B-School Food for Thought at General Mills

This business major works as an information analyst at the food manufacturer outside Minneapolis. Here's a look at a typical work day

Think working for General Mills (GIS) is only about taste-testing cookies? For me, a 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Business, it certainly isn't.

As an information analyst, I support two teams --one that sells our products to stores and one that gives advice on where to place merchandise. I gather and analyze sales data, provide insight on possible business decisions, and create presentations for teams to use when they communicate with outlets that carry our food.

Another large part of my job is publishing the new bi-annual Consumer Food Sales magazine for General Mills employees. It highlights best practices, new tools, and consumer insight. General Mills produces Big G breakfast cereals (such as Cheerios and Lucky Charms), Yoplait yogurt, Betty Crocker desserts, Progresso soups, and Pillsbury dough products, among other items.

The transition from attending college to working at the fifth-largest food manufacturer in the country was made easier by General Mills' formal, two-week training with my "class" of 35 fellow newcomers. I was also given a mentor who is only a few years older than I am. She has been a helpful resource.

This is a typical day at my job:

5:45 a.m. -- I leave my apartment in downtown Minneapolis and drive to the office, which only takes about 10 minutes. Before heading to my desk, I work out at the company health club. I'm training for a marathon, so I'm a regular face there.

8:00 a.m. -- After working out, showering, and grabbing coffee at the Caribou shop in my building, I go to my desk and say hello to my team.

8:15 a.m. -- My e-mail inbox is filled with messages, questions, and updates.

8:30 a.m. -- My team gathers for our weekly priority-setting meeting. I'm updating year-old data on which customers perform the best.

9:00 a.m. -- The customer account team needs information on organic cookies for a presentation. I gather the data.

10:00 a.m. -- Using a computer tool, I see whether changing prices would have an impact on various customers' sales figures. For example, would a store do more business if prices decreased? Would it do less business if prices increased?

11:00 a.m. -- I interview a General Mills sales employee who has traveled all over the world. The interview will go in the inaugural issue of the company sales magazine that I'm helping to create.

11:30 a.m. -- I type up the interview and send it to the magazine designer before this afternoon's meeting.

Noon -- A few co-workers and I grab a quick lunch in the company cafeteria.

12:30 p.m. -- I create charts illustrating regional differences for various products, which a teammate will use to prepare for an upcoming meeting.

1:30 p.m. -- I send a few e-mails to gather information for an upcoming project I'm taking the lead on. I'll be creating a presentation that will be important to a meeting between General Mills sales executives and executives from one of our key customers discussing various business details and opportunities.

2:00 p.m. -- A co-worker on the account team calls. I explain a project I recently completed for her team -- a study focused on mid-sized biscuits' impact on customer profits.

2:30 p.m. -- I run downstairs and grab a snack from the company store with a colleague.

3:00 p.m. -- I clean my e-mail inbox a little and answer a few questions.

3:30 p.m. -- I prepare for the upcoming meeting with the designer of the new sales magazine. I usually take the lead in these meetings, so I want to make sure I'm organized.

4:00 p.m. -- The designer, my director, and I go through the latest magazine designs and layouts. We're aiming to finish this issue within a few weeks, so we have several details to discuss.

5:00 p.m. -- I chat with my roommate (who also works at General Mills) about our evening plans to attend a UW-Madison alumni event, and then check my e-mail once more.

5:30 p.m. -- The work day is over, and I pack up and leave.

6:00 p.m. -- I'm home at last. The evening commute is a bit longer than in the morning, but it's still not bad.

Although having an undergraduate degree is required for my job, it wasn't necessary to major in business. My business classes, however, provided me with a solid foundation and were interesting. More importantly, my business background helped me develop necessary analytical, organizational, and communication skills.

I was hired by General Mills after participating in the on-campus recruiting process, which is probably the easiest way to get a foot in the door. If General Mills isn't coming to your campus, check out the careers section on the company Web site for information.

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