A Day in the Life: Marketing Research or Consulting? Blurred Lines…

by Dina Liu, WH ’12

I read an interesting article this morning on my train ride to Kraft in Northfield, Illinois, about the rise of agency-bred & raised consulting shops.  These “sexy” agencies are starting to realize that their advertiser clients are demanding more insights, more analytic prowess, and most importantly, more actionable recommendations for what to do in-market.  From trying to stem the hemorrhaging of lost market share to re-positioning an old network as the new Hispanic Millennial destination, these agencies’ clients are demanding more.  Interestingly enough, while the world of agencies is still playing catch-up and starting to understand that it’s not sufficient to just be a “media shop” or a “creative shop,” Nielsen has carved a spot out for itself that is now ingrained in our clients’ business models.  And this is why I’m making the claim (you heard it here first!) that marketing research has replaced traditional consulting.  Gone are the days where your “research vendor” sat in the corner and only serviced you when you had a problem that required immense data crunching.  Now?  Now we sit with our clients, have dedicated consultative teams that align to our clients’ business groups, and provide the ammunition they need to make real-time decisions that make the most impact on top-line revenue and bottom-line margins.  Nielsen is the foremost leader in this area of consultative insights provider.  It’s not enough for me to tout my company’s credentials in this guest blog & claim that I’ve got one of the coolest jobs ever.  Here’s a short story on what happened not a few months ago:

nielsenI did a tour of duty through product marketing for a digital ad effectiveness product called Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR for short).   Nielsen’s focus on digital advertising has sharpened over the last five years, as the industry continues to see TV dollars migrating across screen to Digital and Mobile.  Not only did I get the opportunity to understand the depth and chaos that is digital advertising in this day & age, but I got to be part of an incredible product leadership team that created this product, from concept & ideation to full-scale production & commercial release.  OCR is now one of, if not THE, accepted currency on which digital advertising will be traded on, similar to how the Nielsen TV Ratings serve as the foundation for the television advertising world.  Nielsen’s focus didn’t stop there.  Domestic?  Sure, we’ve got the US market…but what about our clients who span multiple countries and continents?  One of my major projects was the preparation for the commercial launch of OCR in the French market- a European country whose privacy restrictions are notorious in technology/telecom.  Working hand-in-hand with our incredible team of engineers around the globe, our own data provider partners, and our client service and sales teams, I got incredibly close to this product and was sent to Paris by Nielsen to train the local Nielsen team and host a client roadshow across the biggest publishers, advertisers, and agencies in France.  Never thought two years ago, that here I’d be in Paris presenting to the directors of digital strategy for Starcom Media Group, Carat, Havas, Microsoft, L’Oreal, and Yahoo on why OCR will revolutionize digital advertising as we know it.

Long story short: Nielsen as a company embodies this incredible transformation we are seeing in how clients use big data and their consultative partners.  We are no longer just a “data provider” or a “research vendor.”  To sit on our laurels & accept those descriptors doesn’t do Nielsen justice.  The culture, the mentality, and the senior leadership continuously push us to be THE solution to our clients’ problems.  Spread sheets and number crunching?  They’re most likely here to stay, but at least we can say that this is no longer the ONLY thing marketing research can provide.

Dina Liu graduated in May 2012, from Wharton with double concentrations in Marketing and Management.  Primary extracurricular activities: President of Penn Mock Trial and member of Sigma Kappa, worked at the Penn Housing Office 3 out of 4 years.  Junior summer, interned at Blackrock supporting their retail Defined Contribution business in their marketing and sales department.  Currently working at the Nielsen Company as an Associate Media Analytics Consultant servicing the Viacom and Discovery Communications accounts in our Watch business.  Live in Manhattan, have 2 goldfish, and enjoy foodie dates around the five boroughs. 

Pathways: Reflections on First Jobs – Revisited

By Sharon Fleshman

Recently, two of my colleagues offered some food for thought regarding the search for passion and meaning in a career.  Hopefully, Pat Rose’s blog –  Passion? What Passion?, and Claire Klieger’s blog – Career Exploration Lessons from the Cheshire Cat will encourage you to give yourself permission to not have things all figured out as you get started in your career.  As I reflect on my first job after college, I am reminded about how it informed my career path.

When I received my degree in Computer Science from Penn, my first job was in information technology consulting. I never expected to come back to Penn to work, or to be a career advisor. As time went by, I noticed a growing restlessness about my sense of purpose as it related to my career. My church and community involvement was certainly a catalyst for my eventual transition to the non-profit sector as I had felt increasingly more fulfilled in my roles outside of work. In spite of this, I have no regrets about my first job because I discovered a lot about what I want and don’t want in a career. I liked certain elements of consulting. I enjoyed helping clients in ways that required intellectual curiosity and allowed exposure to a variety of areas. Consulting also challenged me to learn and adapt quickly and project more confidence about my abilities. My colleagues were smart, friendly and motivated, but it was hard to forge strong collegial relationships given the need for consultants to move from client to client. In retrospect, I realize that having a sense of community at work was and still is important to me. When I found out about a Career Counselor position at Career Services twelve years ago, I was drawn to the opportunity to continue my advisory work in an environment that is more compatible with my work values.

All of this is not to say that one can only find meaning and purpose in a particular field or sector. My point is that your first job will not define your entire career, but it can potentially be a springboard for cultivating self-discovery that will help you to progress in your development. As you enter the next phase of your life in the world of work, make sure to take the time to reflect on lessons learned on the journey


The Shadow Knows! — A Few Points on Pre-Health Shadowing

People_ShadowYou may have heard that it’s important to shadow a physician or dentist before applying to professional school, but have questions about it:  How important is it for me to shadow?  Is it the same as clinical volunteering?  How many hours should I shadow somebody?  Here are a few points about shadowing to help you plan your time before applying to graduate school:

  • Shadowing and clinical volunteering are different.  Shadowing is an opportunity to observe a health care professional at work.  You are like a shadow — present, but not taking an active role with responsibilities.  Clinical volunteering means that you are giving your time to serve as a volunteer and assuming some responsibility in the clinic.
  • Medical schools do not consider shadowing to be medically related service work, which is very important to them.  You should not shadow and think you have done clinical volunteer service.  As a medical school applicant, you are likely to have spent more hours volunteering than shadowing.  Shadowing tends to be a more significant part of dental school applications as volunteer service opportunities are more limited.
  • Shadowing is an excellent way to confirm your interest in medicine and learn more about doctor-patient relationships.  It is often while observing professionals at work that potential applicants find the “spark” within that motivates them to pursue a health care career.
  • You can shadow a single person or several different people over time.  It isn’t inherently better to stick with one person vs. more than one.  You can gain a great deal of insight from both ways of shadowing.
  • Finding shadowing opportunities can be tricky and may involve some persistence in the face of being turned down.  Understandably, professionals must consider the privacy of their patients and the policies of their clinic.  Student pre-health groups and medical/dental school alumni groups can be excellent contacts with established shadowing programs.  Any personal/family connection you have with a health care professional can be pursued.  Many applicants have shadowed relatives or their personal doctors or dentists.  A faculty member or research colleague you know may be open to having you shadow her or him.  Lastly, try high school and college alumni.
  • Be professional and gracious when requesting a shadowing opportunity.  Express your thanks to anyone who gives you an opportunity and keep them posted on your career developments.  It can also mean a lot to a patient to be thanked, briefly, as well.

So You Think They Can’t Hear You!

by Marlene Cohen, On-Campus Recruiting Manager


We are in Employer Information Season and here are a few tips on how to behave.  At these events you may be asked to sign in and meet the representatives, take a brochure, fill out a name tag and take a seat.  Many programs will be crowded and there will not be sufficient seating for all attendees.  You may have to stand in the back of the room or along the side walls.  It really may surprise you to see how many students are in attendance.  Be sure that when the session is about to begin, and the speaker is being introduced that you remember it is time to stop talking.   Be respectful of the presenters throughout the program. There may be a video, a keynote speaker, and a Q&A session.   Although you may think you are speaking softly, the fact is that many speaking softly becomes a loud murmur and will be disruptive to the other attendees and to the employer representatives.  Focus on why you are there – to learn more about the organization and the opportunities they have available.  So during the season of employer information sessions, be professional, be respectful, be quiet and listen.

Passion? What Passion?

Students, if you can see the end of your Penn years looming in the not too distant future, this post is for you. It concerns passion. You may have been asked or are asking yourself what your passion is. You may even be tired of hearing well-meaning friends and relatives say, just follow your passion.

If you actually have a passion, carry on. You are fortunate. You are also in the minority. Most undergraduates (and many graduate students as well) do not have anything resembling a passion. So don’t feel bad or inadequate if you don’t yet have a passion that is leading you to a particular kind of work.

In my experience after watching the careers of numerous Penn alumni unfold, graduates discover their passion through the development of skills, and this frequently happens in the workplace. It is through the daily discipline of a job that you develop the skills and expertise you need to feel like you are really making a contribution. You feel good about yourself when you do something well. You become excited about the work, and your strong performance on the job. In this way you develop a passion for this work (and perhaps the industry), and you seek positions in the future where you can use and continue to develop these important skills that you can now demonstrate.

What if you do have a passion, but it is for a political candidate, or a charitable organization, or a sports team, or any number of other things? You would do anything to work for that candidate, or that non-profit, or that team. This can be hard. The positions available may be volunteer, or extremely low paying. They could be routine, and give little opportunity to develop skills or to advance. But if by working in the organization you are meeting people, observing the roles they play, learning about the field and developing a vocabulary, then give it a try. After all, if you can’t take a risk at 22, when will you ever be able to do so?

If you can’t make it happen (or can’t afford to), don’t despair. The world is full of people who pursue their passions outside of work as volunteers. In the meantime, you can be working someplace where you can make a living, develop expertise, and perhaps find a new passion, one that is potentially more authentic and long-lasting.