2016 Best MBAs: Cory O’Brien, Georgia Tech

Cory OBrien GeorgiaTech

Cory O’Brien


Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

“[The achievement I’m most proud of] is having led, and being directly responsible for, teams ranging from 19 to 130 people. It was a trial by fire, but it forced me to learn and grow in the process.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Newnan, Georgia

Education: United States Air Force Academy, B.S. in Management with a Minor in Japanese

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? US Air Force, Airfield Operations Officer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? ScottMadden (Atlanta, GA)

Where will you be working after graduation? ScottMadden, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 2015 Student of the Year (selected by student peers)
  • Selected as GT Leadership Fellow
    • Coached seven (three last semester, four now) undergrad students from diverse backgrounds on leadership
  • Co-President (and Interim President) of Net Impact
    • Orchestrated Net Impact club activities (e.g. career workshop, monthly meetings, etc.)
    • Oversaw strategic product production and coordination with Faculty Advisors for future expansion of club objectives
  • Overhauled MBA Graduate Lounge with photos
  • Coordinated with GT Admissions and Marketing offices for recruitment of both graduate and undergraduate students
    • Took photos of MBA program and then uploaded them to shared drive for use by other offices
    • Took photos on a per request basis for special events (e.g. Dean’s Scholarship Dinner for undergraduate students)
    • Co-conducted interviews for prospective MBA students
    • Corresponded with prospective MBA students to answer questions about the program
  • Worked with Career Services and Marketing to target recruitment of military veterans
    • Volunteered for recruitment video
    • Made suggestions as to how to specifically demonstrate GT’s unique understanding of veterans (e.g. no need to get commander’s letter of recommendation)
    • Currently working on FAQ section of GT MBA veteran webpage
  • Worked with Admissions office and conducted research on how to increase female and minority student enrollment in MBA program. This was a class project for Service Operations class.
  • Maintained full-time student status while serving as a full-time dad. I enrolled in many practicum classes, during which we participate in consulting projects with companies. When I need to meet with the client, my mom or mother-in-law watches Graylan. Otherwise, I bring Gray to everything else (e.g. project meetings, etc.) since I watch him 8am-5:30pm every day while my wife is at work. Occasionally I bring Gray to client meetings (e.g. Mister Migs non-profit for Pro-Bono Consulting). This also requires significant patience on the part of all of my project teammates but they’ve all been more than understanding and are highly supportive.
  • Volunteered for St. Bernard house re-building project
  • Member of Consulting Club, Operations Club, and Women’s (NAWMBA) Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being a full-time student while being a full-time dad. (My wife works full-time.) Making it work on any given day is always a challenge, but with a little bit of creative problem solving, and a lot of teamwork, my wife and I are able to make it happen.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Having led, and being directly responsible for, teams ranging from 19 to 130 people. It was a trial by fire, but it forced me to learn and grow in the process.

Who is your favorite professor? Prof. Jonathan Clarke. He took a subject in which I had minimal experience (finance), and honed it down to its most essential, practical components. While I still don’t aspire to become the next Warren Buffet, Prof. Clarke was successful in driving home the critical importance of finance in the business world.

Favorite MBA Courses? Finance and IT Practicum. Finance, because it’s essential to a successful business career. IT Practicum, because the project on which we worked for Microsoft was both fun and challenging.

Why did you choose this business school? Culture fit and ROI. I immediately liked Jim Kranzusch, the Executive Director of Career Services, and Paula Wilson, the Director of Admission. They made me feel like I had a place at GT. Moreover, GT was highly understanding of my personal situation. While I was deployed, I applied for separation from the Air Force but it was initially denied. GT kept my acceptance open until my separation was eventually approved in late May. Additionally, GT is completely covered by the GI Bill so the ROI is practically unbeatable for veterans.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The ride. B-school is fast paced and hectic, but always exciting.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? How many opportunities there are. Towards the tail end of my first semester, I realized I now had access to virtually endless opportunities and that was a thrilling realization.

What was the hardest part of business school? Figuring out an environment I knew almost nothing about. For me, the military was the family business (grandpa, dad, uncles, and brothers all served). Therefore, when it came to business, there was little familial knowledge on which to draw, but GT filled the gap.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Just be yourself.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I wanted to take control of my life and re-connect with family.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in the Air Force, but not with family. Family is what makes me happiest in life.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Steve Jobs.  He was a deeply flawed, but truly unique visionary who left the business world a better place

What are your long-term professional goals? To successfully strike the balance between a fulfilling professional career and an involved family life.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife. Throughout all of the deployments, moves/relocations, career changes, and everything else life threw at us, she’s always made it work.

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve lived in 10 states and 4 countries.

Favorite book: Atlas Shrugged

Favorite movie: Me, Myself, and Irene

Favorite musical performer: AC/DC

Favorite television show: Game of Thrones

Favorite vacation spot: The couch

Hobbies? Photography and exercise

What made Cory such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“I have greatly enjoyed being Cory’s career advisor for the past 2 years, and I will always remember that first time I met Cory. He came in for our initial career in-take meeting a few weeks prior to starting classes. I immediately liked him; he was very high energy, personable and well-prepared for our meeting, asking me a list of well-thought out questions about the MBA job search, culminating in a pause before he asked what he said was the question weighing heaviest on his mind: what he should wear as a new MBA! After being in the a Flight Commander in the US Air Force in Kyrgyzstan for the past year, his wardrobe consisted of military clothing and he was concerned about making the right impressions on employers, professors and his classmates. I had to laugh at how seriously he asked the question. He truly wanted to cover all of his bases to be prepared to be as successful as possible here at Scheller and in the business world.

As I met with Cory throughout his first semester, I continued to see a diligent, professional, thorough approach to the job search which led to multiple internship offers, including the offer he ultimately accepted with ScottMadden. But I also began to notice other elements of his personality – how after interning for ScottMadden, he became a passionate advocate for them, meeting with his classmates who were considering ScottMadden over lunch or coffee to share how great his experience had been. Our team also quickly learned that Cory is a talented – and generous –photographer. He has made himself and his heavy, fancy camera, available to us as well as his classmates and other departments here at Scheller too many times for me to count to assist with taking photos for events, projects and LinkedIn profiles. He also quickly became an unofficial ambassador for all things Scheller helping us figure out how we can recruit more veterans into the program as well as assisting with interviews for prospective students and personal outreach to those students who have been accepted to the program.

If there’s one thing I will always remember about Cory, it will be his endless, can-do energy. Whether he is bouncing his baby boy while working with one of his MBA teams on a project (since his wife has returned to work full-time, he’s a full-time Dad this semester to his son who was born this past October) or coaching undergrads as part of the Georgia Tech Leadership Fellows Program or sending a survey to his classmates to find out which photos best represent their classes’ spirit to hang in the MBA Lounge, he’s doing it with a smile and giving it 110% – just like he approached the question of what to wear to start his MBA, taking notes as I guided him through an appropriate MBA wardrobe! His impact is wide and will last long after he graduates this May. The mark he has made here at Scheller through his leadership, creativity, enthusiasm and constant desire to innovate will benefit many going forward.” — Ann M. Blasick, Corporate Relations Manager, Jones MBA Career Center, Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology


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