DBJ sat down with Professor Kevin Lane Keller, who is the E. B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business. Professor Keller has degrees from Cornell, Carnegie-Mellon, and Duke University. At Dartmouth, he teaches MBA courses on marketing management and strategic brand management and lectures in executive programs on that topic. His specific research interest is in determining how theories and concepts that relate to consumer behavior can improve marketing strategies. In addition, Professor Keller is currently conducting a number of studies that address strategies to build, measure, and manage brand equity. In this interview, Professor Keller discusses his 30 years of experience in marketing and branding for major national and international brands and reviews some of the main lessons he has learned.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): Professor Keller, you have taught at a number of top ranked universities, such as Stanford, Cal Berkeley, and UNC at Chapel Hill. With that experience, what specifically brought you to Tuck?

Kevin Lane Keller (KLK): After I received my PhD from Duke, I moved to Stanford, which was a really great place to live and teach, but when I first met Punam, my wife, who is also a Tuck Professor and an Associate Dean for Strategic Research, she was at Columbia. Since we needed to find a place with two faculty positions in marketing we initially joined the UNC business school. Later, when an opportunity came up for us both to teach at Duke, we were all set to join the business faculty. When Tuck expressed interest in hiring us, we took a trip to Dartmouth thinking that there would be no chance we would ever leave Chapel Hill, but we discovered that everything about the College, Tuck and the area was so great that we decided to come. One interesting point, with all my various MBA teaching experiences before coming to Tuck, I always used to say that my favorite students were Dartmouth students, who I found to be really smart and well-rounded. We have found the same to be true of Tuck students, which is one reason why we like being at Dartmouth so much.

DBJ: You have done consulting work in marketing for some of the world’s most successful brands. Can you pick one company and tell us what it was like to work with them and, briefly, what you did for them?

KLK: I have been lucky to work with many great brands over my career, but one of my very first clients, Disney, comes to mind. Early on, in the late 1980’s, I did consulting on a classic brand strategy project for Disney to help them better understand what the Disney brand stood for based on its characters, movies, theme parks, etc. Disney was trying to get more aggressive with their consumer products, for example, in the licensing of their brand to other companies making toys, clothing and so on. As a result, they needed to know how to leverage their brands with different clients and opportunities, and therefore what the essence of the Disney brand was.

I learned a lot from that project. One thing I learned about is the notion of “death by a thousand cuts.” Basically, Disney had to get more disciplined internally as a company about the whole concept of branding and licensing deals. The problem was that people felt that the Disney brand was so strong that even if the company did a licensing deal that wasn’t really consistent with what the Disney brand stood for, the deal would still be okay because the brand was so strong. This line of thinking could be, potentially, highly problematic for Disney’s brand. Although one inappropriate licensing deal for Disney may not have hurt the brand that much, a number of inappropriate licensing deals could really add up and hurt the brand via “death by a thousand cuts.” Therefore, internally, it was important for Disney to clearly define what their brand stood for. Once they did, they needed to give people good strategic “guard rails” to help them stick to their brand. Their nightmare was that they would wake up one morning to find out someone in the organization had struck a deal for Mickey Mouse licensed ashtrays! Strong brands such as sDisney often have to be even more vigilant and protective than less-strong brands because people can take the brand for granted and that can cause real problems.

Secondly, I learned that even when everybody says they know exactly what a brand stands for, they often actually tell you different things about what they think the brand represents. Therefore, it’s important to have complete clarity inside the company about exactly what the brand is supposed to communicate to consumers. The internal part of branding is just as important as the external part of branding. Thinking about Disney’s brand, at the time we came up with a brand mantra “fun family entertainment” which helped Disney stay on course and on track with their brand.

Thirdly, I learned that even after we crafted that mantra, over time people became very creative, such that the Disney brand ended up becoming too elastic. People started to take the brand to places Disney may not have had in mind. We then followed up with a concerted program to make sure everyone at Disney knew exactly what the mantra meant and why.

DBJ: You are known as an expert in brand management, can you explain how branding is similar and how branding differs from marketing?

KLK: Branding and marketing are actually very similar. In these two areas, I have authored the textbooks Marketing Management and Strategic Brand Management. In many ways, there is a lot of overlap in the basic concepts between branding and marketing. With brand management, it is the case that you put much more emphasis on the brand itself; however, even with branding, you still spend a lot of time talking about the strategies and tactics associated with marketing. Remember, the brand is what people have to buy and what you are selling. It’s all about creating value to customers and the company, just as with marketing. I think the concepts, in general, are highly related. Good marketing makes for good branding.

DBJ: You have research interests in different theories and concepts that relate to consumer behavior- can you describe one theory and how it relates to consumer behavior?

KLK: My undergraduate degree was in math and economics, so my training as a student was very quantitative. At Duke, while working on my PhD, I took a course in consumer psychology that really changed my career path. By taking the course, I became interested in psychology and particularly the psychology of memory. In fact, in my work, the one theory I probably have used the most is the associative network theory of memory. I think this model or theory is simple to apply but highly predictive for marketing and branding. The idea is that our memory consists of nodes of information and links that connect those nodes. When we investigate memory and recall for a particular product or brand, the question is what kinds of nodes exist, how strong the links are between nodes and how are all the different nodes and links are organized. An important implication of the theory is that memory recollection is a function of spreading activation within the memory network.

Let’s consider an example. There was a famous ad in the 1960’s for LIFE cereal that starred a little boy named Mikey. The TV commercial had three brothers and their mom wanted them to eat a certain cereal brand, but the older brothers didn’t think they would like the cereal because their mom wanted them to eat it; the idea behind this logic was that whatever your parents wanted you to eat was probably good for you, but also probably didn’t taste very good. But the little brother, Mikey, loved the cereal so that when the older brothers saw Mikey eating the cereal and enjoying it, they had to try it. For whatever reasons, people loved the commercial, but the sales for the cereal did nothing because when people went to the store, they looked on the shelf for “Mikey cereal” which obviously wasn’t there. Applying the associative network model of memory to this outcome, it’s about information retrieval versus information encoding in memory. The problem for LIFE cereal was that there were no good retrieval cues on the actual box of cereal that was being sold at the store, the brand name itself, LIFE, just didn’t work. So they put a little photo of Mikey on the front of the cereal package, framed it like a TV set and verbally added “Try the cereal that Mikey likes,” and with all these retrieval cues, the sales of the cereal reportedly doubled. So what’s available in memory isn’t necessarily accessible, you can’t necessarily retrieve information from memory unless you get the right reminders.

This led me to a lot of related research in advertising and got me interested in branding- what did the brand name stand for, how did it function as a cue, etc. As a result, I began to think more generally about branding and to work on topics such as brand extensions, brand positioning, brand architecture and so on. What consumers think and feel, and how they act towards a brand, is what drives value and how the brand is represented in memory is critical.

DBJ: You have lots of experience internationally in consulting and lecturing. How do you think marketing and branding differ in the U.S. compared to other markets?

KLK: A lot of the same principles still apply. Perhaps the biggest difference is between “developed” versus “developing” markets and the idea that in developing markets, such as India and Brazil, consumers may differ in some important ways in how they shop, what they look for in a brand, etc. As a result, there are some important marketing differences between developing and developed markets. For example, the distribution channels may be different such that in some developing markets, there are a lot more “mom-and-pop” stores making up the distribution channel. But at the same time, there are many similarities in global marketing too. In the U.S. and overseas markets, marketers still try to create differentiation for the brand and to provide value for customers. One important thing a U.S. company should be very careful to do with global marketing is to not take shortcuts to build their brand in new markets. Under some circumstances, you can speed things up, but you can’t skip steps, especially as to who you are, what you are and why the consumer should care. Some of what we do in branding and marketing in the U.S. can be exported to a new market, but some of what we do here may be too advanced for new markets.

DBJ: What career advice would you give undergraduates at Dartmouth interested in business?

KLK: I believe that a liberal arts education is great preparation for business. The richness of the academic experience, the development of the cognitive and writing skills students receive at Dartmouth, combined with a MBA at some later point in time, is a fantastic career option for Dartmouth undergraduates. I think of an MBA as both a great career accelerator and a great career switcher. After being out of college for four or five years, going back for two years to get an MBA is a wonderful experience, personally enjoyable and something people find very enriching and rewarding. I see a Dartmouth liberal arts undergraduate education, combined with getting more practical experience after graduation, then going to business school, as a natural career path. For Dartmouth students interested in marketing, my advice to them is that it is really helpful to understand people and to be able to relate and empathize with them. To persuade and sell products to people, you need to know what makes them tick. As another piece of advice, data analytics is also a field where there will be great opportunities for Dartmouth undergraduates as there has been an explosion in data, so that learning how to work with and extract meaning from data are useful skills to learn, especially if combined with great business understanding and insight.

DBJ sat down with Professor Anne Ter Braak, currently a visiting scholar at Tuck and an expert in retail. Anne Ter Braak earned a PhD in 2012 from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and a M.S. from Tilburg University. She also holds a M.S. from the Aston Business School, in the United Kingdom. When she is not at Dartmouth, she serves as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium. Her current research interests in retail are diverse and include: the use of hand-held scanners for assisting consumers in purchasing decisions, how smell can be used to increase sales for specific products and the use of mobile technology to provide promotions to consumers in real-time.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): What inspired you to come to Tuck?

Anne Ter Braak (ATB): Tuck has great expertise in my primary interest, which is retail. I also have had contact with Tuck professors at conferences, at Leuven and at Tilburg, which helped me decide to come to Dartmouth. I also like New Hampshire and the experience of living for three months in a small New England town.

DBJ: What are some similarities and differences in retail between Europe and the U.S.?

ATB: I notice related trends in supermarkets with a focus on convenience, premium products, and health and wellness initiatives. People here and in Europe want to dine more at home, using premium but convenient products. As to differences, private labels are still more popular in Europe than the U.S., and also in Europe discounters are more popular, with 20% market share.

DBJ: Could you explain your interests in mobile retail?

ATB: I am interested in the use of self-scanners in retail. Specifically, one of my projects that I am working on here at Dartmouth, focuses on the use of hand-held scanners that can be used by consumers in grocery stores to scan the products they would like to purchase during the shopping trip. The use of a self-scanner will make people aware of the prices and total amount they are spending in real-time. Hence, we want to study whether using a self-scanner will make them spend more or less, whether the consumer may buy more private labels, more promotions etc. We are also interested in determining who would use a self-scanner and when.

DBJ: What is one difference in America versus Europe in terms of how people use self-scanners for retail?

ATB: Actually, I don’t really expect to find a difference. I think there is a trend to introduce more digital and mobile devices into the consumer experience both here and in Europe. In general, the use of mobile technologies opens up many opportunities. For example, I recently read that Kroger is now using digital shelf tags which will allow them to quickly change prices, but even to remind the consumer of a purchase to be made, and to provide individually tailored promotions and advertising to consumers via Bluetooth technology.

DBJ: What do you think is the future of mobile technology in retail?

ATB: Mobile technology such as smart phones will be critical. Shopping carts with a holder for phones will be available and common, as will super market aisles that light up to help a consumer find a product. Mobile technology will allow personalized, and real-time promotions to be pushed onto consumers.

DBJ: Do you see any issue with privacy violations with the use of digitized and mobile technology for retail?

ATB: We currently share information online with websites that keep our profiles, so this is the same thing. However, I think consumers should have the option to opt out. We should make sure that consumers understand how the technology offers value for them. Right now, we have offline and online shopping experiences but we usually cannot trace them to the same consumer. Mobile retail technologies will offer retailers the opportunity to connect online past purchases to the offline customer and hence real-time personalized promotions will be available.

More than half of the world’s adult population lack access to formal financial services. Bhagwan Chowdhry, UCLA Anderson Professor of Finance, proposes a FAB idea to tackle the issue. Financial Access at Birth (FAB) is a social and economic innovation that seeks financial inclusion. According to Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International, where FAB is housed, “Full financial inclusion is a state in which all people who can use them have access to a full suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner, and with dignity for the clients. Financial services are delivered by a range of providers, most of them private, and reach everyone who can use them, including disabled, poor, and rural populations.”

The Economist, CNN, Forbes, Fast Company, Smart Money, and others, featured FAB because of its compelling aim to give every child at birth a unique universal ID that connects to a saving account with a small initial deposit. The account created and the financial identity secured will create an infrastructure as a humanitarian delivery channel. This delivery channel can be used for providing information, health, education, and emergency aid to the last-mile population.

The Paganucci Fellows Program – a summer internship for Dartmouth students held at the Tuck School of Business – has taken on the role of conducting a feasibility study on FAB in Ghana, a potential first location for FAB. This program empowers five Dartmouth undergraduates who wish to make a difference in the world with the unique opportunity to utilize resources and mentorship at Tuck. The stated goal of the program is to “support Tuck’s efforts to study complex social issues and the ways in which businesses can create positive social and financial value; in effect, the ‘double bottom line’.” As a team, Paganucci Fellows are pursuing a global development consulting project to fuel their passion for international development and to acquire skills that will help pursuing future endeavors in social services.

In the process of conducting the feasibility study on FAB in Ghana, the Paganucci Fellows have defined key questions that the FAB model must resolve prior to implementing a pilot program. The team is also working on a website launch strategy as FAB rolls out a public relations campaign in association with its appearance in the final season of the popular HBO series Entourage this August. Paganucci Fellows are also responsible for developing a strategy and preliminary invitation lists for the global consultations that FAB plans to conduct beginning in Fall 2011.

So far the research has been conducted using web-based secondary sources and a series of interviews based in Hanover. Some of the interviewees include Ghanaian students (both in Ghana and at Dartmouth), Dartmouth and Tuck Professors, World Bank employees, and NGO founders in Ghana – Dana Dakin, founder of WomensTrust, and Ben Schwartz, Dartmouth College ‘06, founder of World Partners in Education. These interviews have been informative about the context in Ghana regarding FAB and have helped the team to prepare a preliminary feasibility analysis for the country.

The Paganucci Fellows hope to resolve some of their questions in Ghana in order to ensure that FAB rolls out in its most effective and efficient form. The team is hopeful that the journey can be one of the first few steps for the budding FAB to improve the quality of millions of lives.

As upperclassmen prepare for the real world, there is a real need to be able to socialize and network in ways that are appropriate for corporate America. At Dartmouth, we often engage in social behaviors that are not conducive to making a positive impression on someone; as we get closer to graduation, we must be able to properly network with bosses and colleagues at our sweet New York internships. To help out those in need of a serious social skills makeover, the Dartmouth Business Journal spoke to Rebecca Joffrey TU’97, Co-Director of Tuck’s Career Services, to get some networking insights. Her industry background includes marketing at Nestle and American Express. After business school, she founded The LookOut, the country’s first online mentoring system. 

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): Can you define networking in the simplest terms possible?

Rebecca Joffrey (RJ): Networking is about having great conversations so that you can get people on your side in whatever goals that you are achieving. It is not transactional….it’s not about having a conversation to get a job. It’s about winning people over so that they ultimately like you, and when you do that effectively, people want to help and they will help you. You are always being networked with and [must] recognize that too. It’s a very give and take thing.

DBJ: What do you think are the benefits of networking?

RJ: Inaverybigsense,Ithinkitisa competitive world. It is a fast-paced world. It is a confusing world, and the more people you have on your team, the better. You’re building a support network of people who you can call when you have questions, and who you can ask specifically for jobs when the time is right. But it can’t be the first thing that you ask them, and that’s where people get it wrong. I think they see it as “I need something, therefore I need to network,” and it’s not like that.

DBJ: Do you think it is important to ask executive leadership how they got to where they are?

RJ:I think that is part of the art of a good conversation. It’s being curious about people and constantly looking for stories. Especially early in your career, you’re trying to understand the world out there and the best way to do it is to just ask somebody: “So how did you get there? What was your journey like? What was the biggest surprise?” And another good technique of networking is to have what I call a list of “filter questions.” These are the kind of questions you ask everybody, every time you meet somebody. You [might] say, “Tell me about your journey.”

DBJ: People talk about the “elevator speech”–the speech you would give to introduce yourself to a CEO in the elevator. Is the elevator speech an effective tool in networking?

RJ: I am a big believer in “networking moments,” and that is when you are going through any kind of change in your life or a job search or anything where you are finding the need to reach out to people. So the trick is [to] know which stage you are in in a job search or in another process, and know what the question is you are trying to answer. An elevator pitch has more to do with that networking moment than anything. It’s the ability to articulate where you are in the process, what it is you need, and [who] the person is [who] can help you with it. If I was [involved with job searching], it might be, “I have an interview next week at American Express. I have done a lot of research, so I think I know something about the company, but what I don’t understand is the actual job. You work at American Express, I wonder if you could describe your job to me.”

Sometimes what happens with Tuck students and with undergrads is that you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You are lost in the middle of a job search and it’s very hard to articulate [what you want]–that is your pitch! So you could say, for example, “I am really good at speaking foreign languages and I know I want to use that in my job, but I do not quite know what that looks like. I am calling you because someone said that you work globally, and I am wondering what your perspective is on types of roles where I would be using a language in your company. I wonder if you could tell me about that.” So you don’t have to know your goal, you just have to know what it is you need right then in order to move to the next stage of the process.

Everybody thinks that [an elevator speech] is about saying what you want to say, [but] it’s much more about [knowing who a person is and] asking that person a question. That is surprising to people.

DBJ: Do you think there are any specific things you can do to impress a boss or higher-up once you establish more than just a general relationship with him or her?

RJ: One important thing that has to do maybe more with networking than impressing people is just being a really good listener. When you reach out to people, they give you advice, and maybe you have heard it before. Maybe it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you think they don’t understand where you’re coming from. It doesn’t matter. Say thank you and listen to what they say. And it may not be relevant to you right then, but you may realize the relevance later. But the person who constantly says, “Oh no I did that,” “Oh yeah I tried that and it didn’t work”– that person is someone no one wants to [work] with.

DBJ: What are the common mistakes that undergrads make at internships or at networking events?

RJ: The first one is that they think they are the guest…and if they play host and not guest they will be in a better frame of mind. Go up to somebody and say, “Are you enjoying your time in Hanover? Can I get you some coffee? What have you done while you have been here?” Pretend that you’re the host and engage the person in a conversation. I think that mindset shift makes it easier to engage people.

The second is that everyone is clustered around one person, and there is always one person over there completely [alone]. Go talk to that person. It’s not about the company that person works for…it’s about who that person knows, and their willingness to share [information] with you. So the person standing by himself or herself may work for a company that you are not interested in at all, but he or she might be [part of] the class of 2000 and they know 800 other people. They have a lot of contacts. So that’s what networking is. It’s about getting that person on your side and getting them to say, “Oh I know somebody who is doing that.” Because then the next step is you write to that person who is doing exactly what it is you want and you say, “I met your best friend at this networking event.” That’s your introduction.

The [quality] of the connection is also important. When you reach out to someone, you want to make that connection as warm as possible. The

likelihood] that they will return your call. So if it is, “You went to Dartmouth, I went to Dartmouth”– [that’s only] lukewarm. If they don’t respond to you, don’t be offended. Another mistake that students make is that they get so offended when somebody doesn’t return their call or email. If [the introduction] wasn’t warm, then they have a whole list of people to call and they are going to go for the one that’s warmest.

DBJ: How do you follow up after networking with someone that you really connected with?

RJ: Email is great [because you can get an immediate response]. If you really want to go above and beyond, a written thank-you note is also appropriate. They are so uncommon these days that it’s a nice surprise. So sometimes it’s nice to do both–just a real quick [email] saying, “Thank you so much. This was really helpful.” And tell them how it was helpful, what your plans are, and then follow up with a written thank-you note.

Thanking people is an on-going process. You should just update people generally now and then. The success does not come immediately. Often it’s further down the line, so always feel free to loop back to people.

DBJ: People talk about building your network. Is maintaining the connections the biggest part of that?

RJ: That’s half the battle. But staying in touch [does not equal] reaching out when you need things. Take advantage

of opportunities to meet alumni. There are alumni who are very curious about how things are today. So the other piece that students miss in networking is that they actually have value to add.

DBJ: Which social media tools are appropriate for networking?

RJ: Facebook is not. That is personal. That is just your friends and keep it that way, because you want a separation between your professional life and your personal life. But employers go on to those things now so be careful [about what you have on there].

I would definitely take advantage of Linkedin. When you meet someone, send them a Linkedin invite. Even if you don’t understand the utility of it now, just make it a habit to connect with people. Because over time, that will become more valuable, especially as you leave Dartmouth.

With Twitter, the goal there is to build expertise. So find something that you’re really passionate about and be the person that finds all the articles, videos, and just start a Twitter feed that positions you as that expert. Then, when people are looking for expertise, they say, “Oh, look, this guy knows something. He has been following it.”

In college, you think of social media as just that–social. And it is social, but it is also about reinforcing an image of yourself.

DBJ: How does a student succeed in a summer internship?

RJ: [Your summer internship] is the time when so much of your success is going to be based on the relationships you build in that organization. Almost more so [than whatever project you’re working on]. The tendency is to sit in your office all day and get [the job] done but there are two advantages to networking: one, you can get your work done faster because your networking moment in a summer internship is what problem are you working on. Figure out within your project, what is your networking moment, what is the problem you are trying to solve, and walk around and ask ten people what their experience is. And you will get your answers a lot faster. [By doing this], you build allies. So when it comes down to should we make this person an offer, do we want to bring them back next summer, do we want to write letters of recommendation, you have a lot of people on your side.

DBJ: Do you have any final general comments on networking?

RJ: I think you can look at it like it’s fun if you just become curious about people. That is the right mindset to have. People get scared off because they [think] they don’t know how to do it. They know how to do it. Open up and engage. And if you’re not comfortable with it, my belief is that you get very good at the things you practice. If you practice networking, you will get good at it.

Andrew Ervin is currently an MBA ’09 candidate at the Tuck School of Business. After attending Penn State University, he worked as an actuary for research and development (R&D) at Liberty Mutual Group, one of the largest insurance companies in the nation. After coming to Tuck, he spent his last summer at The Parthenon Group in their Boston office and will be returning there full‐term as a Principal.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): Why did you choose to go into business and consulting? How did you break into the field?

Andrew Ervin (AE): I’ve always been an analytical‐quantitative person and so I wanted to work with numbers. I like the problem solving aspect of business in general, and the strategic nature of it as opposed to a career like law, for example. The world of business is constantly changing: there are always problems to deal with and there is always a need for people to solve them. Although my tenure at Liberty Mutual involved less of a strategic role than Parthenon, it did have strategic element in seeing how the market is changing, or how we approach something differently versus a competitor.

After graduating college, I started work as an R & D actuary for the Liberty Mutual Group, where I worked on managing new pricing structures for auto insurance, which was basically a technical role with a strategy element. A few years went by and I realized I didn’t want to be in insurance forever, so I applied to business school and ended up coming to Tuck mainly because of the small size. For business school, I wasn’t just interested the classroom stuff but also wanted to develop my leadership and teamwork skills as well.

I wanted to work on management consulting because it would give me a feel for different industries so I would get a better sense of what I want to go into in the long‐term. After my first year at Tuck, I went through recruiting and ended up accepting an offer at the Parthenon Group for many of the same reasons that I chose Tuck ‐ an intimate, entrepreneurial environment and a great culture.

DBJ: Are you planning to pursue this as a full‐time career or are you testing the waters in a variety of different options?

AE: Right now, I expect to be at Parthenon for about 5 years. At that point, I’ll decide whether I like consulting enough to stay there long‐term, or whether I’d rather move into a general management career. If I choose the general management route, I expect to move into a fairly high‐level management role in an industry that I am interested in.

DBJ: What does an average day in the office entail for you? If your job doesn’t really have an average day, what would be examples of projects that you work on?

AE: I was working on a case for a client in the for‐profit education industry (e.g., University of Phoenix or Princeton Review) in which we helped them revise their pricing strategy, increase revenues, and become more profitable. We found that there really wasn’t an established pricing strategy in the industry, so no one had a grasp on how to set pricing and no one really knew what students were willing to pay to attend different schools. We conducted a big research study among prospective students for the school and through it we gauged how students viewed price when choosing to attend a school. One result we found that was striking was that students viewed the cash they had to pay out of pocket at a much higher rate than they will value loans: a dollar of cash today is a lot more valuable than a dollar of loans they have to take out. We were able to quantify the consumer tradeoff between cash and loans, with those numbers we were able to turn to our client and tell them how to restructure financial aid packages in order to improve how attractive they were to students.

I think the most interesting part is when we conducted focus groups with students at the school, and put together a guide of different questions and information based on the groups. It is interesting to look at numbers but there is more credence behind them when you are talking to someone face‐to‐face.

DBJ: How would you respond to criticisms of strategic consulting firms that they are often too rigid and dependent on frameworks and models in analysis?

AE: When I was interviewing, I was a little turned off by the frameworks that strategy consulting firms follow and I personally feel that that does inhibit thinking out of the box. Structured frameworks aren’t always the best ways to approach things‐ especially a new type of problem. At Parthenon, we tended not to use many rigid frameworks, which was good, although it could have been the uniqueness of the project we worked on. We laid out a general layout of the project based on projects and pricing in the past but when we dug into the components there wasn’t prior frameworks to fall back on. I think that frameworks and models are good as a starting point but not something to rely on.

DBJ: How has the credit crisis affected you and your day‐to‐day work, and if it hasn’t, how has it affected your colleagues? In light of the crisis, do you think students would be better served working in another field for a few years before trying to break into financial services?

AE: The banks coming to campus are taking fewer people, so there are a lot more people are looking for other jobs like consulting, so it made competition a lot greater and harder for people to find positions. There are a decent number of people who tried at getting a consulting job but were unsuccessful. There are still a lot of general management, venture capital, and private firms recruiting here. It is too early to tell if my colleagues are going to struggle for a job generally but they may not be getting their first choice now.

DBJ: How do you think Obama’s recent election will impact the financial situation?

AE: I get the sense that people are excited for the change aspect that he brings, and the hope is that the new administration can calm the financial crisis. Tuck students are optimistic, and the majority of students are supporting Obama. The question is whether that will happen in time for the people who will be searching for jobs next summer. Personally, I don’t think any changes he brings to the administration are going to have a whole lot of impact by the time we enter the job market. The Street and investors out there think that he will bring changes to the industry. If volatility calms down, that will send a signal to the banks and especially VC and PE firms that the environment is getting better and they may return to their normal hiring capacity. Overall, there are still opportunities but they require that much more work. If you want to go into these industries you need a lot of work but also a plan b.

DBJ: Consulting/finance tends to have a reputation as a very stressful and time‐consuming career path. How have you balanced your work and social lives?

AE: It was pretty difficult ‐ it was definitely a demanding summer and I was working long hours. Fortunately, Parthenon also made sure we had a good time ‐ I had a number of friends from Tuck working at Boston but I didn’t see them as much not only because I was working long hours but because Parthenon would take us out and show us a good time during off hours. As a result, I got to know the other interns very well.

Parthenon tends to have less travel ‐ about two days a week for Full‐Time Principals. As opposed to other consulting firms, Parthenon (and Bain) consultants are working on 2 cases simultaneously, so you need to balance needs of two different clients, so you travel only when you need to because you need to be in the office for the two clients.

DBJ: Many of my friends have expressed that Dartmouth is doing students a disservice by emphasizing consulting and finance as the most desirable paths out of college at the expense of other fields like non‐profit, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation and development, education, art, etc. How do you feel about this issue, and why do you think so many students want to break into these two fields when many don’t even know exactly what the work entails?

AE: I’ve heard the same feelings from people at Tuck as well, and I think the truth is that banking and consulting firms have the money to spend on very comprehensive recruiting efforts, so they are more than willing to be up here on campus as much as possible because they have the resources to do that and it pays off in the end. From the point of the students, I understand that those who don’t want to go into consulting or banking might become a bit overwhelmed and I think it would be great if something Dartmouth could do to increase the prominence of less popular tracts. However, it is tough to get other firms and other industries to spend the money on recruiting efforts because they don’t have quite the resources of banking or consulting firms. I think that getting other options on campus involves getting alumni in other fields to help out, get up here on campus, tell students how to pursue these strategies and tracks, and step up the visibility of some of the other industries.

I think that students want to go into consulting or banking because they aren’t sure what they want to being doing a few years from now. I think all alumni of consulting or banking firms would agree you get a lot of exposure to a variety of different industries. These careers are basically a platform to the business world, and it allows people to put off the decision of what they want to do specifically. After working in finance or strategy consulting, you can go into a lot of different industries, whether its financial services, consumer packaged goods, or anything else.

Giacomo Sonnino is currently a MBA ’09 candidate at the Tuck School of Business. Hailing from Rome, Italy, he holds a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. There, he rowed on the crew team and conducted research on Internet wireless networks. After college, he worked for three years in the strategy and internal consulting department at the Italian aerospace, defense, and energy conglomerate, Finmeccanica. At Tuck, he is studying general management and spent his last summer as a Summer Associate at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he will return after completing his time at Tuck.

DBJ: Why did you choose to go into business and consulting?

Giacomo Sonnino (GS): At Finmeccanica, I worked on corporate strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions (M & A), and internal consulting. During my tenure, I was able to work constantly with high‐level directors, managers, and C‐level executives. This exposure to leadership led me to look into business and management. When I came to Tuck, I wanted to go into consulting because I was looking for a dynamic, fast‐paced career with opportunities to face very different and diverse business problems in different industries. I applied to a bunch of consulting firms, and I ended up choosing McKinsey at their Mediterranean office.

DBJ: Are you planning to pursue consulting as a full‐time career or are you testing the waters in a variety of different options? What are the usual exit options for management consulting?

GS: Looking back at my summer experience, I would probably do it for two or three years. I want a family in three to four years, and four to five days on the road is not always sustainable. When I was working at Finmeccanica I had a more balanced life and most projects were based in Rome, where I lived. It was easy to balance work and a social life because I was home four or five nights a week. However, when I worked as a consultant I was on the road four to five days a week. You can only have a life over the weekend, and that is the reason why the average turnover rate in consulting is three years.

Most consultants follow two main paths after their stint ‐ internal work for a corporation, such as a management or vice president position, or private equity, which is less travel‐based but requires more risk. It basically depends on what skills you develop, and most of the time you will end up working for a client that you did consulting for. Going into consulting, I was exposed to many corporate functions from marketing to operations to finance so I’m aiming at specializing in one of the functions in the future.

DBJ: At McKinsey, what did an average day in the office entail for you? If your job doesn’t really have an average day, what would be examples of projects that you work on?

GS: At McKinsey, I worked in the Rome office, where I was working on a project in Istanbul, Turkey with a Fortune 500 company. During the week, I was flying out Sunday nights to Istanbul and spending two days there with the client company. Either Thursday or Friday I was flying back Rome for Friday in the office. Usually, McKinsey consultants spend most of their time on the client side.

I was working on a high‐level team with two directors, one partner, two associate principles, one engagement manager, and one associate ‐ me. Two to three times a week I was working with the team on problem solving. Probably the most thrilling part of working here was that after only month in the firm I was expected to challenge directors and partners. They were asking me for advice in my field, and I was as important as they were.

In terms of the work, I was doing performance transformation, which is a strategic review and cultural review of the corporation. The client went through dramatic changes in the last few years, when the plant doubled from 2000 to 8000 employees in two years. They had a huge intake of workers who hadn’t assimilated into the corporate culture and the friction among old and new works were impacting the ability of the companies to deliver solutions. We came in to analyze company strategies, pick the best one and looks at the cultural obstacles that were threatening its implementation.

DBJ: Did your college education help you in your day‐to‐day activities in your job?

GS: Absolutely. When you study engineering, you learn how to solve problems in a structured way, so how to take a big problem, decompose it in smaller problems, and solve them one by one in terms of priority. This approach goes beyond technologies or math‐ you basically learn how to address problems and this applies to any job, and I think that’s why engineering is helpful in so many careers.

A downside to engineering is that engineers are often too rigid and don’t think out of the box, but that’s why we go to business school.

DBJ: Describe some of the most challenging projects that you have worked on.

GS: At Finmeccanica, I worked on one project I enjoyed a lot, in which we basically built a mobile operator (something like Verizon or Unicel) from scratch. We had to implement a network, access it, establish a marketing plan, a phone plan, and basically launch a business from the ground‐up. I was sitting with the CEO of the company at a table, and discussing how to launch a business that was targeting 2 million consumers. It was crazy because I was only 25 years old.

DBJ: How has the credit crisis affected you and your day‐to‐day work, and if it hasn’t, how has it affected your colleagues? Do you think as a result more/less students will try to enter your field? In light of the crisis, do you think students would be better served working in another field for a few years before trying to break into investment banking, trading, private equity, or hedge funds?

GS: I think this crisis is absolutely affecting everybody, both consciously and unconsciously. It has really reduced working opportunities and career prospects. Right now, I think I was very lucky to have a job and most of my colleagues are struggling to find a job when most companies are looking for one or two new people and they are going through a stack of resumes.

It is hitting banks the hardest right now, but
the crisis will start to affect other
businesses, including consulting. For
example, Finmeccanica has reduced hiring
and investments and other firms are doing
the same. This will affect their ability to invest in other new projects as well. It will take one or two years for the market to get better.

I recommend to juniors and seniors who can’t find a job in finance or consulting now to try to look for alternatives that are constructive towards one in the future. For, example if someone wants to enter an investment bank an alternative would be working for a private equity firm or in the corporate finance division of a company. Someone interested in consulting should look at working for strategy with a corporation, or try to start their own entrepreneurial project. A crisis doesn’t mean the world is stopping ‐ there are opportunities to build up your opportunities and skillsets.

DBJ: What advice would you give for students who are interested in breaking into consulting, finance, or related fields? What do you want to tell them about the work that you didn’t know but would have appreciated knowing going into the field?

GS: In the recruiting process there is really no room for margin of error, so students need to prepare very carefully for the interview, because competition is tough and the bar is set very high. You may not get many opportunities so you need to take advantage of those that you are given.

For McKinsey, I applied through the website in which I had to send in a resume, a cover letter, and fill out an online application. In 2‐3 weeks, you either receive a rejection or an invite to the first‐round interview. I was invited for the first round, which is 2 interviews, usually with an engagement manager or an associate principle. Each one is 45 minutes long and is divided into background questions and a case. McKinsey cases tend to be a bit more structured than other consulting cases. In 24‐ 48 hours you get feedback on your performance, and if you make the second round, the firm will fly you to the office and you will have two to three interviews with partners of the office. These tend to be longer ‐ about an hour ‐ but are similar to the first round interviews otherwise. After that, the company either extends you an offer or politely declines you.

My advice for nailing an interview is just be yourself, because at the end of the day they are evaluating who you are, and you are evaluating them. The important question to ask yourself is whether or not you will have a good time working with them. When I worked at McKinsey, I had an amazing time ‐ the people were very approachable. The McKinsey stereotype is that they tend to be more rigid personalities, but I didn’t find that at all. I had a lot of fun working there and I developed a really good relationship with my co‐workers.