Kelley Evening MBAs learn from top industry marketers

Persevere. Try new things. Be a good storyteller. You may fail – Be open to that and learn from it.

These were just a few of the lessons learned by nearly 80 Kelley School of Business Evening MBA students at a panel discussion held at Delta Faucet Company in Indianapolis.

Students involved in the marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, and supply chain enterprises, which are elective courses, receive an immersive learning experience that gives them a deeper understanding of potential career paths. This particular program was designed to explore marketing careers, hosted by the Innovative Marketing and AdvertisinG Enterprise (IMAGE).

On the panel were Susan Fisher, Delta Faucet Company Vice President of Marketing; Bill Lovejoy, Borshoff Senior Vice President; Tiffany Shaw, MBA’08, FORCE Communications COO; and Chris Sutton, MBA’11, Sutton Marketing Group. The marketing professionals spoke to MBA students about their careers and what they believe it takes to be successful as a marketer.


“Learning outside of the classroom is so important, because you learn from professionals that are in roles or have been in roles where we, as MBAs, would like to be in the future,” said Chrissy Arsenault, MBA’19, who attended the opportunity for professional development. “We hear about things these professionals wish they would have known, or things that were helpful to get to where they are at. Networking is important regardless of whether you are actively looking for a new job or not.”

“The opportunity to network with and to meet marketing professionals in the area adds so much to the Evening MBA experience,” said Kim Saxton, clinical associate professor of marketing and director of the IMAGE enterprise. “Kelley is thrilled to have great partners in the community like Delta Faucet and Borshoff, who are always willing to engage with our students, share their knowledge, and even hire them. We also have a large alumni network that gives back to students by sharing their career insights and lessons learned.”

“It was a pleasure to get to know the IMAGE group from Kelley and hear their insightful, thought-provoking questions. I can see the future of marketing is in good hands!” said Bill Lovejoy, Senior Vice President at Borshoff.

Arsenault says she learned valuable lessons about opportunities in within the marketing field, as well as the importance of being a storyteller.


"Marketing is not only just understanding the numbers and data, but working to explain those findings to others in a way that makes sense."  

“To be a good marketer, these panelists explained that you have to be able to embrace change, and you also must be able to tell a good story. Marketing is not only just understanding the numbers and data, but working to explain those findings to others in a way that makes sense,” explained Arsenault.

“We also discussed how an aspiring marketer can transition into marketing roles through volunteer experiences (i.e. the Kelley Evening MBA’s (Innovative Marketing and AdvertisinG Enterprise (IMAGE), board leadership positions, or event volunteer positions). Once in marketing, there are also so many different areas to explore, from product marketing to business development, so it's good to get firsthand experience in as much as you can to find what you truly enjoy doing.”


"The panel encouraged us to develop the ability to tell a good story, not just in marketing, but in other parts of our professional lives as well," said Owen Riley, MBA'20. "The panelists also explained that we can learn from every experience, and a person's career journey is filled with zig-zags and pit stops - less like a corporate ladder and more like lattice work."

"These visits to businesses in central Indiana have given us exposure to individuals, companies, industries, and career paths we would not otherwise get," added Riley.

"Listening to the marketing leaders speak on their early experiences resonated with my own journey (similar to my peers in the room), and gave me an idea of where to emphasize my focus for a career in marketing. The panelists shared their own experiences and lessons from their failures by scoping the characteristics of a successful marketer-a milieu of soft (attitude, storytelling, perseverance, etc.,) and hard skills. Having such a session outside the traditional classroom learning gave us a laser-focused purpose on our career interests in marketing," said Vinay Korlepara, MBA’18.

Other important takeaways and advice from the panel discussion on marketing: 

Regarding careers -- 

  • Be flexible about how you accomplish your goals. Most marketing leaders’ careers took interesting and unexpected twists. Through these twists, they discovered new skills that didn’t even know they had.
  • Persevere. Not everything you go for works out the way you want. By staying focused on your ultimate goal, you will get where you want to be.
  • Marketers have some common characteristics:
    • They’re curious about why people behave the way they do and they want to understand that
    • Be willing to try new things. This leads to experimentation in marketing programs.
    • Be open to failing. Because marketing requires experimentation, marketers need to be okay with failing and willing to learn from that failure. Apply what you learned to the next opportunity you pursue.
    • Be a good storyteller. Marketing is storytelling. You have to be able to tell a good story to get hired, to get your program approved and to connect with customers.
    • Be a good listener. Marketers need to be able to enlist others into their ideas. Before you can convince others, you need to really hear where they are coming from.
    • The best marketers are good at collaborating across the organization. They need insights from engineers, scientists and others to fully understand what products and services can do. They appreciate when other parts of the organization share their knowledge. That also means that people in technical positions who want to move into marketing should volunteer to help on projects -- Their input is likely to be welcomed.

 Observations about managing a marketing group -- 

  • Marketing often is charged with leading innovation in the company. So, marketers have to be able to tell a story that enrolls others to accomplish new things. Having a diversity of perspectives – not just marketers, but those in finance and engineering helps.
  • Always leave room in your budget for experimentation. You can’t try new things if you can’t afford them. Purposely build in funds to support this.
  • Be willing to embrace politics. To be successful, marketers have to be able to interact across the organization. So, be willing to understand others’ agendas and figure out how to get them on board. Do not be afraid to have “crucial conversations” to accomplish your goals.
  • Prove value-added for marketing is more important than ever. The best way to do that is to have explicit KPIs. Get an agreement upfront about what success for an initiative looks like. Then show that it hit or exceeded those KPIs. Or -- be willing to share what was learned, if you don’t hit those KPIs.

For more information on the Kelley School Evening MBA Program and the enterprise elective courses, click here.