Sherrie Weitzman, National Advertising Manager, Cadillac
Tell us about your first real job out of college. What was the position? How did you get your start?
I actually received my undergraduate degree in education, so I was a substitute teacher for a year. By the time I received my MBA from Wayne State University, I was gainfully employed at D’Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles – one of the leading international agencies at the time, with a big office in suburban Detroit, servicing the Pontiac and Cadillac accounts for General Motors. I actually knew someone who knew someone who worked at DMB&B who got me an interview with the research group. So, my first “real job” was a research analyst. A good place to learn a lot and stay under the radar while learning. But within a year, I rose up a floor, and up the ladder to Account Executive on the NBD (National Bank of Detroit) account.
How did your Wayne State education prepare you for your career?
To this day, I know (but can’t tell you specifics) that I am always using my MBA skill set. Primarily, of course, because my undergraduate degree was NOT in business. But I did that for a reason – I didn’t think it made sense to get a BBA and then an MBA, which can be somewhat redundant. At the same time, my undergraduate degree did enable employment right after graduation – something many of my co-graduates did not experience. But I needed the business skills to be “accepted” into the business world, and my Wayne State University MBA provided that credential. I also had the good fortune of studying with Edward A. Riordan, who long after I graduated became a professional colleague; more than once Ed called upon me to talk about “the real world of automotive advertising” to his class on that topic. And as my husband, who is a lecturer in WSU’s Accounting department, likes to remind me, I even use my accounting class skills every day. Even marketers need to know about budgets!
How do you think social media has changed the way companies hire and discover new candidates?
When I tell students that I got my very first job by answering a want ad in a newspaper, I quickly explain that that was what we did in those days. I’m sure most of them don’t read newspapers (at least not the smudgy ink kind that get delivered to your home). It’s ALL about social media now. Whether you are recruiting for talent, or looking for that next job, places like LinkedIn is the first place most people go. I still think that networking is key, just as it was when I started out. So many opportunities are not “advertised”. But social media is right up there for both job seekers and prospective employers. As past President of the Adcraft Club of Detroit, we recently created a “talent hub”, a digital platform connected to the Club’s website, where ad agencies, for a small fee, could connect their recruitment efforts to our site, along with the content we provide about where to live, eat, work, play in Detroit.
Tell us about your current career.
I have been at General Motors for nearly 17 years now. NEVER expected that after so many years on the ad agency side of the business. GM actually recruited me when they were looking for outsiders – advertising agency professionals without auto experience – to bring a true “voice of the customer” and “marketing experts” to their manufacturing-led culture. It has been a great ride, from where I started out as Ad Manager on Chevy cars, launching such important brands as Impala and Corvette, to my current role as National Ad Manager on Cadillac. I work with internal clients – the product and marketing managers responsible for the launch of a new nameplate, and with our agencies, both creative and media. It’s a tremendous opportunity, and every day is a new challenge.
Do you recommend this company to other Wayne State students? If so, does you company offer internships and full time positions?
I do recommend General Motors – it is a tremendous opportunity for any variety of academic backgrounds and skill sets. And for those that want to stay in Detroit, and see the city through its revitalization, it’s the best. When I started out, there were many other types of businesses, non-automotive, based in Detroit. Most of them are gone. But if you want automotive, or just a well-rounded, corporate environment under your belt, this is a great way to get that. Whether you’re interested in research or finance, advertising or business law, GM can provide those opportunities. It does vary from year to year, but I know that GM does recruit on select campuses, and definitely provides internships for college and graduate students during the summer.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer to a future Wayne State graduate?
Your education is a piece of paper that opens the door. The rest is up to you, and what you make of what you learned; it doesn’t happen overnight.
Additional Alumni Profiles
- Alumni Profile - Brooke Cowell
(All credit and accolades for this tremendous blog post are for Sari Gordon who is the author and content creator.)