While at Booth, alumna Jennifer Johnson ('13), Planner at a high-tech company based in Silicon Valley, flourished within the Booth community by developing close relationships with classmates & students she met during LAUNCH (new student orientation)."It is very challenging to be spending a large chunk of your time outside work away from your normal activities, friends and family and it is very helpful to have other people to talk to that are sharing the same experience." Jennifer was heavily involved with campus activities ranging from the Admissions Committee Graduate Women in Business. With a differentiated business background, Jennifer was able to leverage in-classroom exercises into the workplace. "Normally the roles on the Statistical Demand Modeling team are filled with people who have a Master's Degree in Statistics & extensive experience with statistical software like SAS. However, I was able to use examples of statistical analysis I did within my classes at Booth when I was interviewing & that helped to show that I had the analytical abilities to do the job." We recently had the opportunity to speak with Jennifer about her Booth experience.
Can you tell us about what you were doing prior to your time at Booth?
Prior to my time at Booth, I was working at PepsiCo as a Demand Planner for the Tropicana business unit. In this role, I was forecasting weekly demand for Tropicana products across North America. I had been in the role about 6 months after being promoted internally from PepsiCo's Customer Supply Chain group where I managed finished goods inventories for Quaker, Gatorade and Tropicana products for grocery store chains in the Northeast. Other than work, I spent a lot of time at the gym. I was a big fan of the cardio-kickboxing class called Turbokick.
What helped you choose to attend Booth?
When I first started looking at business schools, I was mostly focused on Northwestern and University of Chicago. I had an undergraduate degree from Northwestern, but wasn't that familiar with the University of Chicago Booth at the beginning.
Applying to business school was very scary for me.Like every other applicant, I was worried about not getting in to the school of my choice. I took the application process very seriously. I wanted to get as much information about the schools I was applying to as possible so that I could make the right choice, and discuss all those experiences in my application.
The first thing I did was go to an info session for Booth and Kellogg. After attending both, I decided that Booth was where I wanted to be and strictly focused all my efforts on getting into Booth. I was blown away by Booth at the info session, because the student panel was so passionate about Booth and they were very polished and professional. The students spoke at length about how much they loved the school.
They always found themselves at Gleacher Center even after class and were always motivated and inspired when leaving class in the evening. Besides all of this, somehow I felt like I was at home among the group at Booth. I knew it was the right choice for me, but I knew that Booth would not be an easy school to get into, so I attended several other Booth events in order to strengthen my argument on why I wanted to go there.
I went to a couple Booth Women Connect events, a class visit and my Director at PepsiCo at the time was a Booth alum and took me to another women's dinner. The more I was around other Booth students and alumni the more I wanted to go there. It just strengthened my excitement and desire to go to the school. Part of what I learned at these events is that the Booth curriculum approaches every subject from a quantitative standpoint, which was very interesting to me.
What activities were you involved in while at Booth?
I was a member of the Admissions Committee and still am trying to participate as much as I can as an alumni living at a distance. I loved being part of the Admissions Committee. As my answer to the previous question shows, I was very passionate about applying and getting into Booth, so I love interacting with prospective students. I enjoy hearing about their excitement about the school and trying to build their excitement by sharing my experiences. The interviews I conducted as part of the Admissions Committee allowed me to do this, because I normally left a chunk of time in the interview where the applicant could ask me any questions about Booth. I also loved being a part of choosing who future Booth students and alumni would be. I am so proud to be a part of the school that I like looking for other people who are going to feel the same way. I am a member of the Women in Business student group. I was not as active within this group as I wanted to be, but I did attend as many Women Connect events as I could in order to interact with prospective students and meet other women at Booth.
What were your relationships like with professors and students?
I had a great experience with the students at Booth. First day of orientation weekend, I made an amazing group of friends. We stuck together throughout the program and will be friends for life. I thought it was very important to form close relationships with other students because they provided a support group that was desperately needed as part time students work to master work and school on a daily basis. It is very challenging to be spending a large chunk of your time outside work away from your normal activities, friends and family and it is very helpful to have other people to talk to that are sharing the same experience. In terms of the classroom, students are always very friendly and welcoming. It is always nerve-wrecking the first day of a class when groups need to be formed, but it is always easy to find other people that wanted to be in a group with you.
My favorite professor was Ram Shivakumar. I took his Microeconomics class during my first quarter at Booth. Ram's teaching style will challenge students because he calls on each student at least once each class and you knew you had to be prepared for that days lecture in order to answer the questions. This was great preparation for the rest of the program, because it got you used to talking in class, helped you get adjusted to the types of questions asked and forced you to get in the routine of doing the coursework.
How did your experience at Booth help shape you & your path that you're currently on?
Booth helped me become more confident both in and out of the workplace. While I was at Booth, I was promoted within PepsiCo to a Statistical Demand Modeling team. Normally, the roles on that team are filled with people who have a Master's Degree in Statistics and extensive experience with statistical software, like SAS. However, I was able to use examples of statistical analysis I did within my classes at Booth when I was interviewing and that helped to show that I had the analytical abilities to do the job. After getting my promotion, I was able to approach my new job with confidence. I knew that with my experience and education I had a lot of ideas I could bring to the table. Within the year and a half I was in that role, I took on a lot of process improvement and process streamlining projects that could benefit the larger demand planning team. For example, I conducted training on different SAP tools that help planners take an exception based forecasting approach to their weekly work. Concurrently, I developed tools to integrate consumer scan data into demand planning data which enabled additional insights to better analyze demand trends.
After graduation I knew I wanted to relocate to the Bay Area for personal reasons. My boyfriend had relocated to San Francisco while I was still in school and I wanted to move to be closer to him. Silicon Valley and San Francisco can be a very intimidating place to look for a job. The area draws the best talent from around the country, so competition is extremely high. With my MBA from Booth, I felt that I was well equipped to compete with the best of the best. Because I was transitioning from food & beverage to technology. I always kept that in my mind as I applied for roles and eventually interviewed at companies in Silicon Valley.
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