University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business
MBA Graduation Year: 2017
Specialization: Brand and Product Management
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Internship: DuPont in Wilmington, DE
Before Wisconsin School of Business: United States Marine Corps Captain
Brandon Shields served in the Marine Corps, including in Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged and began crafting his new future, which he is building for himself and his toddler son. Brandon chose to pursue an MBA to aid his transition from the military. After carefully researching MBA programs, he landed on the Wisconsin School of Business and its brand and product management specialization, prompted in part by a fascination with items he received in care packages while serving in Afghanistan.
The prompt to pursue a marketing career came about when I was deployed to Afghanistan. I got care packages with things like Pringles, Chapstick, Gillette razors, and purple Listerine—things you can’t get in Afghanistan—that briefly took me out of the combat zone and connected me with memories back home. I decided I wanted to work in a field that harnessed that kind of emotional connection and applied it to business.
The more I learned about Wisconsin, the more I saw an ideal fit. The admissions officer I met at a college fair really sold me on the specialization model here. I actually dropped another school in my application set to add Wisconsin. I liked what I heard about the collaborative environment, which is even more collaborative than I expected, in part due to our small class sizes. At larger schools you’re competing for every job out there, but here, with the specialized program, we know exactly what everyone in the program is looking for and we help each other get there.
Your scholarship goes a lot farther at Wisconsin. The state follows post-9/11 GI Bill regulations, which generously support MBA costs. The Wisconsin MBA is an amazing value.
The career management staff are the people who helped me transition from a Marine to an MBA student. It began before I even got to campus. That’s a huge differentiator. They walked me through the process, starting with phone interviews, Skype interviews, discussions about marketing, working on my star stories, and sending my resume back and forth for fine-tuning—all before school even started.
That immediate dive into marketing was really beneficial in my landing a great internship. I acquired enough marketing skills to be able to leverage my military experience and frame it in a way to be competitive in seeking marketing internships. I received offers from Campbell’s Soup Company, Land O’Lakes in Minnesota, and DuPont in Delaware. I decided on Dupont, where I’ll be working in their protective technologies section as part of their management and leadership development program.
I can count on any Wisconsin alum—and they’re in more places than I ever realized. Badgers are everywhere. I value the alumni attentiveness and mentoring. At board meetings you meet division presidents who report to the CEO of P&G, and company founders, like the founding supporter of the brand center. Alumni reach out and make themselves available. When I was recruited at Campbell’s an alum there called me, we talked about Wisconsin, we talked about Campbell’s. He took me on a tour of the company.
My biggest leadership opportunity is being a single parent, but I am also taking advantage of campus opportunities. I am co-president of the MBA Veterans Club. I’m also independently connecting veterans in different programs across the School. I am a founding member and on the board of a new club called Luxury Business Decisions and I coordinate our events. Members from the brand and product management specialization work with the real estate and arts administration MBA specializations to explore luxury brands and what drives people to invest in things like a Ferrari or a high-end Tiffany ring.
I was delighted to discover the sheer amount of free wholesome family events Madison offers. Whether you’re a single 20 something or a single dad, there’s something for you to do and most likely it’s free. The first weekend I got here there was an event called Make Music Madison with over 400 local bands, performing all over the city. I took my son around the different parks, and he was dancing to live music.
I am learning so much in my foundational business courses. I came from a liberal arts background, so I think I approach the curriculum in a different way. I am getting all the core competencies I’d get at any good business school, like accounting, finance, and data analysis—all the classes that my buddies at different schools are getting. But I am also getting in-depth marketing courses for marketing expertise that is above and beyond.