Meet the Graduates: Bridget

Major: Journalism
Certificate: Digital Studies


What have you been up to since graduation?

Well, shortly after graduation, I went to Iceland through the Snorri Program for six weeks. And since I’ve been back, I’ve just been doing fun stuff; seeing a lot of movies, going to the lake, and seeing friends when I can. I’m not starting my job until September 4th, so I’m just trying to enjoy this last summer of freedom. It’s a little weird because once you hit a certain age, you’re either doing sports all summer or you’re working and then you go to college and then you’re working or interning all summer. I know I’ll miss it when I start working, but it’s a really weird feeling.

Tell me more about this trip to Iceland. How did find this program and what did you do there?

My mom actually found the program after going through some old files at home and we realized the program still existed. To get accepted into the program, you have to be a descendant of Icelandic emigrants because you stay with a host family that you’re related to somehow. With my host family, my mom and my host mom shared the same great-grandpa.

For the first two weeks, we stayed in Reykjavik, taking classes and learning elementary Icelandic. Then, for three weeks, we stayed with our host family and volunteered in the local community. My host family lived in Akureyri, the second biggest city in Iceland. When I applied to the program, the application asked what types of things I was interested in doing for the volunteer portion of the trip. A lot of people end up working on farms or at cafes as baristas. But I told them about my Digital Studies Certificate and my digital media internship that I had at Toro and they were able to find me a job specific to that. I ended up volunteering at the corporate office for the municipality of Akureyri working on their website and social media accounts.

Specifically, I created a Facebook page for the island of Grímsey. There are two islands near Akureyri and the city is in charge of doing all the tourism marketing for them. One island is pretty close so they don’t have a hard time getting people there. But the other island, Grímsey, is a three hour ferry ride over choppy waters or a very expensive plane ride. So they asked me to make a Facebook page for the island, which involved me having to go to the island to do some video work. I went with another girl in the program and we got over 100 clips of interviews and footage and then I spent the rest of my time in Akureyri video editing so they would have quick, funny videos to use for social media.

What a great experience! And where will you be working come September?

I’ll be working for Milwaukee Tool, but the first job is with the parent company, TTi, working in the field doing sales and marketing and merchandising. So first I’ll be working in Home Depot because that’s where all their products are sold. Once I’m done with that rotation, which typically takes about eleven months, I hope to move to Milwaukee to work as a marketing associate in product, channel or brand.

What did your job search process look like?

I was very aggressive with the job search since I like to have stuff locked down and not have to worry about it. I went to the fall career fair, having researched the employers before I went, and then I just talked to as many people as I could. It’s kind of funny because I didn’t initially intend to talk to Milwaukee Tool, but I was waiting to talk to someone else at another stand and the rep from Milwaukee Tool started talking to me about marketing opportunities.

So I submitted my resume through BuckyNet and got invited to a dinner event that was on campus. Everyone in the room was from Milwaukee Tool and they had all gone to Madison. We got to talk to people who worked in product, channel, and brand marketing, kind of just everything. They told us the benefits we’d have, the salary, and the hours if we got the job before we even started interviewing so we wouldn’t waste each other’s time if it didn’t sound good.

They did first round interviews in the Wisconsin School of Business and I was really nervous. I researched the company like I always do before an interview, and during the interview, it was actually really natural. I interviewed with an alum and even though he was interviewing me, it felt more like an informational interview, so it was very relaxed. At the end of the interview, he asked me to sign up for a second round interview which was the very next day.

The second round interview was with the head of new hires training and she was also a UW-Madison alum. After she introduced herself, she just asked me if I had any questions for her. I did, but usually you save those for the end of the interview. But I just asked her my questions and then when I ran out of insightful questions to ask, I was ready for her to interview me. That’s when she told me that they have their first round interviewers rank each of the candidates on a scale of 1-5, with the average being a three. But my first round interviewer had ranked me a five, so she knew she was going to be sending me to the third round before we even started.

The third round was a two day event in Milwaukee where they bring people in from all over the country to interview for sales and marketing roles. It was really intimidating because everyone I talked to said they were also interviewing for the marketing positions and I didn’t realize there’d be so many people there. On the first day, they took us on a tour of Milwaukee, gave us a tour of the corporate headquarters, and took us to Home Depot. We went out for a nice dinner and we had assigned seating at the restaurant. This was also really intimidating because there were a lot of VP’s at my table and a guy who was really charismatic who was interviewing for a sales role. I definitely didn’t think this third round was going to go as well after this dinner.

The next day we had our interviews with different directors or VPs. When we first applied, we had to rank the cities we wanted to start in. I had originally put NYC at the top of my list, but after learning that they don’t salary adjust for location and considering other factors, like family and stuff, I had decided Minneapolis was my first choice. I ended up interviewing with the head of the NY division and so had to awkwardly explain why that wasn’t my first choice anymore. I definitely thought it didn’t go well after that conversation.

I went back to Madison, sent my thank you emails and wasn’t feeling particularly confident. After a couple weeks, a girl I knew who also interviewed got an offer, but I didn’t. Another two weeks passed and I still hadn’t heard anything and at that point, I figured they could at least have sent me one of those “after careful consideration…” letters. But, the day before Thanksgiving, I got a call from someone at TTi who apologized for the delay and said that they needed to work out the details so they could give me my first choice location, Minneapolis. So yeah, after being crazy about going to the career fair, I got an offer in November and could relax the rest of senior year!

What an intense process! Any advice for current students as they begin their job searches this fall?

Ask insightful questions during your interviews. Look up the company mission statement and wow them with your knowledge of their company.

Think about where you want to live after graduation and consider that during your job search. I’m really excited to be working for Milwaukee Tool, but I wish I would have realized sooner that I really want to stay in Minneapolis so I would not have put NYC as my initial first choice.

And don’t rule out post-grad internships. I had a friend who took an internship straight out of college and, while at the time I thought that sounded really stressful, it gave her the leverage she needed to get a better full-time job after completing the internship because of the additional experience.

You’ve started your job as a Field Sales and Marketing Rep with TTI since we last talked. How’s it going?

It’s good, but I’m pretty tired. I have to get up at 5:30 AM every day and I’m a night person, so that’s been pretty rough. But I get done work at 3:30 PM, so that’s really nice.

But the job is going really well. Like I mentioned in the last interview, I’m spending this first year working in sales at Home Depot. I’ve been here for seven weeks now and spent the first two weeks in training with other reps on my team and my manager. Starting with the third week, you’re alone in the store running things by yourself…and that’s when I started to panic. I just wasn’t sure I could do it because stuff had to get done and I wasn’t sure how to go about making all that happen. But I pushed through and now I’m feeling much more confident, even though I’m still learning about all the products.

Tell me about what your day looks like in the store.

Every quarter we have a certain set of objectives to meet. For example, we might get a new product, so I have to print the planogram, make sure it gets into run, and educate the associates about the advantages of the new product so they can answer questions when I’m not there. I also do display resets. Since I’m working for TTI, I manage the Milwaukee Tool, Ridgid and Ryobi displays in Home Depot. So again, when there’s a new product, I redo the displays and make sure the merchandising is up to standards for Home Depot.

I would definitely say this first role is really heavily focused on getting to know the customers really well – what their needs are and how these products can fill the customer’s needs. Having this experience talking with customers will give me a lot of first hand knowledge when I move into a marketing role for the company after this.

Is the job what you expected it to be so far?

Sort of. I definitely do a lot more merchandising than I thought I would be doing. And I’ve heard from other reps that the move from sales to marketing may not be quite as direct as I expected, so we’ll have to see what happens after I’ve been here for a while.

But this job does offer a really nice work-life balance. Even though I’m salaried, they’re very strict about me only being here 40 hours a week. So when I get off of work at 3:30, I still have plenty of day left to see friends, go to the movies, and just put my feet up since I’m standing all day long.

As a woman working in a home improvement store, do you feel like people don’t take you as seriously?

So I definitely thought that might happen, but it actually hasn’t been the case so far. I wear a branded polo shirt and people seek me out to ask questions about the products. And I’ve just been super honest with people and tell them what I know about the products and what I don’t know, but I try to help them as best I can. I’m still learning about all the products, so sometimes it’s hard when I can’t answer their questions, but that will get better over time as I learn more. I’m sure that I’ll encounter some sort of situation over my time here when someone won’t think I have legitimate knowledge about the products because I’m a woman, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Any advice for current students who are beginning their job search?

Go into that first job with a positive attitude. I think a lot of students have this crushing feeling of ‘college is over, college is the best time ever’ and there’s this general negative attitude that once college ends, the fun ends. But that doesn’t have to be true. I think it’s helpful to think of working as the next logical step after college and start preparing for that before graduation, so it’s not such a shock when it does happen. You spend so much more of your life working than in school, so go into it with a positive attitude.

And I actually think I have more free time now than I did when I’m in college. I don’t have to come home from work and do homework or attend student org meetings. I just get to hang out with friends or do whatever I want because I’ve already done my work for the day.

Lastly, starting a new job is really scary. I had a genuine terror my third week when I was alone for the first time and had this sinking feeling of, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And I would say that’s really, really normal and to not get frightened by that feeling. Just give yourself a few weeks to get settled in and you’ll start to feel more comfortable.

How are things going? Did you make it through the holidays working in retail?

Things are going really well, though January is so much slower than December. I actually kind of miss the crazy pre-holiday rush. I worked on Black Friday and sold so much merchandise. I had a couple of sales over $500 and when that happens, the company calls it a success story and my TTi manager sent a message to the entire team and divisional manager. Because it was Black Friday and my $1,000 sale was one of the first to happen, the message ended up getting to the President of Power Tools at Milwaukee Tool and the President of Sales for TTI, so I ended up getting a bunch of emails from people congratulating me on the sale. It was pretty awesome!

That’s fantastic! So you’ve learned more about the products since we last talked?

Yes! I went to the first 101 training back in November which focuses mostly on product knowledge. We learned about the competitive advantage of the products and we got to test them out ourselves, so that has certainly been helpful when talking to customers because I can say, “When I did this, this was my experience.”

And I’m going to my second training in a couple of weeks. From what I understand, that training focuses on speaking skills. The company figures that no matter what direction your career goes, it doesn’t hurt to be able to present. We’ll also get to build stuff with the products, doing actual projects as a team.

Sounds like really useful trainings! Now that you’ve been there for a few months, what are the best and worst parts of the job?

Now that I have product knowledge, my favorite part is definitely talking with customers. It’s fun working with products that are really well made and that customers are excited about. But working in a retail environment can also just be tiring. Some days it’s just a blur of music and lighting and it can be rough. Or there are times when there are lots of objectives to meet, but the products aren’t in yet, so even though there’s always stuff to do, sometimes it can be hard to hone in on what you should actually be doing if it’s not super busy.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in these next few months?

Actually, there is some exciting news! I was invited to participate in what I thought was just a marketing shadow day, but turns out it’s actually going to be an interview for a marketing role at corporate.

Congratulations! That’s really exciting!

Thanks! I’m really excited, but pretty surprised. Typically, your manager has to put you up for any sort of promotion and I’ve been very vocal about wanting to get into a marketing role basically since I started. It’s clear to me that at TTI, you have to be willing to advocate for yourself and what you want. There are so many reps in the field who want to do marketing, but if your manager doesn’t know that, they won’t necessarily be able to help you with promotions.

You’re really starting to make a name for yourself there.

I guess talking to different people at the trainings and making sure I follow up with them after meeting them really does pay off! For example, at my first training, I got there early and I looked at the tables to find where the marketer was going to be sitting. Then I chose the seat directly across from him and waited for him to get there. Turns out, he also went to Madison and has an office right next to the person I interviewed with back in 2017. So making those connections was definitely helpful, I’m sure!

But I’m also pretty nervous about this interview because I really want this job. I’m worried that if I go to this interview and I don’t get the offer, I’m not sure where that would leave me. Would I wait it out for a few months and hope to get another chance? Would I start looking for something else? It feels like really high stakes to me because what happens at this interview will definitely impact my next steps here at TTi. So I guess we’ll see what happens!

I have a feeling you’re going to rock it! Best of luck to you!!

Last time we talked, you had an interview lined up for a marketing role. How did that go?

I had the interview at the end of January and it was a whirlwind process. I flew into Milwaukee on a Tuesday night and there was a group of eight of us interviewing for positions the next day. We all went out to dinner with the people we’d be interviewing with that night and then on Wednesday, I had seven back-to-back 30 minute interviews and then I flew back to Minneapolis. On Friday morning that same week, they called an offered me a position in product marketing, specifically working with new product development. I started at the end of February and have been loving it!

Congratulations! That was a pretty speedy process from start to finish.

Yes, it was and thank goodness, because then I didn’t have to wait too long to learn my fate! One thing that’s really unique at Milwaukee Tool is that they only interview people if they have open positions. Since there were eight of us interviewing, there were eight open positions, so your only competition is yourself during the interviews. Five of us got offers during this round of interviews and we all started around the same time, which has been great because we can help each other as we’re learning the ropes.

That sounds great. What’s the new role like?

So I work in product marketing, specifically for the accessories team, which means I have my own product category that I’m the point person on. In a nutshell, I work with channel to get the product to distributors, with brand to do packaging and messaging, and with engineers to make sure our new product development projects are on track.

Recently, I’ve been working on a new product development project and what I’ve discovered is that there is A LOT more Excel than I anticipated! I’m doing a lot of number crunching to be able to present information about how we’d make the product – like where we’d get the materials from, how we’d manufacture the product, how many people we’d need to hire to manufacture the product, what our competitors are selling similar products for, what people like and don’t like – basically coming up with the justification for why we need the product.

I also do direct research where I go into stores to see how our products are displayed and ask the people who work there about what they’re seeing works well in different categories or what they think we can improve on. And I’ve gone on a couple of business trips where I visit construction sites and talk directly with contractors about how they’re using our products and what else we could do to make their jobs easier.

Wow! Visiting constructions sites – was that intimidating?

Not going to lie, it was probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve had so far (if you take Excel out of the equation because I’m still trying to figure that all out!). I’m almost always the only woman on a job site and I don’t think I’m always what contractors expect to show up as the representative from Milwaukee Tool. I’ve really had to work on gaining confidence and believing in myself as someone who has the authority to ask questions because I do know what I’m talking about. It’s something I have to continually remind myself.

So far though, everyone has treated me with respect and taken me seriously. They’ve been very nice and open and willing to share their experiences with me. It’s been super cool getting to know different people working in the trade industry and learning more about what they do and how they do it. I’d say that’s one of the biggest positives of this job!

I’m so glad it’s all going well for you. How was the transition from Minneapolis to Milwaukee?

Apartment hunting was really stressful, mostly because I didn’t know Milwaukee at all. And it was the first time I was moving into a place by myself. I knew that living alone would be expensive, but sorting out all the different costs associated with different apartments was really frustrating – some included utilities or parking or internet and others didn’t, so it was hard to compare costs. But I ended up finding a great place in a location that I love and I’ve really been enjoying exploring Milwaukee.

That’s awesome! Connecting back to Digital Studies for a minute, what would you say still stands out to you, now that you’ve been out a year, from the certificate?

The nature of the Digital Studies curriculum focuses a lot on presentations, which has been helpful time and time again as I’ve gone through these interview processes. Being comfortable speaking and presenting in front of a group has been hugely beneficial.

On the more technical side of things, I took a graphic design course as part of Digital Studies and just knowing how to do really basic things has been helpful as I work with both the brand and packaging teams – just understanding how things should be positioned and all that. Also, my manager is really big on beautiful PowerPoints, so I’ve been using some of my design skills to make those pop a bit more.

Overall, one of the biggest things that I took away from college in general is that you have to be an advocate for yourself. If you’re not willing to advocate for yourself or seek out help when you need it, it’s so much harder to get where you want to go next. So for me, gaining confidence and self-sufficiency were the best things to come out of UW-Madison, for sure!