Meet Georgia Tech’s MBA Class Of 2020

Rebecca Berge

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business

“Biker girl seeking business skills to drive tech innovation for good!”

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I commute everywhere by bicycle! I have bike commuted a total distance of over one thousand miles since buying my current bike last April (2017).

Undergraduate School and Major: Emory University, Mathematics and Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: StatPro Group, Client Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My favorite part of my role at TriOptima AB was observing the impact my work had on derivatives markets. For example, a big accomplishment I’m proud of was leading a project that ultimately resulted in the termination of 35% of outstanding Mexican peso interest rate swap volume cleared in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. So, for people in that world monitoring that market, they would have seen a huge dip in outstanding volume on the day my project concluded. TriOptima was the only company providing a service like that, and really it was just a few people working on the team to deliver this innovative fintech solution. I loved being able to attribute an observable impact to my own work with the service.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Generosity: everyone pitches in to help everyone else succeed.

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?  Scheller, to me, represents the nexus of business and tech education. I chose Scheller because I wanted to understand how innovation happens, and how valuable ideas can generate economic value – and I have the chance to learn that in hands-on applications at Scheller. The best example of this is the Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER®) Program. As a TI:GER Fellow, I have been placed on a team with JD candidates from Emory and a Ph.D. candidate from a nanotechnology lab, and tasked to bring his research to market as a viable product.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Graduate Student Government Association! I was recently elected to be an Executive Officer in the Graduate Student Senate at Georgia Tech.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In general, I wanted to answer this question with all the holistic knowledge I had missed by working in such niche services within fintech.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment?  To me, Scheller represents the nexus of business and tech education. At the stage I was at in my professional life, I was looking for a comprehensive graduate-level education that would help me build practical skills for running any kind of business (a generalist “business” degree) but also for a program that would give me hands-on experience working with an early-stage venture.

Not only did I see the value of an MBA at Scheller; I wanted to enrich the program with my unique experience as a woman in financial tech. I was enabled to attend Scheller through a generous financial aid package and a grant from the Forte Fellows Program. The Forte Foundation provides support for women in business, and in this case their support enabled me to choose this MBA program.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? IE Business School (Madrid, Spain) and ESADE (Barcelona, Spain).

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My top considerations were experiential learning offerings, cost, and culture. I started by doing some research online, and then asking admissions departments to put me in touch with current students or alumni in my area who had participated in specific programs of interest.

From there, I chatted with alumni over the phone, over coffee, and at social events with alumni at seven different schools, and ultimately applied to four programs (including three MBA programs). I wanted to get a feeling for the kinds of people each program attracted, and for whether those people felt their professional goals had been furthered by their MBAs.

Then, once I had decisions back from each of the programs, I considered total cost.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining professional moment didn’t happen at work. I was lucky enough to be invited to volunteer at the inaugural Katapult Future Fest in Oslo, Norway, two years ago, sponsored by the Katapult tech accelerator. Katapult Future Fest is an output-driven festival focusing on how exponential technologies and impact investing can create a thriving future society for all.

Katapult was the precipitating event motivating my applications to graduate school last year: I had a wake-up moment when I was struck by the thought, “I’m not just a volunteer – I can be a valuable contributor.” I want my own life’s work to be valuable – not just in terms of generating economic results, but in also in terms of the positive impact technology can have on the world. I reevaluated where I saw my professional life going, and meanwhile identified a technical skill gap – one that I am addressing as we speak in my MBA.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I graduate in May 2020. My plan is to ride the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trail system on my bike, then go back to Katapult Future Fest in Oslo and then hike and travel around Scandinavia for a couple of months, and then start at my new job!

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself as a senior product manager. At this point, given my background in fintech, I can most clearly imagine working in that role for a software/digital product at a financial services company. But my ultimate dreams are to work at a venture capital firm (watching the startup landscape for the next big idea in fintech), or to work on a really exciting startup idea.