How I use my MBA courses

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It is, says Laura Brady, “a kind of American dream of making yourself bigger than where you come from”.

Brady, who is halfway through a new role in Shanghai as senior rewards manager for Budweiser Asia-Pacific, started in a small town in North Carolina and Mississippi, before working in Atlanta, Brisbane, Rome and New York. This progression — and that of her career — may be explained by the belief that she is at her best when she is outside her comfort zone, both intellectually and culturally.

But, while her work in human resources has taken her around the world, there have been obstacles. After seven years in human capital consulting at EY and KPMG, Brady wanted to move into an internal HR position.

“I had dabbled in enough industries and companies to understand that CPG [consumer packaged goods] was where I really wanted to be,” she says. “I loved the really fast and tangible nature of their products. I also really liked the fact that they constantly have to innovate.

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A class at Wharton School

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Yet she struggled to transition from consulting to industry without an MBA.

“I just wasn’t getting the roles I wanted,” she says. So, after a short career hiatus and a trip to Beijing with her partner for a semester of her master’s degree in business, in June 2015 she enrolled in the one-year full-time MBA at the Kellogg School of Management in Northwestern University in Evanston, on the outskirts. from Chicago.

It was there that Brady first met the Kellogg HR alumni network, which she describes as “small but tight and mighty”. One of them, Jaclyn Senner, worked in the Global People team at Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer group and owner of Budweiser. Senner was on campus recruiting students for the Business MBA program, a competitive one-year course for business school graduates. Brady was immediately attracted: it was the right line of business in a company that gave the HR function “a strategic place at the table”.

When she joined the AB InBev team in 2016 after her MBA, Brady focused on talent management and employee engagement – diversity and inclusion (D&I) was “more of a passion project “. But that quickly changed when Brady and Senner, with the help of an intern, began developing an overall D&I strategy and business case. In October 2018, Brady landed his “dream job” as global head of D&I at AB inBev.

She describes strategy development as the “greatest intellectual challenge” of her career. “There was no one in the business who had done this before and it was incredibly difficult to navigate. hundreds of years of history – it’s all against you, and people are getting personally invested in the subject because it impacts their careers and even their children’s careers.

The team built the strategy “from scratch”. Along with relying on academic research for the business case, Brady says one of the factors that helped the most was using the Kellogg network to see other companies’ approaches. “We made a list of all our contacts, where they worked and just started calling them and asking to speak to anyone at their company who worked on D&I,” she says.

resume

2022 Move to become Senior Director of Awards, Budweiser Asia Pacific

2018-22 Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, AB InBev

2016-18 Global Head of Talent Management, AB InBev

2015-16 One-year full-time MBA, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

2015 (May-June) Talent Management Consultant, United Nations World Food Program

2011-15 Human Resources and Change Manager, KPMG

2007-10 Senior consultant in HR performance and compensation consulting, EY

The courses she took in business school, particularly on data analysis, were instrumental in shaping AB InBev’s strategy. “What I really focused on [at Kellogg] was learning how to design an analytics strategy and approach, and then how to lead a team of data scientists, which I do almost every day. »

Two teams of data scientists – in Argentina and India – played an “instrumental” role in designing D&I dashboards and developing an analytics-based approach to determine where action is needed. “It’s a different approach than some organizations, which don’t have a good set of underlying data,” she says. “It helped us prioritize and focus.”

However, policies must be put into practice. “That’s what’s so difficult about this role,” Brady says. “You have to think about not just the superficial headline or the communication campaign, but also the details of the policy, the legality of it, and then the change in behavior that will drive it.”

It was particularly important to have an understanding of behavior change management, developed at Kellogg and through his consulting work. AB InBev’s gender-neutral Global Parenting Standard – which plans to give primary carers 16 weeks of fully paid leave and secondary carers two weeks – has benefited from the approach.

Laura Brady

Driving change: Laura Brady is proud of achievements such as a new policy for staff experiencing domestic violence © Ian Waldie

Understanding data and behavior change helped the initiative “stick” and grow at the right pace for the company and its culture to absorb, Brady says. The team was “diligent and disciplined” in determining what this meant for each stakeholder and how they should respond.

She is also proud of a new policy for those affected by domestic violence. This includes 10 days of paid vacation, other support such as adapting security measures (e.g. changing work phone numbers, email addresses and even location, if possible) and financial support from ’emergency.

In this case, Brady’s knowledge of change management was crucial. “The biggest challenge was training our employees. . . how to react when someone comes to you. . . But, at the same time, everyone wanted to help and it was just about teaching them exactly how much you should help, where the line is drawn and when to put it back.

After careful consideration, Brady is leaving the global role of D&I to relocate to Shanghai, where she will once again face this dual combination of intellectual and cultural challenges. His new role will be to lead the rewards team, responsible for compensation, benefits and mobility – “an area of ​​HR I know the least about” – and will span a region including China, India, South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia.

It’s a role, she says, with “just that extra level of challenge that really turned me on”.

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