applicants with respect to school selection?

    Cast a wide net with respect to top schools, it can definitely be a crapshoot. Also bear in mind that the ROI from the best schools can be way higher than lower-ranked schools. Additionally, I was surprised by how regional a lot of the marketing recruiting was at Booth. I thought that as a highly-ranked school I would have all top companies across the country clamoring for my services. And we certainly had great companies come to campus (Pepsi, P&G etc.) but when it came to consumer goods there was still a regional focus on local employers like Tyson, Kraft Heinz, Pepsi, and Conagra. It wasn’t impossible to find placements at other companies or anything but it required a bit more legwork and there were fewer alumni at such companies to reach out to. This is a quirk of CPG recruiting, and the top consulting and tech and finance firms all recruited on campus at Booth in droves.

  • First Year Experience

    Walk me through the excitement of the first couple of weeks of business school at Booth.

    It was really overwhelming for me, mainly because I’m quite introverted and eventually grew tired of the ~3 weeks of orientation before classes started. Some of the programming was helpful but it dragged on for a while and by the end I was eager for classes to start. I will say that my Random Walk (trip with 12-15 classmates in mid-August) was a fantastic way to kick off the MBA experience and meet some classmates.

    What were the classes and professors like in the first and second semesters? Do you have any stories or anecdotes you could share?

    Booth has a flexible curriculum so you can explore whatever subjects you’re interested from the first quarter. I would advise first-year Boothies to only take 3 courses during the first quarter just to make everything manageable. I took 4 and my courseload became a nuisance once recruiting started. I took all of my 3 required-for-graduation courses and Marketing Strategy my first quarter, and Marketing Strategy was very valuable when it came to preparing for interviews. I would recommend trying to take foundational courses in your professional interest during your first semester/quarter so you have a strong theoretical background before you interview for internships.

    What clubs did you get involved with, and how was that experience?

    • Marketing Group - Very valuable professionally as it held some great career events (speed networking, interview prep, networking practice, etc.) and was a nice way to meet and socialize with my classmates interested in marketing. In my second
    • Board Games Club - We met on Sunday afternoons and played board games. I was a co-chair of the club and it was a very minimal commitment and a fun way to unwind and relax a little bit.
    • Career Advisors - As a second year I served as a Career Advisor, which entailed guiding first years through their internship search and helping with resumes and cover letters.

    Can you give us an idea of how you felt about and approached networking?

    I’m not the biggest fan of networking and did a terrible job of it my first year. I didn’t realize how important it was to most employers, especially local companies who hosted various presentations and events. I’d attend the events but I would never engage in any of the small talk afterwards and I did not set up any coffee chats with Booth alumni who currently worked there (of which there were many). While I don’t have a counterfactual, I did much better in getting interview slots my second year at the same companies when I was way more proactive in scheduling coffee chats with alumni. I will say that I don’t think companies that didn’t recruit on campus and weren’t local cared all that much about networking, but I did find those coffee chats tremendously useful when it came to interview prep.

    Walk me through your internship recruiting experience. How was it and how did you ultimately choose where to intern?

    I focused almost exclusively on CPG firms, with a few internships for marketing roles in retail. I received offers from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nestle and picked Dick’s based on the fact that Nestle generally recruited second-years. I got my Nestle placement through a structured application process and Booth had a decently large contingent at the company while I was the first person from Booth to intern at Dick’s and mainly got on their radar because their head of MBA recruiting reached out to me because he was looking for MBAs at highly-ranked schools who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their 1st year?

    Don’t take academics too seriously. Even though Booth had grade non disclosure for some reason I cared way too much about getting Honors each quarter. I ended up with an extra tassel on graduation day (that still paled in comparison the High Honor mega-tassel) and a lot of unnecessary stress.

  • Internship Experience

    What did you work on as an intern at Dick's Sporting Goods?

    I worked on Marketing/Strategy projects.

    What are some things you learned from your internship - whether about yourself, the industry, the role, etc.?

    I learned that while I love sports, marketing in retail is very different than marketing in CPG and I personally wanted to work in CPG where marketers serve as the hub of the wheel and take greater ownership over their brands. Retail is very much driven by merchandising and marketing isn’t as big a priority in many retail companies.

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their internship?

    Talk with as many people as you can across a variety of different functions. It will help you get an idea about the company and its culture, the company will likely appreciate you taking such an interest in them, and you’ll likely pick up some tips to help you succeed as an intern. This is based off my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from other folks who worked in marketing in CPG and retail. I could imagine some types of MBA internships and employers to lend themselves less well to a heavy coffee chat culture.

  • Second Year Experience

    What would you say are the major differences between life as a first year and life as a second year?

    Academically there wasn’t a huge difference, I continued to try to take non-intensive classes as I was re-recruiting. Things did feel more relaxed and less hectic as people already had their friend groups and major activities settled.

    What were some of your favorite elective classes and why?

    • Consumer Behavior - A subject I’m really interested (and is somewhat professionally relevant no less) taught by a passionate and knowledgeable professor (Dan Bartels).
    • New Products and Services Lab - Work with big companies (e.g. Nestle, Tyson, etc.) on new products and services they are launching. New products are huge for CPG firms and it was great to gain more practical experience and have the chance to apply my classroom learnings to a real-world setting. It also seemed to go over well when mentioned in my interviews.

    What was it like recruiting for full time roles, and how did it compare to internship recruiting? Did your internship experience inform or influence the direction of your full time job search?

    I didn’t find a huge difference between first and second year recruiting, mainly because I was recruiting for similar positions and companies. My internship experience solidified my interest in CPG marketing roles.

    I ultimately ended up as an Associate Marketing Manager at General Mills in Minneapolis. I was geographically agnostic when it came to recruiting and General Mills checked all the boxes for me in being a massive CPG company with a ton of different brands to work on and where marketers manage the P&L and play a huge role in leading their brands. After about 6 months into my role I’m having a pretty great time and the role and company have lived up to my high expectations. Recruiting in CPG marketing as a second-year is often more difficult than for internships (certainly was the case for me) because a lot of major CPG firms only recruit for full-time out of their internship pools. This meant that my options were more limited than they were as a first-year. This is another quirk about CPG marketing recruiting, most top tech and consulting firms are open to recruiting from outside of their internship pools. It’s just something good to keep in mind for people wanting to work in CPG marketing who are deciding where to intern after their first year.

    How did you feel upon graduating? Did your class do anything special before you all departed?

    I felt excited to start my next chapter and relax a little bit before work started. Doing an MBA full-time leaves you with some huge windows of free time and I tried to make the most of them because you really don’t get such opportunities all that often as an adult. My class held a massive party during the week before graduation at some fancy venue. I didn’t attend because I generally don’t like such parties,

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their 2nd year?

    Understand that you’ll be going back to the real world and your friends will be scattered across the world in a few months so make the most of your time, while also making sure to take it easy on occasion if you’re an introvert like me.

  • Post MBA Life

    What's it like being back in the working world after getting your MBA?

    Fantastic. I don’t need to worry about recruiting and I’m working at a job I find to be fun that has a really great work-life balance. I like having a normal schedule that doesn’t fluctuate all that much and a clearer distinction between weekdays and weekends.

    How do you stay in touch with your classmates?

    I don’t do a very good job of this, which I will blame on the fact that there aren’t that many alumni where I live. I will attend the few alumni events in my area but there are about 2-3 events per year.

  • Reflection and Advice

    What is the one thing you'll remember most about your business school experience?

    Probably my Random Walk. I hadn’t done a ton of international travel before business school and mostly went to places in Europe. It was neat to go to India and I made some great friends over the trip.

    What is one thing you would have done differently?

    Focused less on academics, taken more time to not be so stressed and be more social. I had some health issues that ate up a lot of time and curtailed my social life a good bit but there’s not a ton I could have really done about that.

    What is the one piece of advice you'd give to the next generation of MBA's that might challenge their perspective or a commonly held belief?

    I needed an MBA to move to client side marketing but I don’t really apply anything I learned in school during my day-to-day work. That’s not an indictment of Booth’s classroom teaching or anything, it is more due to the fact that I worked in marketing before school and most of the learning is naturally going to happen on the job in CPG marketing. I don’t regret my decision to attend Booth or get an MBA at all because I had a great time and am now at a job I love that I couldn’t obtain without an MBA.