Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Spice of life

Kyle Wilcoxen Pic

Once an engineer, now a brand manager—Kyle Wilcoxen knows the value of an MBA.

Kyle Wilcoxen never planned on getting his MBA. In fact, he never planned on getting his master’s degree at all. But that changed quickly after his first real job.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Wilcoxen found himself doing research and development for Glad products at The Clorox Company. The gig was fun, he says, but it was a different type of interaction that really struck a chord.

“When I was working with consumers, my days would fly by,” Wilcoxen says. “That was the part of my job I enjoyed the most. I soon realized that business was more of my passion and what I wanted to do in the next stage of my career.”

That was easier said than done for an engineer with no formal business background. In order to switch careers, Wilcoxen would have to acquire a whole new skill set—one built around marketing and management.

Intro to business

Wilcoxen liked the flexibility of Quinlan’s MBA program as well as its strong sense of community and solid academic reputation.

Two courses in particular helped him get the hands-on experience he needed to launch a new career: Microenterprise Consulting with Instructor Michael Welch, where he developed a business plan for a truck driving school, and study abroad in Southeast Asia with Professor Clifford Shultz, where he examined marketing in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

“Those experiences were some of the most enriching courses I took while at Quinlan,” Wilcoxen says. “These courses opened me up to new perspectives and broadened my approach to any situation or problem. What I learned there definitely helps me in marketing: If you assume everybody’s perspective is the same as yours, you can run into trouble in your work.”

Wilcoxen worked full time while taking evening and weekend classes. Two and a half years later, he got his MBA with a dual concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship.

“I knew I was in the right place when I would leave class feeling energized, even after working a full day,” he says.

Shaking things up

Wilcoxen came to Quinlan looking for a career change—and got it. In March, he was hired as an associate brand manager for Spice Islands at ACH Food Companies.

“The focus of my new job is completely different,” he says. “In research and development, we were working on products that may not get to market for another year or two. In my current role with marketing, our timeline is much shorter: We are looking at the current week, month, or quarter. We have to manage the day-to-day business in order to deliver our commitments.”

His MBA is helping him at every turn.

“I’m a lot more open minded and comfortable with the unknown,” Wilcoxen says. “Quinlan not only gave me the skills I needed to change careers, but it also prepared me to tackle any challenges that come my way.”

Connect with Kyle Wilcoxen on LinkedIn.