Few managers have arrived by as indirect a route as Margo Motulsky, a Cornell biology major with a genetics concentration who recalls, “For the last two years of school I was very involved in my research epigenetics lab, where I worked on a small part of a decade-long project that involved targeted DNA genome editing. I was fascinated by my major, and I loved learning about and being part of exciting research part-time, but I knew working in a lab full-time for 5 years to complete a PhD program was not for me.” So she added the business minor and started exploring other options.
She had done internships in a lab, in a public health research center and at a consulting firm in their health care groups, but realized that none of those career options were the right fit. “So when I was looking for a job, I knew from some limited exposure to marketing through my minor, I wanted to try marketing and I wanted a position with a lot of breadth. I was looking at rotational programs and cross-functional programs and stumbled upon the MBI product manager position on the Cornell career website.”
She was encouraged from the get-go. “The interviewer had only been at MBI for 2-3 years but was running a category herself. I found that extremely impressive. She described the role as entrepreneurial, which appealed to me. What she described was in many ways similar to a Cornell entrepreneurship class that I really enjoyed – work with product development on a new concept, design the product, write a marketing plan and create the marketing materials.”
Margo was hired into the family sentiment division. “There is training at the start, but for the most part you start working on your category(s) as soon as you start at MBI. Since the product manager role involves so many functions, it was impossible to retain it all in training. Everyone is extremely willing to help and answer any and all questions. After about a year, I was given the opportunity to work part-time on digital marketing. Again, there was a running start, and after a brief overview, I jumped right in. While this can sometimes be daunting, I enjoy the challenge of figuring things out as I go.”
Margo’s time is currently split among “managing the direct mail and media for about half of the family sentiment products (the traditional product management role) and managing the digital marketing for the entire category. Between 50 products and digital marketing, it is frequently a juggling act, but that's what keeps it interesting. No two days are alike, which is something I really appreciate. They are a combination of writing marketing plans, working with graphic designers to create marketing pieces, managing our Facebook ads and working with product development to expand my category.”
Other aspects of Margo’s background proved valuable. “For 4 summers, I ran a swim-lesson business. When I started it, I created a web site and taught myself SEO. Having experience creating and running a profitable business, and being accustomed to figuring things out on my own, has definitely helped me prepare for MBI.” Yet there is ample give and take: “The open-door office policy is great; you can essentially talk to anyone and ask anyone a question. Also, if you have an idea that you’ve done some research on, senior management is always willing to listen.”
Margo echoes many of her fellow MBI managers in identifying the most rewarding aspect of her job as being able to take projects, be they product-related or operational, all the way from inception to completion. “For example, I had a product idea, I worked with product development to design it, and once it was approved, I wrote the initial marketing plan. I then worked with a graphic designer to create the advertising materials. The product did well and we are now expanding it this fall. It is exceptionally rewarding to work on projects that were evolved from my own proposals.”
Clearly, Margo’s professional life has turned out to be every bit as multi-faceted as her academic one was. She has also maintained her strong interest in athletics (in addition to running the swim-lesson business, she was on Cornell’s track team) through extra-curricular activities that deepen her MBI friendships. “Several of us go to workout classes together before or after work. Since I commute from New York, most of those classes are in the city, but recently we have been doing classes in Connecticut near the office. Most recently, eight managers went to a local spin class and a few of us grabbed pizza post workout, which was a great way to end the day.”