2018 MBAs To Watch: Brant D. Faulkner, University of Illinois (Gies)

Brant D. Faulkner

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Not quite what you would expect.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Belvidere, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I once grew my hair long enough to donate it to Children With Hair Loss.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BA, LAS, Spanish

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was a self-employed professional online poker player for nearly ten years. When regulations changed the industry, I explored new business areas such as finance, entrepreneurship, and software development prior to the start of the program.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? KPMG, Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? I am returning to KPMG, Strategic Growth Initiatives. Our team works to develop innovative solutions to meet the future needs of our clients.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, Analytics in Business (RSO); Member, Case Competition Committee

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Illinois MBA Strategy Case Competition is an annual event in which our program hosts up to 16 MBA programs. As a small program, it takes every bit of our student volunteers, administration, and alumni to make it a success. I am very proud to have represented our program as a competitor, making both final round appearances with first and third place finishes.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was an instructor for the inaugural cohort of Code Platoon, an NPO that transitions military veterans into entry-level software developers. Like any startup, we had to adapt and overcome a stream of challenges. Code Platoon is now training its fourth cohort!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Andrew Allen leads Action Learning, the integration of student consulting with the college’s core curriculum. I have been involved since the first Action Learning class and have seen the growing pains and resistance to change inherent in any transformation; this has never deterred him one bit. He brings a positive attitude every day and relentlessly drives the program forward.

What was your favorite MBA Course Marketing with Professor Hayden Noel. Prior to the MBA program, I thought of marketing as the mere design of advertisements. Not only did this class show me the scope and strategic complexity of marketing, but I also saw how much students can achieve when routinely challenged to meet high expectations.

Why did you choose this business school? My career path has been unique. I knew I had much to offer an MBA program. Yet to successfully make the career transformation I aspired to, I needed a program that would fully embrace me. During my admissions interview, they said, “We have a current student who has a similar back story. We would love for you to meet him!” I didn’t apply to another program.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Learn about how the program is evolving and the impact you could make. The full-time MBA landscape is changing. Illinois wants people who will drive the future of the program.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Due to the size of the undergraduate university, people often assume our program is large. In fact, the Illinois MBA has small class sizes and becomes a tight-knit family.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I promised myself that if I were to return to school, I would challenge myself every day of the entire program. I made some missteps and had a few setbacks, but I expect to make it through without regrets.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My frequent teammate, Kshitij Inamdar. The job search is challenging and stressful for everyone, significantly more so for international students who find only a fraction of companies willing to offer visa sponsorship. Despite this extra hurdle, Kshitij always found a way to deliver on team projects, bring value to Brunswick through his internship at Research Park, and attend almost every MBA social event.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a software developer.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would look for innovative ways to increase the synergies of the online and full-time MBA program.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1) Complete a multi-week through hike. 2) Have a single idea Elon Musk would think is cool.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Whatever the challenge, I would take him on my team.

What is your favorite movie about business? Rounders shows the importance of business ethics, albeit in a different context. Surround yourself with people who play by the rules. Otherwise, you will eventually be caught in the fallout from those cutting corners.

What would your theme song be? “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit.

Favorite vacation spot: Lake Ozark, Missouri. My family has been going every summer since before I was born. Now Netflix was kind enough to make a show about it!

Hobbies? For the last five summers, I have enjoyed playing with my volleyball team on Chicago’s North Avenue Beach.

What made Brant such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Brant is a breath of fresh air. He has a positive, can-do attitude. He is analytically minded and super sharp, and willing to share his opinions. At the same time, he is open-minded and an avid learner. He takes new concepts he has learned and immediately applies them. I was always surprised to hear him bring up past concepts and give examples of how he had applied them in new situations.

Brant goes above and beyond in his work. He cares deeply about giving 100% and will stay up late or get up early thinking about how to help a team he is mentoring or solve a problem he is working on. Brant excelled in our Consulting Lab course in the first semester of his program and was a positive influence on his team. He was also a huge contributor in our Project Management in Action Lab, where he oversaw four student project teams and always came to class ready to contribute to the class discussion. We are lucky to have him in our program and proud to have him represent the Illinois MBA.”

Andrew Allen

Director of Action Learning

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois





Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.