Big data, new technology and the evolution of digital media have completely transformed the way adverisers go about marketing to consumers. For Jack Gaither, BSE '03, MBA '09, this is right up his alley: He's using his MBA skills to lead a team of analysts in this dynamic industry for Rocket Fuel.
The Rally: Why did you choose ND for your graduate degree?
Jack Gaither: The Mendoza College of Business was one of my top choices for business school based on my undergraduate experience. Mendoza has a reputation as a premier school, and the international opportunities also appealed to me. But it was when my younger sister, Marisa Gaither B.S. '11, was accepted at Notre Dame for her undergraduate studies that I knew I was headed back to South Bend.
The Rally: How have you used your graduate degree to further your career?
Jack Gaither: Rocket Fuel wasn't even on the map when I first began in the MBA program. But over the span of six short years, the company emerged as a technological leader in advertising, using artificial intelligence models to tailor advertising and marketing solutions for their clients that reach the right audience at the right time.
In my role, I lead a team of analysts that oversee the performance of tens of millions of dollars in digital advertising. Without my Notre Dame MBA degree, I could not have gotten to this point.
The curriculum comprised of finance, business analytics and problem solving provided me with the skills necessary to earn a job as a consultant at IBM, where coincidentally, my first supervisor was a fellow Mendoza alumnus Bob Pohlman, EMBA '94. Incredibly, eight of the 12 people on my first project were fellow Notre Dame MBA alums. After three years that consisted of traveling 48 weeks a year, it was time to get off the road and the Notre Dame network was there to assist me. Jim Greco, BA '90, helped me get my first interview at Nielsen--an interview that that led to a two-year stint in marketing analytics. My MBA education exposed me to the data side of marketing and I knew my skills were transferable to any organization that I joined -- including Rocket Fuel.
I accepted the position of director of analytics for Rocket Fuel's central region and Canada last summer. Notre Dame’s undergraduate program provided me the technical chops to succeed in this role, but it was my MBA and all of the subsequent job experience that taught me how to use my analytical skills to solve business problems and meet marketing objectives.
More importantly, the core values that Notre Dame has instilled in me -- integrity, ethics, giving back -- are as important to me today as they were when I was an undergrad. That's why I am involved in Rocket Fuel’s "Give Back program" and serve as a board member for the Reach Family Institute.
The Rally: How do you stay connected to Mendoza and Notre Dame as an alum?
Jack Gaither: Notre Dame is only 90 minutes away, so it is easy to get back for football games and other events. We try to fit in at least one Gaither family football weekend and one MBA Reunion weekend each year. Last year I joined the Mendoza Graduate Alumni Board, which has been a very rewarding way to get involved with the Graduate Business program.
I also try to share my knowledge and experience with current students. Most recently I hosted three undergrads at Rocket Fuel as a part of the MBA program's Career Center’s Chicago Advertising Trek during the student’s spring break. Additionally, I share my experiences with the students in the MBA Marketing Club.
The Rally: Is there a Mendoza professor who had a significant impact on you as an MBA student:
Jack Gaither: There were so many great classes, but Matt Bloom’s Innovation course was incredible. His class taught me to try and approach problems with a unique perspective. It also caused me to become addicted to TED videos! Professor Sarv Devaraj’s Business Analytics courses and Professor Barry Keating’s Business Forecasting classes also stand out as they provided me with the knowledge and skills that are fundamental to what my team does today.
The Rally: What is your favorite memory from your time at the Mendoza College of Business?
Jack Gaither: I came back to Notre Dame looking for an academic experience that would allow me to shift my career to the next phase and my expectations were absolutely exceeded. I developed lifelong business skills and began lifelong friendships.
While there are many great memories from my MBA experience on campus, the seven weeks that I spent studying in Santiago, Chile stand out as one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Following the seven seeks studying in South America I had the opportunity to travel for another three weeks with my now-wife, Juliana (de Sousa Solis) Gaither BA '04, MNA '08.