There are so many wonderful courses at Stern that it can feel overwhelming to select elective classes each semester. Because the Tech MBA has put together a robust curriculum that focuses on both business and technical core classes, my hope for elective courses has been that they will be fun, interesting, and help sharpen on specific skill or knowledge area that I have not previously had experience with. For example, I am interested in sustainability and “foodtech,” so I am taking Social Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Food Business with Professor Hans Taparia.
When I was thinking about my prior role as a Product Manager, and some of the skills that I wanted to develop, I realized that I have not had much exposure to marketing. Specifically, I was interested in branding, and the way in which graphic design, strategy and positioning can come together to change the way a brand is perceived in the market, and the emotional impact it has on consumers. I decided to take Brand Strategy with Professor Gormley, and it has turned out to be my favorite course this semester. When I read the first line of her syllabus, I knew I had made the right choice. “Who says you can’t get real world experience in the classroom? Fran Gormley has worked in the Branding business for three decades and can teach you how to create Branding ideas that can propel a business forward.”
Before beginning at Stern, I was advised to take evening electives whenever possible because it would mean that the course was taught by a “practitioner,” or a professor who is currently working for another organization in the field, as opposed to professors who are lifelong academics. I think this is so important when looking to a subject like branding, because learning from a professor who is currently running her own branding agency ensures you are learning the latest and greatest standards from the industry.
Professor Gormley is a great lecturer, and she structures the class so that she delivers course content for half of the session, and then a guest speaker comes in to talk with the class for the latter half of the class. We have heard from executives across many different industries and branding agencies, specifically at PayPal, Fekkai, Edelman, Wolff Olins, and Interbrand. My favorite speaker so far was Frédéric Fekkai, a legendary hair stylist turned businessman, who spoke about his company Fekkai, and the various transitions it has made over the years. Frédéric spoke about the opportunity he had to sell his company, and eventually buy it back, and it was crazy to hear the story of the shampoo I had in my very own shower at home in Brooklyn! Professor Gormley also gives various case study lectures about the projects she has worked on across her career, making it very applicable to see the before and after of the branding work she has done. This class takes place on Tuesday evenings, but the time flies by, and I look forward to hearing from Professor Gormley and whoever she has in store for us each week. We even are working on a semester long project to rebrand a company of our choosing. I can’t recommend this class enough!