Monday, June 7, 2010

“A Creative Mind … In a Business Box”

Lauren Collins, a regular blogger over the past year, recently completed her MA and is now at R.J. Reynolds. Always a member of our team, this is the first of what we hope will be regular updates on Lauren’s post-graduate experiences.

Wake Forest MBA Staff - Courtney CashinGreetings Deacs! I apologize for my absence. I took some vacation time after graduation before starting my internship with R.J. Reynolds. I packed up my computer and didn’t reply to emails for a week. While relaxing, I don’t advise completely cutting yourself off from the digital world for a week. That’s like 800 pages in social networking mini feeds. While I clearly remember graduation and the hooding ceremony, it seems like just yesterday I was picking out my suit for the first day as a graduate student in the MA program. Surprisingly, in a few weeks, I will celebrate the anniversary of that memorable day. In reflection, I would say it was a year well spent and a portfolio of memories that will stick with me forever. Everything from the friendships that I made to relationships I built with senior executives from IBM, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo and other admirable companies. From planning the marketing club trip to NYC, organizing events for Wake’s 2nd Annual Black Alumni Weekend, traveling to New Orleans for the National Black MBA conference and connecting with passionate Deacs through this blog, I couldn’t envision a more well-rounded graduate school experience.

My time at Wake is even more precious now that I’m working in Corporate America. I never – NEVER - imagined I would be where I am today. Yet with only one additional year of school, through an in-dept introduction to business at Wake, I’m working alongside seasoned MBA students from some of the nation’s top institutions. I’ve only been working a week at RJ Reynolds, but in the past few days I’ve already have used some of the tactics I learned from my Marketing, IT, Operations, Strategy, and Organizational Behavior courses. Just like I spent a great deal of time at Wake working in teams with my peers, one of my side projects at Reynolds involves a collaborative effort amongst my peers. It’s funny reflecting on all of the assignments I did in the MA program, which at the time I may have questioned, but I’m now realizing how crucial they are to my success.

Last week, we had a “Meet & Greet” session with the Reynolds leadership team. Previously these conversations would have left me tongue tied with clammy hands, but instead I was very comfortable and confident during the cocktail hour. For the most part, the repetitive 30-second commercial I developed with my career coach Emily and all of the public speaking engagements Wake forced upon me ultimately turned this stage-shy girl into an outspoken contributor. My learning curve is a bit steeper than my older counterparts, given their previous expertise, but I still continue to be a great asset to the team because of my unique creative background.

“A creative mind in a business box.” That’s a tagline I repeated to employers throughout my time at Wake that will likely find itself on my next business card. I look forward to sharing how the lessons I took from Wake continue to apply to my marketing career with RJ Reynolds.

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