2021 Best & Brightest Business Majors: Frances Smyth, Boston University (Questrom)

Frances Smyth

Boston University, Questrom School of Business

“When I drink enough caffeine, I realize my ultimate form: a brunette Leslie Knope.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

High School: Sidwell Friends School

Major: Business Administration with a dual concentration in Marketing and Information Systems

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: Global Marketing Management

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Qualitative Research Assistant for an Antiracism in Tech Initiative at Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research
  • Marketing Management Teaching Assistant
  • Director of Marketing Strategy at Boston University’s Cybersecurity Association
  • 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar
  • Former Executive Board Member and Head of Inbound Marketing at the Guerrilla Marketing Society

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Product Marketing Management (PMM) Intern – Microsoft in Redmond (remote due to Covid-19) from May 2020 – August 2020.
  • Growth Marketing Intern – Tamr (Cambridge, Massachusetts) from May 2019 – December 2019.
  • Marketing Intern – Focused Image (Falls Church, Virginia) from May 2018 – August 2018

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be returning to Microsoft as a Product Marketing Manager (PMM). I will join the next ACE Marketing class, which is a 2-year rotational program within Microsoft.

What company do you admire most? I admire Impossible Foods Inc, the creator of the plant-based Impossible Burger. Founded in 2011, the company has since developed a number of products that have introduced consumers to more environmentally-friendly, plant-based alternatives to animal products. The company has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the past few years and has become a staple among restaurants and grocery stores across the United States. I admire how Impossible Foods Inc has helped consumers, who would normally use animal products, explore plant-based food substitutes, and encourage positive consumption changes.

Who is your favorite professor? I have had the pleasure of learning from and working for Professor Jonathan Hibbard. Professor Hibbard teaches a class called Marketing Management at the Questrom School of Business and has a passion for helping students explore and evaluate their career development opportunities. He cares for his students and advocates for them when he can. He has been a champion of mine since I took his class, whether hiring me as a Teaching Assistant or nominating me for the Best and Brightest Undergraduate Business Majors of 2021.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying b­usiness? I have learned that to be a successful individual in business requires you to fail – and fail a lot. Sometimes it’ll hurt, but ultimately you will move on and become a more well-rounded person because of it. This will make you a valuable team member, an empathetic manager, and an enthusiastic champion of the causes you wish to work towards.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I would advise students to follow their interests and lean into the unknown when an opportunity arises. When I began college, I would never guessed have that I would graduate with a concentration in Information Systems or a marketing job in tech. I saw myself in a consulting role, because that was more familiar to me. But then I took an introductory Information Systems class, which was required for my undergraduate business major, and found myself interested in tech. That class prompted me to apply for marketing internships in tech, volunteer at Hackathons, join tech-oriented extracurriculars, and even work as a Qualitative Researcher for the Antiracism in Tech Initiative at Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. None of this was part of my original plan as a freshman, but the path I am no opened up before me as I took the initiative in incremental steps.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I learned that business draws from multiple disciplines in unexpected ways. As a marketing student, I have learned how to construct a narrative in order to develop a meaningful message behind a product, create business models to quantify the business impact of selling a product, and communicate a vision of where a business is head. The combination of these skills not only makes me a better marketer, but also team player.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? I wish that I would have spent less time worrying about the future. I used to be the type of person that lived according to a 5 to–10-year plan, and if I wasn’t making progress towards those long-term goals rapidly enough, I thought I was off course. The plan included a number of lofty goals that I had hoped to achieve by the time I graduated in the spring of 2021. Those included maintaining a 4.0 GPA and holding multiple Executive Board positions across several clubs within Boston University by my senior year. Spoiler alert: I didn’t achieve those goals.

Looking back now, however, I recognize that I spent a lot of time worrying about things that were too far in the future. I’m sure that a lot of other business students feel the same way, especially with the appearance of COVID-19 and its associated disruptions. Truth be told, everything works out in the end. I would encourage students to lean into the unknown. I know it’s terrifying at first to stray from your finely-laid plans, but taking chances builds character, and you’ll meet some amazing people along the way.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Though I’m happy about a lot of the work that I’ve done during my college years, I am the proudest of the marketing team that I built at the Boston University Cybersecurity Association. During my time as the Director of Marketing Strategy, I have worked with the organization’s President and VP to hire three students as interns: Renata Halim, Iris Ku, and Mehul Divecha.

I initially brought up the topic of hiring students to the President and VP after reflecting upon my own experience as a freshman and sophomore applying to summer internship positions. At the time, I found it hard at time to get my application noticed by recruiters due to my age and a lack of work experience, so I turned to extracurriculars to develop leadership skills which I could leverage in future interviews with hiring managers.

A combination of hard work, perseverance, and luck enabled me to land multiple internship opportunities throughout my college career. Therefore, when I was presented with the opportunity to build my own team at the Boston University Cybersecurity Association as a senior. I made it my priority to provide opportunities to students who, like me, were hungry for experience. Seeing Renata, Iris, and Mehul challenge themselves, become their own leaders, and continue to grow has been the highlight of my college career.

Which classmate do you most admire? Ilana Basman is one of the most hard-working, smart, and genuine classmates that I have ever encountered. I met her in an airport terminal, when we were both on our way to Microsoft’s final round of marketing internship interviews. Although we were each other’s direct competition, Ilana had no hesitation to help me when she could. She did simple things like offering me rides to the hotel and the Microsoft campus and encouraged me before my interviews. Ultimately, we both received internship position offers within the same program, and I witnessed first-hand how collaborative Ilana was when we started working. The small acts of kindness that she shared with me remain a testament to her character, and I admire her greatly for that.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Though it’s cliché to thank one of your parents, I want to thank my mother. My mother is, and always has been, a woman full of strength and grit. She emigrated from Argentina to the United States, with my father, and created her own successful career in consulting as an anti-money laundering expert. She navigated a career and life in the United States with a strong sense of determination and purpose. She also once gave me a great piece of advice when she said, “You have to advocate for yourself because if not, then who else will?” This simple lesson has served as the basis for my own success as I pursue my career and helped me develop my own combination of confidence and grit.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Currently, the top two items on my professional bucket list include exploring opportunities related to consumer technology products, and pursuing an MBA. During my time at Boston University, I’ve realized that I still have a lot to learn regarding marketing and people management. I believe that pursuing an MBA in a couple of years will provide a great learning environment to explore both topics in depth. Also, I’m interested in consumer technology products because it’s a departure from my previous B2B technology work experience. Thankfully, when I return to Microsoft, I’ll be joining a marketing rotation program which will enable me to get to this bucket list item early in my career.

What are your hobbies? I’m an avid do-it-yourself (DIY) person. I crochet reusable produce bags, alter second-hand clothing to my liking, and knit a number of accessories like scarfs, hats, and mittens. This has come very handy while living in Boston. I also recently learned to make a couple of food items like oat milk, focaccia bread, and vegetable broth. I currently am working on making my own almond butter and jam, though I’m a little dubious about how successful my initial attempts will be.

What made Frances such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Frances, who has excelled academically and professionally, is the embodiment of someone who wants to help others shine. After a successful summer as a Microsoft intern, she not only procured a job offer for a competitive position, she took actions to help others do the same. She takes initiative and makes an impact on all the students she touches:

  1. As a teaching assistant for our core class, which students take in their junior year to create a multidisciplinary business plan, Frances guided teams, clarified concepts, and mentored students.
  2. She took the initial to organize, host, and speak at a panel in the fall of 2020 to encourage marketing students to consider business roles and opportunities at technical firms.
  3. As part of her work for the BU Cybersecurity Association, Frances worked on the club’s marketing activities. She hired three interns (Questrom students interested in marketing but were struggling to find work due to Covid-19) to help her.”

Professor Susan Jung Grant
Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing

“Poets&Quants seeks to “recognize students based on academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, personal character, innate potential, a striking personal narrative, and/or overall impact on the program.”

With that in mind, I am proud to nominate Frances Smyth (QST’ 21) for Poets&Quants’ Best and Brightest Business Majors of 2021, as she excels on all those dimensions. I will now highlight her contributions on those dimensions.

Academic Excellence: She is a Marketing and Information Systems concentrator who has a 3.7 cumulative GPA! I had the pleasure of having Frances as a student in MK323. She demonstrated a desire to learn, leadership skills, and a strong commitment to her team and the Core project. Frances was always well prepared and an active participant in class discussions, providing insightful contributions. Her team peers cited her strong contributions to both content and leadership on the project.

As a Core TA: She was so impressive as a student, I offered her the position of Core Teaching Assistant for MK323 for 2020-2021 (a highly competitive position as there are only 8 total Core TAs each year). As the Core Faculty Lead, I was able to observe her commitment to helping her fellow students across a range of deliverables and workshops all year. She approached me with an innovation of creating a Jeopardy-style game which would allow teams and their faculty to celebrate together at the submission of teams’ business plans. She developed it and it became a hit with both faculty and students.

Extracurricular leadership and contributing community member: Frances has committed to being an active member of the Questrom community by providing leadership on the Executive Board to the Guerrilla Marketing Society (GMS) as well as speaking at panel sessions hosted by BU Marketing Club. She works to encourage students to pursue a Marketing concentration, collaborating with the UDC to host panel sessions to educate students on non-technical internships and job opportunities in tech. She has continuously mentored students, providing feedback to students on their resumes, and relating her experiences applying for internship positions at both small and large companies.

In addition to her commitment at Questrom as a full-time student, and deep involvement in extracurricular activities, Frances also serves the greater Questrom community. She volunteers as the Director of Marketing Strategy for the BU Cybersecurity Association, where she is responsible for planning and proposing short-term and long-term strategies for events and marketing campaigns. She is also a Research Assistant in Management & Organizations Professor Mobasseri’s research lab. This lab aims to investigate the influence of racism and sexism within the hiring process for technology industries.

Frances has also volunteered at TechTogether Boston’s hackathon. TechTogether is the largest female and non-binary hackathon in the country and has grown enormously since it was launched a few years ago.

A striking personal narrative: Frances worked hard and obtained three top-flight internships (quite unusual for a Questrom student). She most recently worked as a Product Marketing Management Intern at Microsoft in Summer 2020 (which only accepts 1% of those who apply). As she finishes her senior year, Frances is preparing to move to Seattle after graduation where she will be returning to Microsoft as a Product Marketing Manager in August of 2021. Previously, she gained valuable experience working as a marketing intern at Focused Image, analyzing client marketing collateral to establish a unique brand identity for clients. She was also a Growth Marketing Intern at Tamr, optimizing lead generation campaigns by leveraging and evaluating strategic vertical nurture stream email campaigns. She developed and launched The College Career Coach (The College Career Coach). This website and blog that aims to empower students to tackle their internship searches by sharing internship application best practices. She found that during her own internship searches, having an application “strategy” was important to get a better understanding of the internship process. The blog covers topics related to gaining work experience during Covid-19, virtual internship best practices, and how to apply as a freshman or sophomore (where opportunities are usually quite difficult to get).She has also furthered her credentials by completing three certifications though HubSpot Academy: Growth-Driven Design, Social Media Certification, and Inbound Marketing Certification. She has represented Boston University as a 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar.

Innate potential and overall impact on the program: As you can see Frances is in some ways a renaissance woman and has unlimited potential and has had a strong impact on many constituencies in her time here at Questrom. I believe that she exemplifies the characteristics modeled by past Poets & Quants Best and Brightest Business Major students and encourage you to strongly consider selecting Frances for this honor.”

Professor Jonathan Hibbard, PhD
Assistant Professor, Marketing


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