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Mike McGrew (BSJ96, IMC97) on mentorship and problem-solving with Medill

March 2, 2015 | By Clare Ling (BSJ18)

For Michael McGrew, the advantages that come with having a good mentor are almost innumerable. One of the most important benefits, however, is the lasting ripple effect that an effective mentorship tends to create.

McGrew (BSJ96, IMC97), the senior director of communications for the beer division of Constellation Brands, joined Medill IMC’s Intro to Strategic Communications course to discuss this phenomenon and detail its occurrence throughout his career. McGrew also encouraged students to participate in a real-world problem-solving project, inviting them to brainstorm solutions for a situation his company is currently working on.   

McGrew began his position at Constellation Brands—an international producer and marketer of alcoholic beverages—after serving for over a decade at W.W. Granger, Inc. There, he worked directly with IMC professors and classroom hosts Nancy Hobor and Ernest Duplessis. McGrew recognized the two professors as crucial figures in his path to success, and acknowledged that he wouldn’t be where he is now if it hadn’t been for their mentorship.

“Coming into corporate America for the first time, I had no idea what to expect,” McGrew said. “You can learn a lot by trial and error, but having people look out for you, tell you what you didn’t even know you needed to ask and challenging you in a supportive way gave me opportunities I never would’ve had without a mentor.”

Today, mentorship continues to be a big part of McGrew’s life. He’s involved in Leadership Greater Chicago, a non-profit organization committed to promoting change throughout the community. In addition, he volunteers as a board member for Urban Initiatives, a mentoring and leadership program that collaborates with over 40 public schools in Chicago.

“You could just tell that [McGrew] is really upstanding, the kind of person that lots of people want to be,” said Gary Gonzalez, a first-year graduate student in Hobor and Duplessis’ class.

During the latter part of his lecture, McGrew acted as a mentor to students when he presented a problem his company is currently working on, and invited the class to generate ideas for the scenario.

“It was quite good not only hearing him speak and getting the outside world perspective, but also actually almost forming part of his company just for those 15 minutes and helping him out—seeing what it would actually be like in his situation,” Keshishian said.

The exercise proved to be not only a gratifying experience for the class, but for McGrew as well.

“They did a great job listening, taking in elements from the presentation, and had a variety of great ideas that reinforced the principles of IMC—lots of social, lots of digital components,” McGrew said. “They included elements from PR sessions that we’ve had that I am going to make sure are incorporated.”

McGrew also stressed that in the workplace, there is no substitute for being humble, asking questions and putting in a lot of hard work—researching business reports and solidifying relationships with customers outside of the office.

“The IMC philosophy is all about that,” McGrew said. “The more you invest in people, the more you get in return.”

For more information or to apply to the IMC graduate program, visit our website.