Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Last Post

The Last Day of My MBA Program
(June 25, 2012)

This week is not like all the rest; not like the 94 previous weeks my posts on Living the Northeastern MBA have outlined. No, this week is the last of my Northeastern MBA.

I start my day at the Ocean Spray offices like I have been for the past two months. I work on my projects, grab lunch in the cafeteria and send off a flurry of e-mails. But work is not what I’m going to focus on in this post because something much more epic is happening. Today, at 7:30 pm, I will enter Dodge Hall as a student for the last time, sit in a classroom for the last time and present to my fellow MBAs for the last time.

But, for all the hype surrounding this last day and all the wishing I have done for the past several months for the program to hurry up and end because I was just so darn exhausted, I now want to savor every moment.

While my Marketing in the Service Sector class tonight has a final presentation, it is no Interdisciplinary Project from Spring Semester 2011; no Living Document; no Accounting Annual Report Project. It is simple, quick and over rather uneventfully.

Furthermore, my class is composed of only a scant few of the classmates I started orientation with 21 months 2 weeks and 5 days ago. Most of the members of Section 24 and 34 are off at their jobs, in their concentration-specific courses or on their extended corporate residencies.

My graduation ceremony already occurred. There is no great fanfare for the end.  At this realization I start to tear up in the middle of class (don’t laugh). I don’t know if it is with joy, sadness, nostalgia, anxiety or just plain exhaustion but my emotions are getting to me. My graduate school experience was many years in the making. For any of you who have completed an MBA, are in the middle of one or are just starting to consider it, you know the journey is far more than two years long. Far more than all those applications, a co-op, a cohort or a degree. For me, it was nearly six years ago that I started to consider an MBA. Six years from when I first got that inkling during my junior year of college that, yeah, maybe this was for me.

My journey not only took me across the country to what would become my new, permanent home, but across the globe to India for my International Field Study and through a universe of jobs (aviation to cranberries is no small trip). But the journey also transformed me from a recent University of Washington graduate struggling in the economy of 2008 to landing my dream job, in my dream city and with the perfect MBA behind me.

So, faithful readers, 86 posts later this trip comes to an end. And just when I thought it would close in an uncharacteristic whimper, I step outside of Dodge Hall at 9:30 pm to the most extreme thunderstorm I have ever seen. Taking shelter under my tiny umbrella, I speed through the torrential downpour to my apartment. I rush through roads that have become rivers, my shoes and clothes drenched all the way through and I think, this is how it should end; this amazing journey; this transformative experience; just like this: in a glorious flash of lightning and a crash of thunder.

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff, employees or affiliates.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Weekend Soujourn to New Hampshire

Henniker, NH
Seventh Week of Summer Semester 
(June 18 - 24)

Today marks the start of the second-to-last week of my MBA program. I honestly wish I could spend more time reminscing on it but I'm just too darn busy, so let's get started!

On Monday I start my morning with my very first Monthly Consumption meeting. I was told by my boss last week that this month I would be pulling together the Foods SNAPshot. A SNAPshot is essentially a picture of our business' health. I attend the hour-long meeting and, I'm not going to lie, I'm a little intimidated by all the charts and graphs that I now have to make sense of by Thursday.

However, I don't have long to let my nerves get to me because I have a super fun class to attend: Sensory Training! I spend the next hour learning all about how the senses impact Ocean Spray product development, followed by tons of taste and smell testing. I love my job!

I have the rest of my afternoon reserved for beginning my SNAPshot (trust me, I'm going to need all that time!).

That night, in my Marketing in the Service Sector class, I have a case study due on Menton Bank and the company's transition to a new store model. However, most of my classmates are more concerned with our impending final project which is due in just one week. You might remember that my team and I are looking into the websites of eight different service companies and analyzing their effectiveness. We have our paper and presentation due next Monday, but in the interest of pro-activity, my team and I all decided to submit our paper and draft slides to each other by today.

Tuesday morning at work starts out well with a 2.5-hour new hire meeting. The session is really valuable as I learn all about my benefits, the way employee performance is measured, the history of the cooperative and more. Plus, I get to meet a bunch of other newbies and get some face time in with the CEO! Not a bad start to a Tuesday, if I do say so.

I follow the new hire meeting up with my buddy lunch before I have to get back to real work in the afternoon.

I spend the rest of the day in meetings for a Craisins® package redesign and new merchandising vehicles before buckling down for a few hours of SNAPshot work.

Tonight marks our second-to-last Consumer Behavior class and the beginning of our final presentations! Yikes! Fortunately for my team, we won't be in front of the class until Thursday, but we still had to submit our final paper and the presentation to the professor today (in the interest of fairness to all the groups).

Before we get to the first two groups, our professor leads us in a discussion of an article on MTV's expansion around the world as well as our final book chapter discussion. We then move on to the first two groups. Fortunately, after watching these teams present I get less nervous about our presentation because they both seemed to cover the same topics as our team did (looks like we are on track for later this week!).

On Wednesday I start my day with coffee with the VP of Human Resources at Ocean Spray. She has kindly set up a session with a few new hires to see how our first few months at the company have been.

After my fill of caffeine, I head back to my cube for some more SNAPshot work. Fortunately, I have something fun planned as a break from all that Nielsen analysis: a store visit to Walmart and Stop & Shop to check out  Craisins® pricing.

After my store visits, I spend the rest of my day working with an Associate Trade Marketing Manager to get a UPC request set up for a new cranberry sauce configuration, followed by a great working session with my boss to perfect my SNAPshot.

Tonight in my Marketing in the Service sector class we discuss the last case of the my MBA career! Fortunately, it's a pretty fun one that spurs some lively debate around what level of responsibility FedEx has when it can't meet its promise to 'deliver next day'.

After class lets out a bit early, my group meets one last time before our presentation on Monday to review our slides, make some final edits and get a bit of practice in.

Thursday morning is spent attending to a plethora of work requests and mentally preparing for the presentation of my SNAPshot during our consumption working session later in that morning.

Alas, I'm up first for SNAPshot presentations and I don't think it goes that well. I'm pretty frustrated with myself for not presenting all the information I had as clearly, or as confidently, as I would have liked. All I can do is take constructive notes from my team and hope that next month I use these learnings to improve - a lot.

On the bright side, I don't have much time to reflect on my embarrassing presentation because I have a ton of work I postponed earlier this week in favor of working on my consumption report.

First up, I attend a meeting for two new Craisins® packaging initiatives and then spend some time making updates to my consumption report before sending the final out to my team. That afternoon, I also get a lesson from my boss on another monthly report I will now be in charge of updating: the Sales and Operating Plan (S&OP). This report looks at the estimated volumes of each product and readjusts our forecast as we get actuals for each month in.

Tonight marks my final class of Consumer Behavior and my second-to-last presentation of my MBA program (are you getting annoyed with my countdowns yet? Too bad!).

My group is up last tonight and, despite our fears that we would run over on our strict time limit for our project on 'Health Conscious America' we ended up finishing early (I'm pretty sure we all rushed throught it). Fortunately, besides the rushed pace, my group feels pretty confident in our presentation.

And with that, I have just one class left next week.

My half-day Friday is super busy as I play catch-up from all my intern/new hire meetings from this week and the time I invested in learning how to pull my SNAPshots and S&OP report together. In fact, I only stop for a brief moment for my Meet and Greet with the VP of Global Marketing and Sales. Fortunately, it was a great 1:1 and I truly appreciated the opportunity to have a real conversation with a very busy exec. Lovely!

Lake Massasecum, NH
After the 1:1, I get super focused on finished the rest of my work so that I can leave by 2:00 pm today. Why 2:00 pm, you ask? Well, I have some super fun plans for this afternoon and weekend! You might recall that last semester, as part of my Brand and Advertising Management class, my team did a consulting project for Henniker Brewing Company. Now, the owner of the company has invited the entire team up to Henniker, New Hampshire for a trip to his lake house, an afternoon on his boat and tons of barbeque! Yes!

To make things even better, Nick is meeting me in New Hampshire later that night and we are staying in a quaint hotel for the evening because, why not?

I somehow manage to get back into the city in time to meet two of my former group mates at 3:00 pm and we make the drive up to Henniker, NH. As soon as we arrive (at about 5:30 pm) we jump onto the boat of our former 'client' and tour Lake Massasecum. It's simply gorgeous and being outdoors does wonders for my frazzled brain.

After a couple of hours of swimming and boat riding it's time for massive amounts of hamburgers, hot dogs and, of course, craft beer.

Colby Hill Inn, NH
Nick joins us around 8:30 pm. After some leisurely chatting with everyone on the screened-in porch (love!), he and I make our way to our cozy hotel for the night: the historic Colby Hill Inn.  It is painfully quaint and cute.

Amazing apple pancakes at Colby Hill Inn
Nick and I wake up on Saturday morning for a delicious breakfast at the hotel. I order their apple pancakes and some cranberry juice - of course!

One of Henniker's historic bridges
We then spend the morning exploring Henniker's picturesque bridges and old town area before heading back to the lake for another round of boating - this time on a speed boat with my group mate and her family. I am super impressed with my friend and her brother as they perform daredevil wake boarding stunts, leaping across wakes like it's no big deal. When she asks if I would like to try, I attempt not to laugh. Yeah, I have a hard time keeping my balance standing on solid ground so any sort of extreme sport is not in the cards for me.

After an afternoon on the water, we all indulge in some home-cooked mexican lasagna before Nick and I bid my teammate's family adieu to head back to the city.

By the time Nick and I get back to Boston we are super hungry and decide that a steak is the only thing that will do. We venture down to the theater district for a meal at Fleming's where the amount of food we order is nothing short of embarrassing. Wedge salads, oysters, Filet Mignon, cheddar jalapeno mac n' cheese, scalloped potatoes and a fennel shortbread topped with bourbon berries are just some of the items we devour. Delicious!

On Sunday, Nick and I grab some breakfast at Pavement Coffeehouse. I order my favorite breakfast bagel: the Tequila Sunrise with jalapeno cream cheese! Yum! After our coffee fill, we then head to the Fenway movie theater for an afternoon showing of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Laugh all you want, but it was actually a pretty fun movie.

After a couple of hours of historically accurate vampire killing, Nick and I meet up with one of my classmates at Dillon's for apps and adult beverages.

Alas, after a weekend of fun, I have to spend the rest of my Sunday preparing for my very last class/presentation/assignment of my MBA! Eeek!

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My First Presentation to the Decision Management Team

Sixth Week of Summer Semester
(June 11 - 17)

Well folks, the clock is winding down on my time as a blogger for the Northeastern MBA program! I have just over two weeks left as a graduate student. Can you believe it?

That being said, Monday begins with my normal early start, followed by a day punctuated with meetings. My first meeting is of particular interest to me as it pertains to the pricing strategy of two new Craisins® packaging innovations. I relish the opportunity to closely look at our P&L statements (Profit and Loss). This really helps me understand all the elements that go into pricing our products. What is especially fascinating are line items such as cost of fruit and return per barrel as we are, after all, an agricultural cooperative.

Immediately after that session I venture into uncharted territory (the R&D department) for a meeting to discuss the status of several innovation projects (most of which pertain to Craisins®!).  It was really neat to sit around a table with employees from quality control, packaging and more. I always like meeting new people and this meeting, more than anything, helped me put names to a faces.

After this session, my boss and I rush upstairs for a quickie meeting with the VP of Sales and Marketing. We need his weigh-in on several potential film options for a new Craisins® product. Each one boasts slight differences but much larger implications for consumer preference.

After that meeting, I sneak away to the atrium to take in the Asian Expo. It has absolutely everything I love in one location: essentially a huge exhibit of all the ways other countries in Asia use our Ocean Spray products (complete with samples - win!). I try fun cranberry-flavored sodas, cranberry chutney from India and a slew of cranberry cakes and dried nut combinations. I am in heaven and have to control myself from asking for samples of all the products.

The rest of my afternoon is spent meeting the Packaging Design and Graphics Manager to review a few things and partaking in an emergency meeting for two Craisins®packaging initiatives in light of a timeline that has been pushed forward dramatically.

In class tonight we discuss innovation at Progressive Insurance, most notably the precursor to the 'snapshot' device we see on television commercials today. I also meet with my group after class to discuss the status of our final project (due in just two weeks!).

Tuesday I have all glorious morning to catch up on work before my wall of meetings hits. Fortunately, before I face that wall I get the chance fuel up on the ever-so-addictive Cranberry Cafe salad bar during lunch with my Ocean Spray buddy. Per usual, we spend the time catching up and enjoying the outdoor patio.

Most of the rest of my afternoon is spent in meetings, starting with one to discuss the two Craisins® packaging initiatives which have just been moved up several months. We all pay particular attention to deliverables and drop-dead times and then scatter to try and get it all done.

Next, I get the pleasure of attending another intern training session; this one on Finance. It is particularly helpful to hear from the Corporate Controller himself as he explains Ocean Spray's sometimes confusing pool year accounting system. Loved it!

My day wraps up with a meeting on our "Make the Swap" Craisins® campaign. We discuss all sorts of cool, innovative programs we are implementing including large-scale sampling efforts, social media campaigns and more.

In my Consumer Behavior class tonight I was finally forced to turn in my Consumer Brand Audit where I was asked to focus on one role I 'play' in my daily life and the necessary tools of that role. I ended up choosing my 'traveler' self and focused on the REI backpack I use for my globe-trotting adventures. The project ended up being quite fun to complete but at this point in my MBA (with less than two weeks of class left) I have very little motivation to do anything at all.

Wednesday is a rare occurrence of a day where I don't have a single meeting on my schedule. With so much time there is no way I could be anything but productive as a get through assignment after assignment including helping to design a new universal header card for our Craisins® shippers, doing some deep-dive Nielsen data pulls and more.

I only break for lunch with a fellow Northeastern MBA blogger, a first year who is completing her corporate residency in the Finance department at Ocean Spray! NEU bloggers unite!

In my Marketing in the Service Sector class tonight we discuss the case of TL Contact - essentially a company that offers personalized web pages to hospital patients so that their friends/families can keep everyone posted on the health and progress of the patient.

Thursday is a big day, mainly because I have to present during my very first DMT (Decision Management Team) meeting. The DMT is a group of nearly all the senior leadership members at Ocean Spray that meets once a month to approve or deny continued work on new projects. Eeek!

However, before I can get to that, I have a busy morning that includes our weekly Marketing team huddle in the common area, my 1:1 with my boss (where I, of course, review my DMT deck with her one last time) and other such tasks.

But come 11:00 am I am already waiting outside the doors of the DMT conference room, trying to calm my nerves and practice my key points over and over in my head. Fortunately, the project that I was presenting a status update on was quickly approved and I didn't have to stand under fire for very long. I even got a nice compliment on my presentation from the Director of New Business Development. Phew!

After lunch I head over to the Ag building, a separate building on the Ocean Spray campus that was formerly used, as I understand it, for product testing. I have never been over there so I'm super excited. Plus, the meeting is to discuss the results of some amazing consumer research we had just completed, including ethnographies and video interviews with our 'heavy users'.

Once that two-hour presentation ends, I head back to the main building for another meeting on a new Craisins® product. Unfortunately, the meeting ends up being cancelled since the previous session ran a bit long. But not to worry, I have plenty of work to keep me busy before my next meeting to discuss some graphics changes to our Craisins® packaging.

That night in my Consumer Behavior class we discuss the controversy over a South African rugby team playing a song called De La Rey during a game. Apparently it is a song the promotes General de la Rey's battles, much to the contention of some ethnic groups in the country. The class discussion was particularly impactful because our professor lived in South Africa as a boy and one of my classmates is from the very area they were discussing in the case. How cool!

After this hectic week I am very grateful for my half day Fridays. Still, I'm in the office early to work on my mounting projects.

Also on Friday, I have called together my very first meeting for a project that I will lead! I have been put in charge of a seasonal foods item and have called together anyone I could think of who might be of assistance. I'm a bit nervous because, honestly, I am sure there are so many elements of bringing a product to market that I don't even know about  (even one that has run in previous years). I just hope I don't mess anything up!

After I leave work that afternoon, I spent the rest of the day running errands and relaxing a bit before a weekend of library time.

Saturday morning I'm up early to run some errands before I eventually drag myself to Snell Library around noon. I have come under a serious case of senioritis but I have to keep my focus because my final presentation for Consumer Behavior is due next week. I spend the majority of the day doing my readings for the week and finalizing the paper and presentation for my Consumer Behavior final project on 'Health Conscious America'.

Still missing my huevos rancheros at The Other Side Cafe; this version by Thornton's will have to do
Sunday is slightly better because I start out my day with brunch at Thornton's with the library buddy and classmate. I load up on huevos rancheros for what will be another full day of final project work.

After a grueling 7 hours in the library my friend and I decide that, to keep our sanity, a reward of take out is necessary. I spend the rest of my Sunday evening indulging in Black Jack Pasta.

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mounting Responsibilities

Photo Shoot for the new Northeastern MBA brochure
Fifth Week of Summer Semester
(June 4 -10)

This week proves to be one of mounting work responsibilities.

On Monday, I get into the office early and manage a couple of hours of meeting-free time to get some work done. Then, from 11:00-12:30 pm I have a monthly Brand Marketing Meeting where the Brand Team shares the status of projects they are working on and other interesting work-related anecdotes.

After lunch that afternoon, I have a meeting with the Marketing Manager in charge of a new Craisins® packaging initiative. The meeting is to discuss special requests made by individual retailer accounts and how Marketing and Sales handle those requests.

Once that meeting is completed, I rush over to Human Resources to continue my discussion from last week regarding how to get the new hires onto the intern training program. The HR Manager and I manage to get the training list and dates and I promise to set up appointment alerts for all the new hires so that they can attend. We also discuss professional development books and the potential for a company-wide book club to read and discuss said books.

When that meeting wraps up I head straight to a workmate's cube to learn how to move plugs in SAP (one of our Financial planning software programs). You see, when invoices are coded incorrectly, they go into a 'plug' in SAP. When that happens, Marketing, as managers of our budgets, has to go in and move the 'plugs' into the appropriate account. Since I had never done this before, it was quite confusing and I definitely needed my fellow Assistant Marketing Manager's help.

That night in my Marketing in the Service Sector class I have to submit my Flying J case write-up. Flying J is a chain of low-price gas stations facing the critical decision of whether to raise prices or not. I'm a bit nervous as I hand it in because it's worth 1/3 of our grade and is our first 'official' submitted assignment. Yikes!

Tuesday is a day of catching up on work. I arrive early to get some productive hours in before our 10:00 am meeting on employee engagement. The employee engagement meeting is great and the entire marketing team spends the next hour and a half having some amazing discussions about ways to improve employee engagement, training and communication. People provide some great suggestions on ways to improve some of our company offerings and initiatives such as more inclusive team meetings, opening training opportunities to all staff members and more.

When noon rolls around it's time for my weekly Ocean Spray buddy lunch. My buddy and I enjoy Cranberry Cafe salads and catch up our respective weekends.

The rest of my afternoon is spent working on my numerous assignments, punctuated only by a 2:00 pm conference call with an outside account manager who has been able to secure a free promotion for our Ocean Spray Cranberry sauce this fall. Yes!

In my Consumer Behavior class that night we enjoy a presentation on "How the Brain Buys" which includes a great grocery shopping re-enactment and some Ocean Spray shout-outs. Woot! We also get to work in groups on creating a new advertising campaign for an existing brand. Not surprisingly, considering my slight addiction to the brand, my group selects Dunkin' Donuts for our exercise. We wrap up the class session with a final group exercise on a vignette from our book about a young man who spends more than he would like when purchasing a used car and how consumer behavior drove that purchase decision.

Monsoon-like rain: Just part of living on the East Coast
Wednesday is a loooong day. I'm up at 5:30 am in order to get to work by 7:00 am. I have so much to do today and, of course, my calendar is riddled with meetings from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

One of the good things about getting into the office so early is that I get a solid amount of time to focus, un-distracted. I'm also able to respond to a data request from our Director that require a quick turnaround. That morning I also get some good news in the form of approval for all of the new hires to attend the intern training sessions that run all summer. I am particularly interested in the Finance 101 session, Contracts Management class, the discussion on a case study on international expansion at Ocean Spray and a visit to Arnold Communications!

My first meeting of the day gives me the opportunity to learn, first-hand, how to enter a new product/package idea into our stage-gate type process. I'm helping out another Ocean Spray employee who doesn't have access to the system. Fortunately, with the gracious help of an Ocean Spray Commercialization Manager I am able to successfully enter the new request into the system.

I spend the next several hours working on a deck for some new Craisins® package options, reviewing graphics for these packages as well as responding to what feels like a million other one-off tasks.

At noon I break for lunch with our new intern, an MBA student from Boston College. I'm super excited to have her here for the summer and working on the foods team!

After lunch I rush off to my weekly meeting to discuss the new Craisins® packaging I was talking about earlier. The team is trying to ensure we have all the information we can to prepare a sell deck for a customer meeting next week.

After that meeting I have a couple of precious hours to get some more work done before a graphics review meeting, which I'm super excited about! It's my first official graphics review meeting and I totally love getting to pass on some design inputs (it harks back to my days as a newspaper page designer).

I round out my day with a meeting regarding a special customer request for new Craisins® merchandising vehicles and cramming as much work as possible before I have to leave at 6:00 pm to get to class on time.

In my Marketing in the Service Sector class we discuss a case on BT, a British telephone company struggling through a move from a government-owned monopoly over their industry, to a public market.

Thursday morning I get in to the office early again to try and get some work done before a weekly Marketing huddle at 9:00 am. I have plenty to work on including managing the budget, gathering the legal approvals I need for the free Cranberry Sauce promotion, preparing my deck for the DMT (Decision Management Team) presentation I will give next week and more!

In fact, I have so many projects in the air right now that after the huddle meeting, my boss and regroup to discuss my projects statuses, even though my weekly 1:1 with her is tomorrow.

Lunch today is with my boss and the Director of Cooperative Communications. As part of my personal development plan, I am trying to find ways to leverage my past experience and skills to help the cooperative. One idea that came up was for me to look into an Ocean Spray blog (either external or internal). I was, of course, super excited about this idea and enjoyed the working lunch to discuss the potential of such a blog.

Right after lunch I rush upstairs for another meeting with HR to further discuss the viability of an employee book club, training initiatives and more.

After that meeting I have just a few minutes before I join a meeting that pertains to cranberry sauce. One of the Marketing Managers in Special Markets is exploring options for cranberry sauce, foods, etc. in numerous different capacities and I asked if I could hop on the meeting. It was super informative and enlightening to see marketing from the different perspective of sales and special markets, rather than marketing directly to consumers.

My busy day wraps up with a conference call with another CPG company who wants to partner with Craisins® for a promotion. The proposition sounds great and is one that would fit in nicely with our brand strategy and messaging but some of the logistics will have to be ironed out.

In Consumer Behavior that night the class was tasked with bringing in photos of how Nestle Crunch bars make us feel. It was highly entertaining to see how varied the photos were and what emotions people associated with them. I was just happy that I had an excuse to eat chocolate!

Friday's are always hectic days, now that work lets out at 12:30 pm. When I get into my cube I immediately set about preparing for my 1:1 with my boss. I update my project status list and gather all the documents I need for her to review.

When that meeting ends I have just a little bit of time to work on other projects before a review meeting for my DMT deck with the Commercialization Manager for the project. I want to make sure the deck is perfect, as I'll be presenting to senior level management for the first time. I gladly take notes on the suggestions and comments I receive and set about making the improvements.

Alas, today I don't have the luxury of staying too late as I have to book it back to Boston for a photo shoot for the new Northeastern MBA brochure. I can't help but laugh a bit to myself that this will be the third professional photo shoot that I've done during my two years at Northeastern. Fortunately, the photographer is one I worked with previously so the session is fast and wraps up just as the skies open and it starts to rain.

A little graduation bling, courtesy of David Yurman
After the photo shoot I head over to Copley to pick up a belated graduation gift from my Mother: a ring from David Yurman. I then try and dodge torrential, monsoon-like rains to go get a mani/pedi (now that's dedication) which is followed by dinner with a classmate at Happy's Bar + Kitchen, a new restaurant in Fenway.

Glad to know Happy's Bar + Kitchen opened up right by my future apartment!
We enjoy delicious adult beverages, a make-your-own nacho platter, duck tacos and crispy meatballs.Yum!

It's a good thing I had a nice Friday because the rest of my weekend is spent in Snell Library. Ugh. I finally face my Consumer and Brand Audit assignment that was pushed back two weeks, complete my consumer interview for my Consumer Behavior project, write my portion of my Service Sector final paper/project and more. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that I have less than three weeks left of my MBA!

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where Foodie Dreams Come True

Fourth Week of the Semester
(May 29 - June 3)

My fourth week of the summer semester starts on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend...and what a day it is! I have back-to-back-to-back meetings from 8:30 am-4:00 pm! Phew!

I get into work at 7:45 am that morning to get my bearings for my busy day. At 8:30 I meet with another Assistant Marketing Manager to review some budgeting information in preparation for several BMS system moves and accruals that will be put into effect later this week and next. Since I'm still learning the ropes, I'm a bit slower than others and need all the extra help I can get.

Then it's off to crash my boss' 1:1 wither her boss to get our MBOs (Managing by Objective) confirmed before loading them into our company system. These MBOs are critical because they act a blueprint for what each employee wishes to  accomplish during the year. Come review time, this is what we will be evaluated against.

Just after that I transition into my 1:1 with my boss where we discuss all of my completed and in-progress projects.

Right before lunch there is the quarterly President's award which recognizes individuals with substantial achievement in the company. Two employees recieved awards this quarter. Having this event right on the tail of our Marketing off-site where even more awards were handed out makes me feel really good about the opportunity to get recognized for hard work here at Ocean Spray.

Lunch today is had over budget accruals. I frantically try to keep pace as the people in the room talk about accruing for invoices, moving funds from one place to another and allocating programs across profit centers. Phew!

As soon as that wraps it's on to a meeting on a new Craisins® packaging initiative which is followed by a follow-up meeting to look at some of Craisins® key retail accounts.

At 3:30 pm I get to attend my first ever DMT meeting (Decision Management Team). I love sitting in on this monthly session because it involves a ton of employees presenting their new ideas/innovations to the  Directors, Vice Presidents and C-Suite to get approval to move through the stage-gate process. So cool!

In class that night we get to present our progress report to our Consumer Behavior class. My team is focusing on health conscious America and how they view organic and all natural foods in the marketplace, particularly focusing on LOHAS consumers (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). It's also fun to see what the other groups are presenting on. Their topics range from "Sex Sells"  to "Online Dating". I also get some amazing news in the form of a deliverable extension of two weeks! Hallelujah! This makes my week and means that when I get home that night I can actually work on this blog and get to bed before midnight! Woot!

On Wednesday I get into the office around 8:30 am after hitting mystery traffic on the way in that could not be attributed to anything...hmmm.

Fortunately, my day is much less meeting heavy and I have substantially more time to get work done. I plug away at budget planning, Nielsen data pulls and more until my lunch date with my Ocean Spray buddy. I discuss my experience at the DMT with her, along with the somewhat overwhelming task of managing the Foods budget.

After lunch I have a quick phone call with a potential promotion partner for sauce before heading to a weekly Calibration session put on by the Consumer Affairs department. Each week Consumer Affairs listens in on customer calls to ensure that our staff are addressing the needs of the consumer appropriately and professionally. It was really nice to the see how much time and energy is placed, each week, into ensuring the quality of brand and the satisfaction of our customers.

In my Service Sector class tonight we discuss a case on Steamboat Ski, a ski resort company dealing with declining ski package purchases in the face of less expensive of more prestigious competitors.

Thursday my day is nicely broken up with meetings that occur every couple of hours. To me, this is the perfect ratio because I still get meetings in but I also get enough time between them to dig into work. On the agenda for the day: our weekly marketing huddle to kick off the morning, some work, a meeting to discuss a new Craisins® product, some work, lunch, a meeting to review a new product's UPC request process, some work and then a budget review to wrap up my day. Tres productive!

In class that night we discuss an article called "The Coolhunt" which chronicles two womens' roles as 'Coolhunters'. Essentially, these 30+ year-old women hang out with hipster kids and try to catch on to the next big thing. It all sounds  bit fluffy to me and, to be quite honest, these women sounds a bit annoying and full of themselves. Still, it was interesting to hear about how much value companies put into their services (or similar ones) and the money they will pay for it.

Yay for half-day Fridays! But, with half the time to do the same amount of work Fridays are also quite hectic. I cram in a ton of work today, breaking only for a meeting with the Marketing HR rep and a phone call to my boss to give her a status update.

My meeting with HR goes very well and I'm able to discuss ways to work towards my personal/professional development goals as well as get all the new hires onto the intern training programs. These training programs will be perfect for all us new hires because they involve more than a dozen sessions on topics as diverse as finance, contracts, package design and consumer affairs. They even get a trip to Arnold Communications!

Tuna burger and vino at Parish Cafe
After work I meet a classmate for a fun afternoon of mani/pedis and shopping topped off with dinner and drinks at Parish Cafe. Lovely.

Saturday I'm up early for my requisite library session. Ugh. I spend most of my 6.5 hours there working on two case write-ups which are due on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. One, on Flying J, a gas station company, is worth 1/3 of my Marketing in the Service Sector grade so it better be good. For the other, I have to analyze the elements of consumer behavior that lead a young, male consumer, to spend more than he wanted to on a used car.

Fortunately, I have a glorios food event tonight that keeps me going. At 7:00 pm I meet up with 12 MBA classmates and their girlfriends/boyfriends for an event every little girl dreams of (or at least, this little girl): a whole Pig Roast at Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar!

Glorious pig roast at Citizen Public House
What a feast it was! Not only did we get an entire roast pig (head, feet, tail and all!) but the accompanying sides were obscene. They included oysters, clams, shrimp, bacon and cheese grits (a literal vat of it), salad, spicy green beans and more that I can't even recall. There was so much food and drink that night that it would be impossible for it not to be amazing. Also, I was with a bunch of foodies, which made it way more fun as we all fought for the ears, cheeks and other such parts of the pig that many of my other friends would look at in disgust.

My comfort food staple in Boston: New York Pizza
My week wraps up on Sunday with another morning and early afternoon spent at Snell Library working on textbook reading assignments, case write-ups and more. I break around 5:00 pm to grab some New York Pizza before heading to the laundromat to do laundry and then home for a night cap of more homework. Good thing I am officially half-way done with the semester!

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day Installation
Third Week of Summer Semester
(May 21- 28)

Monday I get to do some substantial work on two new Craisins® packaging initiatives. I have a great meeting with the team where I learn all about new concepts like nuisance fees for slotting at retailers, swapping products on shelves, the Ocean Spray Innovation Leadership Team (ILT) and more.

Halfway through my day I meet with a Marketing Manager to learn about our MRF system (the system we use to request new UPC codes for products and packaging). She shows me the form I need to complete and graciously spends an hour explaining the process, how the organization of 'eaches', 'cases' and 'shippers' works and more. I'm not going to say I'm an expert after the meeting (I think I'll have to practice a few UPC requests first) but the session helped a ton.

The rest of my afternoon is spent at a meeting for a new foods product and working on several projects.

That night in my Marketing in the Service Sector class we discuss a topic that is near and dear to my heart: The Mass Audubon Society. After my Graduate Marketing Club consulting project for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society last year I'm particularly interested in non-profit preservation societies. How funny that this one is in Massachusetts also!

Turtle friend at Ocean Spray - Photo courtesy of Nick Klatte
Tuesday I have my weekly 1:1 session with my boss. We discuss a ton of topics including how Ocean Spray's Pool financial planning works (as an agricultural cooperative we have a fiscal year and a pool year), she handed off some great new projects to me and answered my numerous other questions.

The rest of my afternoon is literally booked from 1:00-4:30 pm with meetings. On the itinerary? A weekly meeting for a new Craisins® package, a meeting to discuss our Craisins® challenge (where I actually get to contribute some of the suggestions I made for my Innovation and Enterprise growth project on Six Flags to the conversation!), a conference call with a company that puts on large active events such as 5K runs and a training session for a new MRF system (the day after I learned the old system!).

That night in class my group and I have our article presentation. Fortunately, it's on a an article all of us had already read in our Brand & Advertising Management class last semester called "Getting Brand Communities Right". How convenient! I felt our presentation went quite well but as the first group to go, only our grade will tell.

The baby geese of Fenway are growing up!
Wednesday is a slightly more quite day on the work front. I don't have any meetings, which is shocking, so I get the day to really get down to work.

In class that night, we discuss Starbucks and how it is the 'gold standard' of empowering employees and creating exceptional service environments. In particular, we talk about how the coffee chain actually gives baristas stock in the company, how they require executives to train as baristas and more. While I'm a Dunkin' Donuts girl at heart, I now have a greater appreciation for 'the Bux'.

Thursday is a particularly fun day at work! I start out my morning with a weekly Marketing huddle in the Marketing lounge. I love these half-hour sessions because it allows the team (from assistants to directors) to share what they have been working on in a casual environment.

In between the rest of my work that day I also get to have my buddy lunch. Yay!

In class that night my fellow Northeastern MBAs and I analyze the entry of Cleopatra soaps (a French brand) into Canada. It was actually pretty neat to talk about because they are discussing entering the province of Quebec. Having now become a Montreal expert (well, at least in the realm of poutine) I feel like I can bring some real life experience to the class discussion.

Friday marks the official start of summer hours at Ocean Spray! As part of the amazing perks of working for the company, starting Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day employees get half day Fridays! Woohoo!

However, this means I have to be super efficient because I have half the time to do the work I need. I get in early to try and get as much done as possible while it's still quite in the office.

Because I'm so busy, I don't get to leave at 12:30 pm, but even staying a couple of hours later lets me get a ton  more work done and I still get to shut down the ol' laptop at 2:30 pm (not too shabby). On my way home, I stop by Target to grab some treats for my boyfriend since he's coming to visit from Montreal (included in my haul? Two flavors of Craisins® and two flavors of Ocean Spray gummie snacks - my new addiction).

I then work really hard to get as much homework done as possible, with a few breaks to clean up my apartment. In particular, I work on my portion of my team's Consumer Behavior project paper and presentation, some reading and more.

Nick arrives in the city around 9:30 pm and we head straight to our ritual New York Pizza run followed by drinks at Parish.

Yup, I work here.
On Saturday Nick and I sleep in embarrassingly late (like noon). I get up and start doing some homework. Once we finally drag ourselves outside we grab some breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts and hop in my car for a drive down to my Lakeville to show Nick the gorgeous setting of my work. Needless to say he is super impressed! He keeps saying how it looks like a country club. Personally, I'm happy to be able to wander some of our nature trails and take in the local wildlife.

After our Ocean Spray visit we decide to make a day adventure of this and drive another 45 minutes south to New Bedford for some authentic Azorean food. New Bedford actually boasts one of the largest Azorean populations in the United States (more than 50% of the city's residents are of Azorean descent!). We get an obscene amount of pork product and chat with some other guests as we all fawn over the serving sizes.

That night Nick and I indulge in an On Demand movie, Young Adult, and then I work on some more homework.

Sunday I wake up and complete a couple of hours of homework so that I can relax for the rest of the day. Nick and I head over to Fenway so that I can show him that there are Mexican Food restaurants in Boston. Our destination? El Pelon Taqueria. We order up some pretty delicious Pescado and Caramelos tacos and we enjoy them in the outside seating area.

All fueled up on the native food of our California homeland, Nick and I walk down to The Boston Public Garden and Boston Common to visit the Memorial Day installation and lounge in the sun. Let's just say, you know you've been a recluse when 15 minutes in the sun gives you a sunburn! Nick and I cool down with some soft serve dipped cones from the Boston Frosty truck and hop on the T back home.

Groupon success at Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen
We pass the next few hours with me doing some homework and Nick lounging until our 7:30 pm reservation at Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen. Despite being located around the corner from my apartment, it took a Groupon deal for me to finally experience this awesome restaurant. For $32, Nick and I share an appetizer of the most amazing wings I've ever had (try sweet peach chile and buffalo flavor), followed by my first ever chicken and waffles (anytime I can put syrup on my dinner entree, it's a win in my book).

Monday is a glorious day off! Nick and I get up and grab breakfast after I get a couple of hours of homework in. We then head to Target for some shopping before he has to leave to make the drive back up to Montreal. As soon as he drives off I head right to Panera for a working lunch/dinner with one of my Consumer Behavior teammates as we work through the paper portion of our presentation for Tuesday.

When I get home I plug away with more homework before crashing after a much-needed relaxing weekend.

* The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Super Busy Week Ends with a Superhero Brunch

Just another beautiful Boston afternoon
Second Week of Summer Semester
(May 14 - 20)

Monday I start my morning with a great training session with the Senior Manager of Commercialization Projects at Ocean Spray. She has offered to train me on our Product, Package, Price Change Authorization system ( PPPCA) which is used for chartering and getting new projects through the stage gate process.

After my training, I head downstairs for my HR benefits orientation. Since I'm now officially full-time I get the benefits of, well, all the great Ocean Spray benefits.

After the orientation I get a few minutes back at my desk before meeting my boss for lunch and store visits. I'm super excited for this lunch and learn. We head to Panera for some grub before stealthily perusing the aisles of Shaw's and Walmart to scope out our Craisins® products and our competitors. It was very helpful and provided some great insight into what the dried fruit market looks like.

After my fun lunch session, I meet with a logistics manager to discuss all the potential merchandising vehicles for Craisins®. As part of my project to streamline these different shippers, clip strips and more I figured I'd meet with an expert to get his input.

The rest of my afternoon is spent getting a good amount of work done before heading to class.

On the itinerary for my Marketing in the Service Sector class tonight is a discussion of Aussie Pooch Mobile, an Australian company that pioneered a mobile dog cleaning service. Among the issues facing the company are whether or not they should continue their franchise internationally and how to handle a slew of new competitors.

Tuesday morning I start my day getting some work done before a training session for NCH - a company that handles many of our coupon offers. Since I recently submitted a Craisins® coupon request through NCH, I'm particularly interested in this training session so that I can learn how to review the redemption rates of these promotions and use that to help track my budget and how well the program did.

After the training session I have a half-hour meeting with a Marketing Manager to get a grounding on two new packaging projects I'll be helping her with. I think both are great ideas, but one in particular I'm super excited about and can't wait to help out with.

After lunch I meet up again with the same Marketing Manager and her entire team for a weekly meeting for the packaging projects I just learned about.

After that it's off to another new product meeting, this time for a new foods item.  I'm loving being a part of all these innovative new Ocean Spray products!

Next is my weekly 1:1 with my manager. She gives me tons of awesome new projects to work on, including digging deep into Nielsen data to analyze some new competitors and working on setting minimums in our new merchandising vehicle ordering system by looking at past order volumes.

In my Consumer Behavior class that night I have to give my Topic Talk! How Topic Talks work is that I am responsible for finding a current news article (less than one year old) that directly pertains to our reading and lesson plan for the day. I am able to find an awesome article on how touch impacts consumer purchase behaviors. We also get to share our experience with interviewing a friend or family member on what is in their 'medicine cabinet'. I interviewed my Mom and had some great insights from her choice of makeup, face washes and shampoos.

Wednesday I get all morning to work on my projects before my first meeting at 11:00 am. I've been invited to a session put on by Brand Connections, a vendor we have used in the past for Craisins® sampling. We learn all about their capabilities, including ad placement on airplanes, cruises and more.

After the meeting I get several more hours of work in before another Meet and Greet with our Insights Manager. She gives me the low-down on what her group does and the OSCAR system on our intranet that houses nearly all of the consumer research Ocean Spray has done for the past several years. When I have the time, I totally intend to go through and read as many of those documents as possible. I imagine it would be an amazing way to learn about the company.

In my Service Sector class that evening, we actually discuss the Shouldice Hospital case, which I did last year for my Operations class. It was neat to look at it from a very different perspective (service sector marketing versus operations).

Thursday is a busy day of meetings. I start out with a weekly marketing team huddle in the marketing lounge. I love these huddles because it gives the group a chance to get together in a casual setting (couches and plush chairs in the lounge) and share what everyone has going on in their respective businesses.

After the huddle I head to my meeting with an Associate Trade Marketing Manager to get a sales perspective on my effort to try and reduce Craisins® merchandising vehicles.

I spend most of the rest of my day in meetings to continue this effort. I meet with a Marketing Manager who performed this same task several years previously and followed by another meeting with the person in charge of ordering the trays, stickers and clip strips for Craisins®.

My work day ends with an awesome introduction to consumer affairs at Ocean Spray. The Consumer Affairs Supervisor graciously set up an hour-long introduction to how we handle consumer complaints, requests, compliments and more. It was really fascinating.

As I'm leaving work and checking my e-mail, I notice that a classmate of mine was kind enough to send over a recent article in CFO magazine featuring Ocean Spray's very own CFO! How cool (and how cool of her!). Check out the article here

That night in my Consumer Behavior class we discuss the Cyworld case. Cyworld is the South Korean equivalent of Facebook. We had a large case write-up on it due as well where we had to decide how the company should proceed in the face of growing member defect rates and a loss of interest in their paid digital home page decorations. Here's the U.S. version of the site

Friday is a great day! I start off my day with a Craisins® meeting where we discuss business insights such as key account performance and past research conducted by consumer insights.

I also get the opportunity for two amazing meet and greets; one with the Director of Marketing and one with the Director of New Business Development. It was awesome to speak to two women who have been so successful in the organization and have seen the business change throughout the years. Amazing!

The day wraps up with lunch with my Ocean Spray buddy and another meeting with demand planning to look at the Craisins® merchandising vehicles.

My Saturday morning starts, how else, but with the day in the library? I roll into Snell Library at 10:30 am and spend most of my day working on my team's paper and PowerPoint for our article presentation on Getting Brand Communities Right. It was great because we actually covered this article last semester in Brand & Advertising Management so it really helped me dive deeper into it's meaning.

Cafeteria: makers of glorious burgers
Fortunately, I have some great motivation to get my work done because I have a date with my library compatriot for dinner and drinks at Cafeteria. I get an amazing burger topped with a fried egg and bacon along with some amazingly delicious beverages (including one called Spring Break that comes with rock candy as a stirrer). Win!

Sunday starts out in a way that can only be described as 'super' with Blue, Inc.'s first ever superhero brunch. I make my way downtown to this new restaurant run by a chef that was featured on Hell's Kitchen. I get there a little earlier than my friend so I meander around the parks downtown and take in the heavenly weather.

Once my friend arrives we enjoy cocktails that smoke with dry ice, an appetizer of fresh cinnamon donuts paired with nutella mascarpone and raspberry jam followed by my entree of red velvet french toast topped with cream cheese icing (yes, you read that correctly: red velvet french toast!). Oh, and did I mention that all of this was served by a wait staff dressed in superhero costumes!

After our embarrassingly decadent brunch my friend and I head to the library for some serious studying, which includes a ton of reading, case preparations and more. At least I have the sugar rush to keep me going!

*The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Northeastern University, Ocean Spray Cranberries, either entity's staff or affiliates.