Erika Jackson

Always ask, “What if?”

Tackling business problems for major companies builds Erika Jackson’s corporate portfolio

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois.
Former life: Worked her way up through the sales team at Fortune 500 retailer CarMax.
Future life: Marketing position with a consumer goods company.
Cool fact: She takes weekly horse-riding lessons.

Clean up on aisle four: PepsiCo hired Erika and a team of TCU consultants to analyze the most profitable ways to merchandise its displays in Wal-Mart stores worldwide. To combat perimeter shopping, where consumers pick up basic items from aisle ends without venturing deeper into the store, the MBAs recommended a radical product placement focused on the ends of aisles. “What’s great about consulting is that rather than just reading about something that’s already happened, you’re in the middle of a real situation. You can see how your questions lead the company to try something new. We’ll ask, ‘What if you move your best-selling chips to the end of the aisle?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, that's a good question. Why haven’t we tried that solution before?’ Our role is to ask, ‘What if?’”

CEO for an hour: What would you do if you ran the company? Through TCU’s Neeley Connections, she brainstormed with GameStop execs about how to keep pace with online gaming and strategized with CB Richard Ellis officers about how to incorporate social media into commercial real estate sales. “As an MBA student, you come in with this fresh perspective. Because you’re studying multiple subjects and connecting the dots between them, you relate things across planes in ways that the average person wouldn’t. You think on your feet in a different way.”

Coached and ready: Attending the national career conferences is a no-brainer, especially since TCU subsidizes the travel and sends along a career coach to help you run the recruiter gamut. For first-year MBAs, it’s a smart way to gain valuable face time with future employers. “Nobody can promise that you’ll land an internship while you’re there. But your first year at a career conference is a trial run so that next year — when you need to a get a job out of it — you’ve got experience in interviewing. You should get this experience now so you can put your best foot forward next year.”

Brand new experience: During her product marketing internship with Sabre Technology, Erika helped refresh the brand for an airline software solution that manages everything from ticket sales to baggage delivery. The experience added a shot of systemwide marketing to her strong sales background. “I had heard so many good things about Sabre. Once I saw its campus and heard about the internship, I knew it was a great fit for me.”

TCU on top: In the field of Sabre interns, the TCU MBAs made a strong impression. Of the 18 interns in Erika’s department, only five stars were handpicked to present their projects to the executive team. Erika and two other TCU MBAs made the cut.

Join the club: For the National Association of Women MBAs, Erika lines up speakers to dispense advice about career strategies and potential pitfalls. “Men and women face different issues on the job. We want to make women aware of the workplace issues they’ll face — whether that’s a gender-based pay gap or being handled with kid gloves during conflicts.”

Team spirit: What’s her advice for choosing an MBA program? Find a place where you’ll thrive. “If you can do your MBA in a vacuum, where you go to class most of the time, read the book and occasionally e-mail a professor, go ahead. You can do that anywhere. But if you want to be part of everything and not just be a number, if you realize that taking on an MBA is a team event, that’s TCU. The professors and administrators here are personally invested in your success.”

Erika

“This program is full of so many really smart people, so it’s hard to ever say you’re the smartest person in the room. But I feel like when we’re out among business leaders, we hold our own — and then some.”

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