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Seize the opportunity

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For most people, being caught in a downsizing would be a negative. Amber Allen turned it into a positive.

A 2002 management grad of Purdue’s Krannert School, Allen was building a solid career straight out of school. She worked in sales and marketing for UPS in her hometown of Indianapolis before accepting a marketing position for Arby’s.

Allen began as a marketing coordinator, ordering promotional material for 350 stores in five different states, and eventually worked her way up to field marketing manager. She moved to Minnesota and was involved in Arby’s first collegiate sponsorship package for the region, at the University of Minnesota, when the economy took a turn for the worse.

“The marketing department went through two reorganizations, and my position was eliminated in one of them,” Allen says. “I had always thought about getting an MBA, so I decided to look at it as an opportunity.”

She was accepted into the Purdue MBA program and began classes in August of 2010. After seven years out of school, she admits “it took a while to get used to school again,” but she was able to adjust with the help of her cohort team members, who hailed from Malaysia, El Salvador and Korea.

“I learned a lot from my team, and they looked to me for leadership. They knew I had business experience and was familiar with American culture. It was an interesting experience,” says Allen, who adds that a class taught by Professor Steve Green has her looking at leadership in a different light.

She landed a summer internship after her first year with Otis Elevator in Hartford, Connecticut. Allen’s task was to look at a business segment that had been stagnant, investigate why it had stalled, identify ways to grow the segment 25 percent, and develop a plan to make it happen. After a summer full of investigative work, Allen presented her plan in person to regional vice president Joe Frask, a 1990 Krannert graduate.

“I got great feedback during the presentation, and I believe they planned to utilize the recommendations I gave them,” Allen says. “The project was a tremendous experience for me and I left feeling that I had brought real value to the company.”

Allen is in her final year of the program and actively pursuing her options.

“I’m looking for a career, not a job,” she says. “Krannert has given me the toolset to think strategically about where a business needs to go. I’ve had the opportunity to work with people from all kinds of backgrounds. And I’ve had the opportunity to learn about what my style is and how I can best blend my talents into an organization.”