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Brent Walker

Being Creative in an MBA Program

Written by Brent Walker

Prior to entering the MBA program here at Broad, I received an undergraduate degree from Drake University in Marketing and Management. Marketing might be considered the “most creative” business degree you can receive. However, coming out of undergrad, I struggled to find a creative path and had to settle for accounting, finance, and sales jobs. This was not the path I wanted to follow in my life, so I looked to find a new life, and earning an MBA looked like the best way to start over.

Sure, I had to come up with creative ways to solve problems but I felt my intelligence and skills were being wasted. When entering the Broad MBA program, I thought creativity would be limited to just the classrooms and projects I would be assigned. I was wrong, I had to become creative in how I marketed myself to companies in order to stand. I was now swimming in a sea of sharks and could not afford to be the happy, go with the flow turtle and expect to stand out.

Before I could adjust who I was toward companies, I had to focus on class and figure out creative ways to be able to cram hours of work into a packed schedule. I knew the program would be challenging but I had no clue I would have to juggle projects, job hunting, presentations, readings, and studying for tests on a day in and day out basis. This is where my creativity started to grow as fitting everything into my schedule became like a Houdini act.

Working in teams that are created to foster both conflict and creativity helps this juggling as everybody is as busy as I am. We had to figure out who was going to take lead on a project while another team member would need to take lead on a presentation. The creativity really showed as forming five distinct writing styles into one cohesive paper was challenging. Or the creativity of making a presentation stand out among fourteen other teams with similar ideas.

And maybe that is the key to our team’s creativity that made us stand out as a “different” group. We all wanted to be different from other groups and strived to think of ideas where a professor would say “that is a different approach” or a classmate to say “wow, we didn’t even think of that.” The strange thing was our group stood out most when we took the simplest ideas and ran with them. While most groups wanted to be hyper-creative, they often fell into the same trap as “everybody has that idea.” Our group took the Apple approach of finding something that already works and taking it to the next level.

This creativity took complete shape for our first Extreme Green competition where we were tasked with coming up with a new creative way to market “5 Gum” for Wrigley. While most teams wanted something futuristic like 3D printing or digital checkouts, we took a simple approach of teaming up with Candy Crush. Now some say the creativity might not have been as ambitious as other groups but it takes a special kind of creative to also be feasible. We knew what society as a whole was doing with their time (playing games), and we knew the problem Wrigley was facing (people shopping online), so we just created an idea that incorporated both. Although we came in third with the judges, a fact I still hold was completely wrong and the other two team ideas were not feasible, dozens of classmates and second years came up to us saying we were robbed. The acceptance of our classmates and second years meant validation for our creativity.

The acceptance of our classmates leads me back to the creativity needed to stand out toward companies. A creativity that must also allow you to be yourself or your dream job might not actually fit you. Studying supply chain, a field in which I have zero experience, makes me a career switcher. Approaching a company to get hired to run a logistics program or run operations in a factory with only having financial and customer service in my background scared me.

It was up to me to mold my past career experiences into something that resembled supply chain experience. While some classmates have years of supply chain experience, many of my classmates were in the same boat as me, with various backgrounds but never once dealing with setting up shipping logistics or purchasing raw materials to create a product. What we did have was experiences buying supplies, or simplifying a working system at our old job or figuring out how we fit every meeting, report, and job function into a busy day. These are experiences that we can bring to an interview and show how they helped mold us.
We must always be creative in how we answer interview questions as the interviewers typically hear the same answers over and over. Standing out through creativity is incredibly important and the Broad program has taught me that. I strive every day to be as attractive to companies as my classmates. The MBA program has taught me to never rest and always strive to reinvent myself. If I didn’t try to grow and find creative away to do so, I would have been left in the dust by my classmates.


Eli Broad College of Business

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