Nov 03, 2014

Biting into the Job Search: Exploring Business-Environment Careers in the Big Apple

Just a short train ride from New York City, New Haven offers an iconic college town experience while providing convenient access to “The Big Apple”. Students frequently travel there for job interviews, career fairs, and networking, as well as to enjoy the shopping, restaurants, theater, nightlife, and never-ending activities of The City That Never Sleeps. On Friday, October 24th, I joined a group of students on an NYC job trek. Organized jointly by CBEY and the SOM Marketing Club, this day trip provided students with an opportunity to explore career options in marketing and sustainability.

Our day began with a visit to the global headquarters of Interbrand, an international brand consultancy that combines strategy, marketing, valuation, research, and analytics to build business value for their clients. Interbrand and CBEY have worked together on various initiatives, including joining forces to organize a conference on sustainability marketing last year at the Yale Club of NYC. A refurbished basketball court, Interbrand’s office is a bright, open space with high ceilings, sleek white walls, and dark hardwood floors, interspersed with splashes of red feature walls and furnishings. Upon arrival, our group of 20 was ushered up the stairs and into a large boardroom where half a dozen members of Interbrand’s staff joined us.

We were given an overview of Interbrand, and then the strategy team walked us through a case study of their work for Yellow Pages. Once an essential business directory and advertising tool and a brand with household recognition, Yellow Pages has struggled to maintain relevancy in a world dominated by smart phones, digital media, and upcoming generations with little connection to the brand. Interbrand helped Yellow Pages reinvent itself as YP, a mobile application that links doers with businesses that can help them get things done, by developing a multimedia internal and external marketing campaign that led to 350,000 app downloads in its first month. It was fascinating to learn the inside tale of how a company overcame adversity and revolutionized its business, direct from the mouths of practitioners who led the transformation.

We then participated in two breakout sessions. First, Interbrand’s strategists led us in a Brand Tango exercise, a proprietary approach to consumer branding. This gave the students a feel for how Interbrand helps inspire fresh ideas for clients through an innovative brainstorming process. Afterwards, we got hands-on practice in a rapid-fire mini consulting engagement. Shirley Brady, Editor-in-Chief of brandchannel, Interbrand’s online source for news, insights, and resources on brands and marketing, gave a sneak peek of the overhaul planned for the site. To help inform the redesign, a survey had been distributed to current subscribers, soliciting their ideas for improvements. We split into 4 groups and were given 30 minutes to sift through a stack of survey response data, to summarize key themes and generate ideas for the site’s revamp. After presenting our recommendations to the brandchannel team, interested students were invited to join brandchannel’s content contributor network, giving them the opportunity to write articles and get exposure to its 120,000 registered subscribers.

Next on the agenda was a lunch break at Friend of a Farmer, a cozy restaurant with a country home feel in the Gramercy Park historic district. We were joined by two joint degree alumni: Eva Zlotnicka (SOM/FES ’11), Director, Global Sustainability & ESG Research at UBS Investment Bank, and Katie Siegel (SOM/FES ’12), Environmental Associate at EILEEN FISHER. While we filled our bellies with a hearty meal, we filled our minds with ideas by engaging in good conversation. Eva and Katie talked about how they had landed their current positions and shared insights and experiences from throughout their careers. They were eager to hear about the students’ backgrounds and current initiatives at Yale and were happy to answer dozens of questions.

Past and present CBEY students inside Chipotle’s New York office. l-r: Victor Padilla-Taylor, Robert Kimball, Jena Clarke, Josh Brau, Laura Franceschini, Rachel Fried, Oscar Benjamin

Following lunch, we didn’t stop thinking about food, as our next stop was the New York office of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Walking through the door was reminiscent of walking into one of Chipotle’s 2,000 fast-casual chain restaurants, as the building interior boasts the same ‘modern barn’ feel with its juxtaposed combination of wood, metal, and glass. There we met with another joint degree alumnus, Josh Brau (SOM/FES ’12), Program Manager, Food With Integrity (FWI). Chipotle’s FWI program is its commitment to sourcing ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers. Josh shared some of the challenges of developing, growing, and communicating its sustainable supply chain initiatives. The day came full circle as we discussed the role that marketing and branding plays in Chipotle’s FWI efforts. To learn more about the FWI program, check out this event CBEY hosted last year with Chipotle’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Crumpacker.

After a fulfilling day of activity, our group dispersed, some students heading back to New Haven and others choosing to stay in the city. As I walked uptown to meet with friends, my thoughts were filled with new ideas for reinvigorating brands, building a career in corporate sustainability, factoring ESG criteria into investment decisions, and making our supply chains more sustainable.