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Liz Abello

Liz Abello (IMC18)

Brand Manager at Mike's Hard Lemonade

Liz Abello (IMC18) had a great job with a great employer, but like many Medill IMC graduates, she wanted to learn more about marketing. Realizing that she didn’t have the skills necessary to make a career switch, Abello started to explore graduate programs throughout Chicago.

She went to a Medill IMC event and was “blown away” by the courses offered and the opportunities to interact with professionals in the Chicagoland area and beyond. “I could gain the real-world experience I needed to make a career switch through the program,” she said.

Abello, who graduated in June 2018, now works as an associate brand manager for Mike’s Hard Lemonade. From consumer insights and brand strategy to execution and measurement, Abello learned the full IMC process at Medill and now gets to implement those skills in her new career.

Tell us how your independent study project helped you land a job.

My job with Mike’s Hard Lemonade would not have been possible without the IMC program. For my last course in the program, I wanted to do an independent study focused on multicultural consumers. When I proposed this topic, I was connected to Neil Golden, one of IMC’s faculty members, who works closely with the Mike's Hard Lemonade team. He knew they were launching a product specifically focused toward Hispanic consumers and suggested that I might be interested in helping.

The project eventually led to a full-time job opportunity. This career transition wouldn't have been possible without Medill.

What IMC experience stands out in your mind?

The IMC capstone class was one of my favorites. We worked with Redwing Boot Company. The CMO came and gave us the project briefing and then we worked all quarter on a final presentation. Ultimately, we presented our findings to the CEO and CMO and received feedback from them.

For me, that experience was truly invaluable because it was my first real exposure to brand management. We tied all our creative ideas not only to consumer insight but an actual business strategy. To position that [strategy] to not only a CMO, who understands marketing, but also to a CEO, whose business objectives and financial goals are top of mind, helps me in my current role at Mike's. And I know it will continue to help me in the future as I ground marketing in business.

How did you maximize the Medill network?

Before getting this role at Mike's, I went to a Medill Chicago alumni event where I met some great alumni. I followed up, and they could not have been more generous with their time—not only their own time but also connecting me to their own broader network. Whether they had a connection to Northwestern or not, it was really powerful. It speaks to the power of the Northwestern and Medill's names.

What advantage does a graduate degree from Medill IMC bring to the table?

Compared to other graduate programs, especially an MBA, Medill IMC specifically focused on marketing. It was grounded in the idea of making you a better marketer and a future CMO. Marketing was not just a track with a few quarters of classes.  I wanted to really maximize my time in the classroom focused on topics that I was especially interested in, rather than having to take many core classes to finally get the courses of interest.

Additionally, the IMC program helps you make wise marketing decisions through the financial accounting course, where you learn to analyze a balance sheet and evaluate a company's financial performance.

What advice would you give to a future IMC student?

Take advantage of the many opportunities to enrich your learning experience, whether it's the speakers brought in or presentations that come through Medill Career Services. Maximizing those opportunities makes the time spent at Medill more meaningful.