Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2020

Haylley Johnson

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Huge foodie dedicated to creating (and eating) delicious sustainable food.”

Hometown: Burlington, Vermont

Fun Fact About Yourself: I used to be the sous chef for a small steakhouse, so I can cook great steaks for 30 people at once.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Vermont, double major in English and Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: GLOBALFOUNDRIES – Lead Central Planner

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: To date, my biggest career accomplishment was my successful leadership of a cross-department and cross-geography team that entirely revamped my division’s revenue reporting process. Shortly after I first began my career working at IBM, I assumed ownership of the Microelectronics Division’s revenue reporting process – a process that had not been updated in over a decade, but was also a key driver of global business decisions. After quickly learning the original process, I identified key areas of inefficiency and created a project proposal. Once the leadership team approved it, I pulled together a team and together we proposed, then executed, an action plan to achieve substantial process improvements. By the end of the project, the team had automated the manual data management process, established data quality standards, and developed automated, standardized reports. The project saved the team over 40 hours of work monthly and substantially improved the quality of the revenue outputs.

Relatively early in my career, this project gave me the opportunity to dive into a process improvement project, lead a diverse team, and collaborate extensively across departments. I came out the other side having had a tangible positive impact on my division and having grown as a person, a leader and a teammate.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My classmates care deeply about making a positive impact on the world around them. That can mean anything from helping a new classmate better understand a concept to figuring out how to pursue social justice globally. Over the course of my summer classes, I’ve seen demonstrated evidence of my classmates’ compassion and determination, and I am truly excited to meet the rest of them.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I chose to pursue an MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler because the program would provide me the resources necessary to merge my passions for sustainability and global operations management. Since sustainability challenges and solutions are cross-functional and inter-organizational, I wanted to establish a more holistic picture of the global business landscape to effectively tackle these challenges. Through academic concentrations well suited to my interests and an integrated curriculum, the program at UNC Kenan-Flagler was an excellent match for my goals. It will give me the opportunity to build a more end-to-end skill set in business beyond the roles I have already taken on during my career.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? While there are many activities I am excited for in business school, I am particularly looking forward to joining both the Net Impact Club and the Pride Club. Both clubs actively lead positive change on campus, and I can hardly wait to jump in and start getting involved.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At this point in my career, I have spent five years working in global supply chain. During that time, I successfully built hands-on experience in project management, data analytics, supply and demand optimization, and strategic planning. Now that I have seeded that skillset, I want to compile more knowledge of sustainable development and broaden my global business perspective. Those capabilities will effectively prepare me to tackle the complexities of improving a company’s triple bottom line during the next phase of my career.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? For me, it was a question of what my career would look like with an MBA and without an MBA. Overall, I knew that I wanted the skills I could gain from a MBA program and that I would have more tools in my tool kit to pursue a career in sustainable enterprise. Mathematically speaking, I evaluated how long it would take me to pay off my student debt and I accounted for the opportunity cost of being unemployed for two years. Then using my knowledge of skills gained and opportunity cost incurred, I made a judgement call on the potential return on investment. In the end, an MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler was worth the investment because it would give me the additional skills I needed to do my desired kind of work.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT Sloan School of Management, McGill Desautels Faculty of Management

How did you determine your fit at various schools? To determine my fit, I evaluated a variety of criteria. However, the top three variables that I based my decision on where the culture, the academic fit, and the career-related resources. To assess culture, I visited all the schools to which I applied to meet the students, staff and faculty. I also conducted a number of informal phone interviews with students and alumni to discuss their MBA experiences and the culture of the program.

To assess the academic fit, I evaluated whether or not I believed I could simultaneously study sustainable enterprise and operations management while also broadening my knowledge of global business. I gauged this through my aforementioned phone calls as well as via web research and online student reviews. The flexibility of the curriculum was particularly important as I determined if the school would fit my career goals; I needed the ability to concentrate on a few key subject areas and to gain broad business experience in parallel.

Finally, I heavily considered the availability of career related resources. I wanted to make sure that I had a variety of different resources I could access, not just one source of career guidance. I evaluated this during my school visits when I spoke with career services. All three of these components informed my final school decision.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My initial trajectory towards a career in business began when, as a senior member of my campus newspaper, I was elected editor-in-chief. In that role, I learned that I absolutely wanted to pursue leadership roles in business in some way, but I had not yet identified how I wanted that career to take shape.

When I graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM), the university had just launched a new transdisciplinary initiative, the Food Systems Spire. Leveraging my media and business skills, I became the central hub for Spire information– connecting farmers, policy makers and researchers. Consequently, I discovered fascinating research on the sustainable transformation of coffee production’s agrifood system. This research showed me that even small changes in global coffee suppliers’ decisions could tangibly improve farmers’ quality of life and reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. After seeing supply networks’ potential for positive transformations, I was inspired to pursue supply chain experience that I could apply to developing sustainable supply networks. I had already known I wanted to pursue a business career in some way, but that moment at UVM I witnessed how business, food and sustainability could come together. I had discovered where I wanted my career path to go.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Post-graduation, I plan to pursue a project management or operations leadership position at a consumer packaged goods company that focuses on sustainability – the triple bottom line is very important to me. I also plan to be a mentor in some capacity, and as a foodie, I want to work with a food consumable product like ice cream, cheese or tea (just to name a few product examples).

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I envision myself as the director of that same CPG company’s corporate social responsibility division or operations division with a focus on driving sustainable development. Having grown further in my career, I want to have established my role as a mentor and leader within the organization.

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