If the idea of continuing your studies with a Masters degree in Marketing Management appeals to you, you have landed at just the right place. In this interview Dasha Soboleva, who is originally from Russia and who recently graduated from her Master in Marketing Management at Rotterdam School of Management (the Netherlands), shares what she found useful during the programme and why she decided to go for this particular specialisation. You will be able to find out what marketing-related courses she followed, as well as how her studies helped pave the way to a career.

How did you decide to continue your education with the Master in Marketing Management?

Before starting the Master in Marketing Management at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM, part of Erasmus University Rotterdam) I studied International Media and Communications at the same university. At the end of my Bachelor’s programme I started thinking about my next step. Then I realised that I was missing some business knowledge as my Bachelor’s was more focused on the humanities. At the same time, I was still interested in communications and wanted to leverage the knowledge that I had already acquired during my Bachelor’s. In this sense, Marketing Management seemed like the perfect fit – I would get the business knowledge that I was lacking and I would still continue my studies around the subject that I was interested in. It felt like a natural next step in my education!

Can you tell us a bit more about how you selected universities for your Masters studies and how the application process went? Why did you finally decide to enrol in RSM?

Since I was already studying at Erasmus University I decided to research what Masters programmes they offered. I went through the information about the different Masters programmes available on the official website to see what I found most interesting and what the practical aspects were (price, duration of the programme, etc.). In addition, after this initial research, I came to the understanding that I would like to broaden my business knowledge.

The application process itself went very smoothly. Of course, I had to prepare some required documents such as copies of my passport and university transcripts, my CV/resume, and a motivation letter. However, since my Bachelor’s was taught entirely in English I did not have to provide proof of my English proficiency.

What types of courses did the programme curriculum consist of?

The programme consisted of five blocks, each lasting eight weeks. The first two blocks after the start of the programme on 1 September each consisted of two mandatory (core) courses: Consumer Behaviour, Marketing Strategy, Consumer Marketing Research, and Marketing Research Strategy. The latter two courses were designed to teach us different research methods and start preparing us for the Masters thesis. In addition, we had a Personal Professional Development course where we had lectures from professional coaches who helped us with our CV/resume, interview techniques, and self-presentation skills. During the second block we started working on developing our thesis topic.

Read: Revisiting My Masters in International Media Studies (Interview)‚Äč

The whole of January was dedicated to the so-called “Thesis Clinic”. We did not have any classes but were working on developing our individual thesis proposals. Each week we had a session dedicated to a specific chapter of the thesis, where our supervisor would provide guidance on how to structure and write the chapter and give feedback on the drafts we had so far. This was a rather intense process as every week we had to prepare a short draft of a chapter with its main ideas. However, the experience helped me a lot in the writing that followed!

The last three blocks were dedicated to electives. For each block we could choose one elective (three in total). We were also free to pick one elective from another MSc programme. Those offered by the Master in Marketing Management are grouped into two tracks (as of 10 December 2017): the Brand and Product Management track and Digital Marketing and Analytics. However, students could also choose not to follow either track but to select the electives they found most interesting.

The Product Management track includes the following electives: Advertising and Communication; International Product Management; Customer Experience Management; Neuromarketing; Choice Architecture; Sensory Marketing; Pricing: Creating and Capturing Value; Brand Development; and Marketing of New Products.

Digital Marketing and Analytics includes the following electives: Marketing Analytics; Digital Marketing Strategy; Neuromarketing; Pricing: Creating and Capturing Value; Online Customer Behaviour in the Age of Disruption; and Big Data Analytics for Marketing Insights.

Learn more about MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management by taking a look at this handy school profile.

Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities or student jobs that enriched your overall learning experience and career prospects?

Starting from March, I followed the Marketing Management Honours programme. It was an extracurricular programme designed to involve participants in the discussion of current marketing best practices and developments both in academia and in the business world. This was achieved through lectures by professors and marketing professionals about particular marketing trends from both perspectives as well as through visits to leading players in the marketing game such as Nike and Unilever. Apart from the Honours programme, which was still part of the Masters studies, I attended some networking events to extend my professional circle of acquaintances.

How practical was the programme and did you have internships or projects for real clients?

Considering this is a Masters programme at a research university, I think there is a good balance between theoretical and practical knowledge. If I had to put a number on it, I would say it felt like 70% of the curriculum was academic and 30% was practical. During several courses we had the opportunity to work on projects for real companies, while the Marketing Strategy course was completely structured around real-life business cases. In my opinion this was a good balance as I think the main goal of a Masters programme is to teach students how to learn, think critically, and work with information. After graduating, I had a strong feeling that if I really wanted to I could learn almost anything because I knew the methodologies to do so. During the Masters programme itself, I did not do an internship, as I wanted to be focused on the studies and I had already done internships. This was my personal choice and there were quite a few classmates who opted for an internship or had a part-time job alongside the Masters programme.

How valuable was your Masters in preparing you for your professional career?

My Masters programme helped me define the overall direction I want to follow in terms of my career. Although I am not 100% sure what I would like to do in my professional life, all the experiences that I have had so far helped me take the first step in the direction that feels right.

I made sure to check the career section of the university website regularly because this is where students can find advice, job vacancies, and other useful information when it comes to career planning. They can also schedule meetings with career advisors for guidance or feedback on their motivation letters and CV/resume.

After graduation, I first did an internship in a very large multinational company. This internship took me two months to land and I applied for it simply through the career page on the company website. After the internship ended it took me another month of an intense job application process to land my first full-time job. Although I found this vacancy with the help of a classmate, I went through the normal interview process. To me, this experience serves as a good illustration that one’s network can be very valuable.

How important is the international aspect of education to you and did the Masters programme match your expectations when it comes to international exposure?

I definitely felt how multicultural the university is during both my Bachelor’s and my Masters programmes. After completing an international Bachelor’s it was important for me to stay in a similar environment. The class was very international, as were the faculty members. I have worked in numerous teams where everyone came from a different cultural background. This was a great experience as it taught me to work around not only personal but also cultural differences.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective Masters applicants from all around the world, what would it be?

If you are not sure what studies you want to pursue it could be an interesting idea not to rush into a Masters programme directly but to take some time between the Bachelor’s and the Masters to gain some work experience. Often we don’t know what we want or like until we try it. During an internship or a job you can learn about your interests and preferences which would help in defining the direction to go forward. Even though I did not take this route, I did a short summer internship between my Bachelor’s and my Masters and it was one of the greatest working experiences I have had so far. It helped me a lot in coming closer to understanding what kind of company I would like to work for eventually.

Read: The Value of Work Experience for Masters Studies