We saw this announcement recently and thought it was worth dissecting:
Tim Simonds has been named chief marketing and engagement officer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Simonds, who is leaving his current role as general manager in global service marketing and marketing operations for General Electric’s Healthcare IT Division, earned his BS in education and social policy from Northwestern University and his MBA from Kellogg.
First off, congratulations, Tim! (Not like he’s reading this…) And also, kudos to Kellogg for hiring a “chief engagement officer” – this is an interesting role that reveals the values at the school and its priorities. Similarly, UC-Berkeley has recently hired a Director of Student Experience for the Haas EWMBA – these hires are a great sign that these schools take service to the customer seriously!
Let’s look at Tim’s career path in retrospect, assembled from LinkedIn profile and other Internet sources with some guesswork:
- 1991: Graduated from Northwestern University with BS in education and social policy
- 1991: Began working at P&G as brand manager
- 1995: Applied to Kellogg’s MBA program with 4 years of work experience; we assume he went through their P/T program
- 1998: Graduated from Kellogg, returned to P&G
- 2004: Hired by United Airlines as Managing Director, Customer Experience
- 2011: Moved to become a General Manager in Marketing Ops at GE Healthcare [United and Continental announced a merger in mid-2010, it’s possible he took a package to exit United at the end of that year]
- November 2012: Hired as CMO at Kellogg
What’s important to note here? Mostly we’re interested in the jobs held.
We see titles like General Manager and Managing Director on bschool career goals essays all the time. And we usually tell the BSer who’s touting that goal that it’s too ambitious. For most industries, it is – MD is a very high level. But there’s a lot of variability based on industry and even company. As you can see from this progression, Tim was only six years out of bschool before he became an MD at United in 2004 — but he also had 13 years total work experience. And we’re pretty sure that United uses the MD level in their org chart in a way that’s somewhat comparable to “Senior Manager” at some other companies; it’s seems to be a notch below VP, though different United MDs have different levels of responsibility, and certainly many are responsible for some very big teams and budgets.
But the General Manager gig? He didn’t make it to that level until he had 20 years under his belt. That’s pretty standard.
If you’re applying to bschool with 2 to 3 years of work experience, there’s no way we’re going to buy a long-term career goal you toss out with anything like MD or GM in it. Even if you have 5 years of work experience, it’s a hard sell.
As you work out your career goals, a useful exercise can be going through the histories of people who are in the position that you aspire to. Map out how they got there. Do some reverse-engineering on their progression.
Nobody can predict how their future will unfold, and the schools don’t actually expect you to literally go out and forge the exact path that you’ve listed on your essays. But they want to know that you’re being realistic about things, that you’ve given it some thought – that you know what an MBA can do for you.
If your goals are too idealisti or just too vague, then you’re setting yourself up for some problems in the admissions process.
The other interesting thing is how Tim’s career has come full circle – not just back to Kellogg, and to Northwestern, but in terms of his original interest in education that he studied as his undergrad major. And, it’s cool to see how his current role marries his obvious strong experience and many years’ expertise in marketing, along with the education thing. We’re guessing that this latest assignment must be pretty darn exciting for him.
We hope your future brings you equally exciting opportunities to pursue your best interests. Good luck with it, Brave Supplicant!