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How MMM Prepared Me to be a Product Manager at Mastercard

Stephanie Baranovic (MMM '19) talks about what appealed to her about MMM and how her experiences in the program directly influenced her role and responsibilities today.

Stephanie Baranovic (MMM '19)

The MMM program at Northwestern was very influential to me professionally, not only because it introduced me to a community of people who are passionate about design innovation, but it has fully shaped how I think about business. 

When I was looking into graduate school, I wanted a creative outlet to complement my MBA experience. I’d been exposed to design innovation techniques in my prior job at Procter & Gamble, and I wanted to hone those skills, which I was able to in MMM. The tight-knit community appealed to me, and it didn't take long for my MMM classmates to become some of my closest friends.

While there are many frameworks featured in the MMM curriculum, I appreciate that the program taught me it takes a hands-on approach to really innovate. You need to get out there and conduct consumer research. You need to think of many, crazy prototypes. You need to iterate, pivot, and be open to starting over.

I capitalized on that hands-on approach throughout my time in the program, but one of the most memorable experiences was working as a product management intern at Activision Blizzard in Los Angeles. I worked on the “Call of Duty” video game franchise supporting a game that was live in-market. It was my first experience as a product manager (PM), and it taught me the fundamental aspects of being a PM, such as setting the go-to-market strategy for a product, leading cross-functional weekly meetings, and reporting key business metrics to keep the teams in lock-step. Outside of the tactical PM experience, I learned a lot about gaming and the acceleration of the eSports industry.

The most impactful experience from my time in MMM was the Business Innovation Lab, where my classmates and I took everything we learned from the past two years and put it into action on a client project. It brought me and my classmates together, and I have fond memories of staying up late with Post-Its in hand, talking through ideas with my peers.

Those opportunities helped prepare me for my job today at Mastercard, where I work as a product manager to help drive e-commerce globally. I focus on encouraging Mastercard cardholders to shop with key online merchants. The e-commerce landscape is constantly changing – new ways to pay, consumer behavior changes, and advances in data. In 2020, in-store purchasing was not a safe option for many people. Instead, shopping online became a critical tool to help people shop safely during the pandemic. I’ve found a lot of purpose and enjoyment knowing that my role in driving Mastercard e-commerce has made life a little bit easier and a little bit safer for people during the pandemic.

Additionally, I am a design thinking training facilitator and help Mastercard employees use those  principles to enhance their projects. I run training sessions that give employees hands-on experiences using design thinking techniques. The MMM program gave me the expertise to be able to confidently lead these sessions and help shape the design thinking curriculum at Mastercard.

The MMM program also reinforced the importance of keeping the consumer’s wants and needs at the center of everything I do. It taught me about how to think about innovation and generate new, creative ideas. I try to incorporate these principles into my job as much as I can.

Soon after I started working at Mastercard, I wanted to find a way to personally stay connected with the program and connect Mastercard with the incredible MMM community. I found that opportunity with the Business Innovation Lab. This past winter quarter, Mastercard and I were honored to partner with MMM for a class project. My hope is that the opportunity has provided an enriching learning experience for the students while allowing me to give back to a program that gave me so much. 

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