Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Summer 2005Kellogg School of Management
In DepthIn BriefDepartmentsClass NotesClub NewsArchivesContactKellogg Homepage
Transforming the corporate landscape
Perilous climb

Breaking boards

Success stories
Why Kellogg is the school for women seeking their MBA
Personally speaking...
Mother leads best
Brand 'beacon'
Where in the world is Dipak Jain?
Address Update
Alumni Home
Submit News
Internal Site
Northwestern University
Kellogg Search
  Stephanie Ruyle
Photo © Daniel Neff
Stephanie Ruyle '02
Stephanie Ruyle
MTV exec pushes her skills to stay 'green and growing'

By Rebecca Lindell

Stephanie Ruyle '02 has a message for women who don't feel sufficiently supported or challenged in their jobs: Move on.

Ruyle has taken her own advice throughout her career. The Kellogg School grad has moved from the snack-food industry into cable television, from sales into marketing, and from Chicago to New York. She has constantly reassessed her skills and goals, devising her own "management training program" to turn weaknesses into strengths.

"It's about taking your career into your own hands, which men tend to do very well because they can look up, down and around and see many other men they can use as role models," Ruyle says.

Such models are less plentiful for women, which can make it difficult for females to define and achieve success, Ruyle says.

Ruyle is a vice president of field and national marketing for MTV Networks. She and her team develop strategies to support MTVN's affiliates as they promote the network's brands, which include MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon.

It's a long way from the streets of Gary, Ind., where Ruyle delivered Frito-Lay potato chips at dawn in her first job after college.

Ruyle had joined the company as a management trainee after graduating from the University of Iowa with a business degree. The training program required her to spend her first year managing a sales route as a delivery driver to gain a first-hand understanding of her sales team's job.

After just one year, she was promoted to district manager - the only woman to hold the position in the sprawling Chicago area.

After five years with Frito-Lay, Ruyle became restless and decided to explore opportunities in different industries. When a friend alerted her to an opening at MTV's Chicago offices, Ruyle jumped to apply.

"It was a sales position, working with distributors and selling our cable networks to cable operators," Ruyle says. "I was selling different products in a different industry, but there were tons of transferable skills."

More importantly, Ruyle discovered an environment in which she felt truly comfortable. "It was such a diverse environment," she recalls. "I felt I could express myself."

Over the next several years, Ruyle sought opportunities to round out her skills by taking positions that at first felt difficult or uncomfortable. While still responsible for her sales territory, she volunteered to manage a group working on distribution efforts against smaller cable operators. Realizing she lacked account experience, she offered to manage an account that was heading into negotiations. And rather than stay in a familiar sales territory, she requested a larger territory each time one became available.

To further enhance her abilities and prepare to manage a larger group of people, Ruyle applied to the Kellogg EMBA program in 2000. So began a grueling two years of managing one of MTVN's most challenging accounts as well as her sales territory while also shouldering a graduate-school workload.

The Kellogg experience convinced Ruyle that she was ready for yet another challenge: a switch from sales into marketing. "I knew that marketing is such a critical part of MTVN and I had limited experience in that area," Ruyle says. "There were a couple of openings at our headquarters in New York City so I decided to go for it. Kellogg was critical in giving me confidence in the skills I had developed during my EMBA experience."

Ruyle applied for and won the position of director of affiliate marketing for MTV2. Taking the job entailed a significant pay cut and a new field to master. But the risk paid off. After one year, Ruyle was named to her current position.

"I'm focused much more on strategy, and on positioning and promoting our brands," she says. "This is very much where I want to be."

But if history offers any example, Ruyle won't grow stale in this position either.

"I need to be green and growing," she says. "It's for my self-preservation. When I get bored, I'm not sharp. I'm not focused. I'm my own barometer. I know when to move on, and I am lucky there are opportunities to do that here at MTV Networks."

Continue to Denise Palmer '80

Back to Success Stories

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University