Maggie O’Hara Gains Confidence and Expertise in Haslam Marketing Master’s Program

April 2, 2024

As an undergraduate, Maggie O’Hara — like many students — often felt nervous about raising her hand or presenting in class. Now, less than two years after receiving her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business in May 2022, she makes daily presentations to major corporations in her role as a client consulting analyst at NCSolutions in New York City. 

O’Hara attributes her transformation to the self-assurance and skills she gained in Haslam’s  program. “It boosted my confidence like nothing ever before,” she says. “I never would have seen myself in a client consulting role where my entire job is presenting. This program taught me how to do that.”

A Passion for Market Research and Data

While interning with Warner Brothers as an undergraduate, O’Hara developed a passion for media and entertainment marketing. She wanted to pursue a master’s degree to dive deeper into the research and data analytics side of marketing, but no such graduate program existed at UT — at least not yet. Then she learned Haslam was preparing to offer an MS in Marketing. 

She joined the 10-month program’s inaugural cohort in fall 2022. She describes the experience of being in a brand-new program as “all hands on deck,” as faculty frequently asked for students’ opinions about what they wanted to learn, in effect customizing their own programs. In her data visualization class with department head Alex Zablah, where students could choose a data set to work with, she completed a semester-long project focused on streaming services. 

The program’s collaborative environment, coupled with its intimate class sizes — the first class consisted of nine students and there are 28 students in the current cohort — fosters a rich learning experience and cultivates students’ confidence. “Every class is a group project,” O’Hara says. “You present everything to the group and get everybody’s opinions and ideas. Hearing so many different perspectives helped me figure out how to be more creative with my data-driven passion. It was nice that it was a smaller class, so I felt more comfortable [presenting].”

Standing Out in the Job Market and Workplace

As she prepared to enter the job market, O’Hara focused her search on entertainment and media companies, particularly ones based in New York City, where she’d always dreamed of living. She read the description of her current role and immediately believed she could excel in the job. “What really struck me was how applicable everything I had been learning was to this position. I felt confident that what I had learned in the program would translate to this job so well and be such a great foundation for me,” she says.

In her application materials, O’Hara included data interpretation and visualization projects she completed in the MS in Marketing program. These projects, completed using Tableau software, made her stand out, as NCSolutions was in the early stages of implementing Tableau and few of their employees were familiar with it. She received an offer one week after completing the MS in Marketing program in May 2023, and when she started the job two months later, she was prepared to put the skills she learned into action.

“Having that knowledge of Tableau has helped me set myself apart in the workplace,” she says. “I’ve been able to jump outside of my typical duties of being a consulting analyst and get to work with the data team on developing Tableau dashboards to see how our clients’ campaigns are doing year over year.”

On a typical day, O’Hara presents findings to her team’s five biggest clients (Coke, Nestle, Church and Dwight, Paramount and Bayer). Her data-driven work centers around targeting audiences for client campaigns, tracking consumer purchase behavior and making recommendations to clients based on her analysis of the campaign performance. The Haslam MS in Marketing directly influences her work every day, she says.

“Prior to the master’s program, I struggled with being able to think on my feet and be confident in recommending something. Eddie Armbrister [lecturer and assistant marketing department head at Haslam] did such a good job of making it feel like we were really presenting to a client. He would ask us unexpected questions, so that taught me how to answer questions when I don’t have a prepared answer and pull some sort of insight together. It’s an exact parallel of what I’m doing now.”


Stacy Estep, writer/publicist,