2017 MBAs To Watch: Jermaine Fanfair, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Jermaine Fanfair

Georgia Tech, Scheller College of Business

“Lawyer, father, husband, Knicks fan, history & politics nerd, loves new technology.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun fact about yourself: I love to grill food year-round, probably more than I should. I’m a bit competitive with my brother-in-law. We send each other photos of barbeque and trade grilling tips. I can’t believe I’m sharing this.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Wesleyan University, BA

Howard University School of Law, JD

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I managed my own law practice in which I handled small business and divorce matters. I also worked at Counsel on Call, at which I served as corporate counsel for clients and managed teams of attorneys preparing clients for large-scale litigation.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? North Highland Consulting, Atlanta, GA.

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Consultant, North Highland Consulting

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Scheller MBA Ambassador – I represent Scheller in recruiting efforts for prospective students.

Board Member, Auburn Avenue Legal Services – I volunteer as lead of strategic planning for this non-profit, which is dedicated to growing small businesses and providing free legal services in the greater Atlanta and Chicago areas. Auburn Avenue marks the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood and the former home and church of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This neighborhood also serves as a historic center of African American business and culture. In the spirit and legacy of this neighborhood and Dr. King, Auburn Avenue Legal Services provides legal representation at no cost to residents and small businesses in low-income communities. I have the unique opportunity to fuse my passion for social justice and my law and business background to help lead and grow this organization.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? With the assistance of my wife and daughter, I’m proud of our ability to balance family obligations, my career-change and a full academic course load. As a Scheller Graduate Research Assistant, I assisted two professors, Steve Salbu and Seletha Butler, with academic research and courses in the Business Law and Ethics department. My wife and I managed these obligations as well as those of the TI:GER program, which requires additional time commitments. I marvel at how we made it all work with a 5-year-old daughter in school. There were times when I arrived at a team meeting with classmates and had some of my daughter’s toys falling out of my bag. Let’s just say the lines of family, school and work were blurry at times.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My most memorable career achievements are the victories I had after launching my own law practice. I started my career as a prosecutor, which taught me how to serve as a passionate advocate. Building on that experience, I started my own law practice, which was the most fulfilling experience I had as an attorney. I’ve helped win a judgment against a company that stole from a client and her elderly mother by refusing to honor a contract. I’ve fought to reunite many parents with their children. I’ve also helped an IT company launch its business and negotiate several contracts to become the largest minority-owned IT firm on Capitol Hill.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Charles Mulford is a great person and incredible instructor. He is a natural teacher. Professor Mulford has the ability to take the most abstract concepts in accounting and bring them to life. I am not kidding when I share that he performed a scene in class that was a conversation between direct cash and indirect cash, challenging each other on their respective differences. He performed both roles. He is brilliant and a talented actor as well!

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My biggest insights have come from courses that provided the chance to learn through practical application of my skills to real business challenges. First, I have been molded in many ways by the TI:GER program courses that span three semesters. I participate in the TI:GER (The Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results) program at the Scheller College of Business. The TI:GER program uses a startup business model and prepares students for the challenges of commercializing new technologies and delivering innovative products to the marketplace. My team is comprised of law students from Emory, as well as PhD and MBA students from Georgia Tech.  Our technology has the potential to drastically reduce the time needed for the dialysis process and increase the standard of patient care for millions of patients. I learned fundamentals of the innovation and commercialization process for new technology. Also, our TI:GER team participated in the Georgia Bowl business plan competition this year. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the finals but it was a valuable experience that has really helped us move our commercialization plan forward.

I also enjoyed the Information Technology Practicum course, in which I had the chance to work for NCR Corporation. The consulting project asked us to analyze NCR’s data and make recommendations on metrics it can use to measure performance as it transforms itself from a hardware to a software business model. This project provided the chance to develop a solution for a real corporate strategy problem that many top-tier companies are also facing. This was a fundamental technology strategy problem and great preparation for my summer internship as well as future consulting work.

Finally, I would list the Business Analytics Practicum course among my most memorable classes. It provided the opportunity to consult for General Electric, analyzing its data and providing insights on how it can leverage equipment performance and web activity data to enhance its service to customers. GE is an extremely influential company in the energy industry. This consulting project taught me how to structure an approach to a large-scale issue in order to provide practical insights to the client.

I applied to the TI:GER Program and enrolled in Scheller’s practicum courses because I knew that my practical experience would help me to distinguish myself among employers. I also knew that these experiences could potentially shape my career. Through these courses I’ve gained tremendous insight into structuring ambiguous client problems as well as delivering on project milestones for a client. These experiences helped me develop core consulting skills so I could pivot from a career as an attorney to successfully position myself for a consulting job.

Why did you choose this business school? Scheller offered the opportunity for instant differentiation on my resume. Since I already have a legal background and am interested in technology consulting, I believed that focusing on innovation at Scheller would allow me to distinguish myself in both the startup community as well as with consulting firms. Scheller has helped me in both of those areas.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed being part of a social and professional circle that was completely unfamiliar to me and has now become my primary network. I also enjoyed the chance to challenge myself more than at any previous stage in my career. I never would have imagined that I’d be helping to develop a commercialization plan for a biotech product, since I have a non-traditional business background. I’m also taking advanced analytics classes such as the Business Analytics Practicum, Marketing Research and Revenue Management and Pricing Analytics, which are helping me to develop a pricing strategy for the startup in which I hope to be involved post-graduation. My experience at Scheller has truly allowed me to develop skills that I can immediately apply to projects and build a valuable professional network.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The level of engagement with peers. Business school really helps facilitate team dynamics. Through the process, you learn a lot about your individual strengths. You also develop your ability to make key contributions to your teams.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I’d advise them to understand what differentiates Scheller from other business schools and understand how they fit into Scheller’s mission. It’s important to understand what you can offer Scheller and its community, as well as what you’ll gain.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that Georgia Tech MBA students are socially challenged based on high technical aptitude. Anyone who has been to one of our MBA social events knows that this is false! I cannot keep up with the MBA social calendar at Scheller.

What was your biggest regret in business school? During my MBA experience, I managed life as a parent, a full Graduate Research Assistant position, participation in the TI:GER Program and a role in both a startup and a community organization. As a result, I had limited time for student socials. I’ve had a truly amazing experience at Scheller and wouldn’t change any of my obligations (as each was memorable and a privilege to have), but I regret not being able to engage with my classmates more at socials.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s a tie and they are brothers. Akshay and Ajaay Ravi. They are two of the smartest people I’ve ever met and they are extremely giving of their time to provide perspective to others.

 I knew I wanted to go to business school when… solving the business challenges of my clients seemed more intriguing than simply resolving their legal issues.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… using Wikipedia to try to understand contribution margin.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Scheller has great events that extend Scheller’s reach to the larger community. One example is Scheller’s Day of Service, promoting student service projects in the larger community. If I were Dean for a day, I’d also like to invite interested members of the larger community to attend student-led talks on subjects like innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. I think this would be a great introduction to the topics for community members as well as opportunities for Scheller students to present their own insights and perspective.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goals are to inspire success in others, and to help build something lasting. I hope to serve on several boards of community organizations. As I continue to build my skills, board memberships allow the opportunity to help develop initiatives that have a lasting impact. Also, my background in law and business allows me to provide guidance on multiple levels to early-stage businesses. I’d also like to work on initiatives in lower-income communities that promote economic opportunity through entrepreneurship.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife and daughter. They are each super supportive and collectively serve as my muse.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like my peers to remember me as someone who helped enhance their learning experience, as each of them have enhanced my own.

Favorite book: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Favorite movie or television show: HBO’s The Wire. It’s cliché to say at this point but it’s such a great show.

Favorite musical performer: Any jazz band playing locally in New Orleans

Favorite vacation spot: Turks and Caicos!

Hobbies? Fitness and Golf

What made Jermaine such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I have been Jermaine Fanfair’s MBA Career Advisor for the past two years and he has been a pleasure to work with.  Jermaine enrolled in our MBA program to shift from a successful career as an attorney to a corporate business professional, ideally as a consultant. Management consulting seems to be the primary career of interest for the majority of MBA students when they enter the program. However, I appreciate that after Jermaine started the MBA program he remained open to alternative career options.  He actively participated in our career development workshop series, attended the information sessions for a variety of employers of interest, networked with alums and other professional contacts, and participated in career fairs and other activities to ensure that he could make an informed decision about his next career move.  Once he validated that management consulting was the best match for him, he worked hard to prepare himself to be a marketable candidate for opportunities in that arena.  He was great to work with because he solicited and was always open to receiving feedback to improve himself.

The results of his efforts yielded an internship in consulting and his performance on the job resulted in a full time offer at the end of the summer from the firm that he worked for – North Highland Consulting.  Jermaine accomplished his career objective, but I truly admire that he did it while balancing his family commitments (including a 3 year old), carrying a full academic course load, working as a Graduate Research Assistant, and volunteering in the local community.  He was also one of a few students selected to participate in our technology commercialization program (TI:GER), which also requires a significant investment of time. Despite the demands Jermaine excelled in our program and contributed to his class.

Jermaine serves as a student ambassador for our MBA program and we have appreciated his willingness to “pay it forward” even before he graduates and launches his new career. In addition to serving as a student ambassador, during his final year, he agreed to serve as an ad hoc recruiter during the mock career fair that our career center staff hosted for 1st year MBA students. Our staff also picked him to play the role of a student interviewing for a job during a career development workshop so our students could see a live example of a good interview.  Jermaine was also one of the featured speakers at our invitation-only MBA program reception for potential students.

Jermaine is a mature, thoughtful, dependable, supportive student and an excellent representative for our program.”

Kevin Stacia
Corporate Relations Manager, Jones MBA Career Center
Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech

 

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