Starting My Enterprise Journey

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One of the things that sets Carlson apart from almost every other MBA program across the country is the experiential learning component, which comes to life through the Carlson Enterprise Program. For those of you unfamiliar with the Carlson Enterprise Program, it’s a pretty neat idea: starting in the second half of their second semester, all full-time MBA students have the opportunity to act as external consultants, partnering with companies of all sizes to tackle real-world business problems. Not only is this a great way for students to implement the knowledge and theories gained in the classroom in real time, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to get early exposure to the types of problems that will face them in their professional careers after graduation. As an added bonus, students are able to continue adding experiences and skills to their resumes even while they’re still in school, and to add to their bank of answers for the ubiquitous but often dreaded “Tell me about a time when…” interview questions.

For many of my classmates, myself included, the opportunity to participate in the Enterprise Program played a significant role in choosing Carlson as a full-time MBA program. There has been significant research that shows that the traditional classroom and lecture-based learning system, while helpful, is not always the best way to fully learn a new skill. However, when classroom learning is married with real-world application…well, that’s when the magic happens. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Think about chess, for example: you can read all of the books that you want, but until you actually go out and play, you haven’t really acquired that skill. And it works the other way, too: you can play without a deep understanding of the strategy behind the game and learn as you go, but just think about how much better you would be if you had read up on the concepts and strategies of the game beforehand.

As a first-year MBA candidate at Carlson, I am just starting the on-the-ground phase of my Enterprise journey (as of last week, in fact), and I have to say, I couldn’t be more excited. Prior to winter break my classmates and I started the research phase of our Enterprise journey as we familiarized ourselves with the four different Carlson Enterprise Program offerings: Brand, Funds, Consulting, and Ventures. Each Enterprise program held an “open house” to talk about how their program is structured and the types of projects that students typically work on within that particular program. First-years also had the opportunity to talk to second-years in that particular program to learn about their experiences within the program and the projects that they were working on at the time. After that, it was time to rank our Enterprise choices, and officially apply by submitting our resume and a short essay as to why we had picked that particular program.

When it came to picking an Enterprise, I, like many of my classmates, found myself stuck between a rock and a hard spot – there were too many good choices! Each of the four Enterprise options offered its own particular set of opportunities and strengths. Even process of elimination didn’t help: the only one that I was able to eliminate was Funds. No offense to Funds – it’s actually a pretty cool program – but it just wasn’t in my consideration set. Eventually, and after much soul-searching, I settled on the Brand Enterprise for my Enterprise Program experience. 

The name “Brand”, by the way, is a bit of a misnomer -- it really should be “Marketing and Marketing Strategy Consulting Enterprise”, but that can be a bit of a mouthful. I come from a marketing background and would like to continue in that field after graduation, and after talking to Carlson alumni and second-years, if you want to work in marketing, then the Brand Enterprise program is the place to be. Alumni of the Brand Enterprise program are not only at almost every Fortune 500 company within the Twin Cities, but other companies across the country as well.

The kinds of projects that Brands gets to tackle aren’t case studies, or low-priority, low-impact projects that companies are just handing off. As a first-year MBA student, I get to tackle real problems that client companies are facing, and ones that will (ideally) make a tangible impact on their business. My classmates and I will tackle the types of problems that we will eventually face in our post-MBA careers – everything from helping the client to better understand their consumers’ mindset and purchase cycle to whether or not the client should launch a new product.  The amount of faith that Carlson and the clients are putting in us is incredible, and not to be taken lightly. However, I personally believe that faith is well-placed. I know my classmates and have seen them in action, and I can say with utter confidence that we are up for the challenge. Not only do my peers and I have great work experience and skills to bring to these client projects, but we also have the added advantage of having the whole (very talented) Carlson Marketing Department on our side to tap into as resources. 

The Carlson Enterprise Program provides a unique, invaluable, and in my opinion, unmatched opportunity for my peers and I to learn and grow outside of the classroom, while building on the skills and knowledge that we gain in the classroom. I’m just starting my Enterprise journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.