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Branding Herself as a Leader: Katie Herrmann Helps Women MBA Students Welcome Feedback

Katie HermannWhen Katie Herrmann (Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Class of 2011) entered her MBA program, her class was 34% women. The group that entered the following year was only 23% women. Unfortunately, women are still the minority in MBA programs across the country. But Katie knew what she wanted to do about it.

“I wanted to create a community of mutual support,” she says. She knew from the moment she entered Kelley that she could make a difference for other women MBA students via the Kelley Association of Women MBAs, a networking and engagement group. The KAWMBA is dedicated to helping Kelley women build relationships with other students and Kelley alumni, identifying high impact activities in the community, and helping Kelley women achieve professional success.

Katie was elected president of the group, and led a small team of MBA women. She resovled to focus on internal and external relations for the group, to help build strong partnerships with alumni and with other organizations at the school, and she also made professional development for KAWMBA women a top priority. “The core reason people pursue an MBA is to develop themselves professionally, and we wanted to provide opportunities for Kelley women to do that,” she says.

Katie organized a workshop called “Brand Yourself” for KAWMBA women. The participants were coached to seek out feedback from classmates and former professional colleagues, and then bring that feedback to a group workshop. “Feedback is really a gift, but you have to know how to use it,” she says. “We had someone work with us around how you receive and translate input. It was really an interesting experience, very eye-opening, and it enabled everyone to help each other out to improve and develop on a personal and professional level.”

Katie has been a Forté Fellow and friend of the organization throughout. A three-time attendee at the MBA Women’s Conference, she has also spoken on a panel put together by Kelley graduates for undergraduates interested in MBA opportunities. She has also led a panel discussion for Forté women about how to nail the perfect summer internship during your MBA years.

Katie’s summer internship at ConAgra foods helped her accomplish her goal of transitioning from her pre-MBA career in corporate finance for the automotive industry to brand management in the food industry. She worked as associate brand manager for ConAgra for the summer, cementing her interest in marketing and branding. “It was a big deal for me,” she says. “I capitalized on my analytical and teamwork skills from my background in corporate finance and gained some really valuable experience in a whole new arena.”

Today, Katie is pleased to be starting at American Express. She began talking to American Express at the Forté MBA Women’s Conference in 2010. “I followed up in the fall, and interviewed in Los Angeles,” she recalls. “Throughout the process, I tried to talk to everyone I could. It didn’t matter if they were in consumer card services, which is where I want to be, or somewhere else at American Express. I learned so much about the company, and secured a position.” Her focus paid off, with an offer to join American Express in Manhattan in the fall of 2011.

Katie Herrmann is one of the 2011 recipients of the 2011 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award.

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