Faster speed. Greater access. More information. Better quality.
That’s business today…and business is good. More options and capabilities. More complex and demanding too. These days, it is nearly impossible to keep pace with technology – and its applications. Artificial intelligence, 3-D Printing, Cloud Computing, Analytics – makes 90s automation and 00s outsourcing look pretty tame, huh? That’s how quickly expectations have shifted. A generation ago, marketers were wordsmiths versed in the 4 P’s. Now, they are expected to be coders, tech support, neuroscientists, data engineers, social media mavens, and futurists all rolled into one.
That requires a different kind of education…the kind found at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business.
When people think Georgia Tech, they picture engineering and computer science…and for good reason. Name any type of engineering – aerospace, biomedical, computer, environmental, nuclear – and Georgia Tech ranks in the Top 10. Whatever you do, don’t think of Scheller as a ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ program – the kind where you need to have designed an electrical interface to excel.
“A Scheller MBA is ideal for a wide range of applicants from diverse professional backgrounds,” explains Michelle Albert, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch. “This spring, I will graduate with engineers-turned-marketers, elementary-school-teachers-turned-healthcare-consultants, and military-veterans-turned-finance-experts, and I will walk proudly next to them as a non-profit-communicator-turned-Fortune-500-CPG-marketer. It takes some grit, but Scheller continues to equip top MBA candidates with the skills to make their ideal transition, whatever it may look like.”
That said, Scheller MBAs come to Technology Square for a reason. The program has made technology a core competency, says Marcus Harmon, a member of the Class of 2021. A popular phrase at the school, he says, is that Scheller sits at “the intersection of business and technology.” By that, he means that technology is integrated across the curriculum, in every possible corner. In other words, MBAs spend less time on technical minutiae and more on the impact of technological innovation on business.
CONNECTING THE LANGUAGE OF TECHNOLOGY WITH BUSINESS
And particular industries too. In general, writes Candice Blacknall, technology provides an opportunity for underserved communities to better access healthcare. In particular, a Scheller MBA supplies Blacknall with the ability to achieve this end, “to be able to speak the language of business with a technology framework.” For MBAs, the ability to create this bridge is Scheller’s sweet spot.
“I chose to pursue my MBA at Georgia Tech because I felt the program would provide me with a strong understanding of how business works while ensuring I retain a niche for analytics and technology,” asserts Denzel McCollum. “My background is rooted in understanding how people interact and use technology on a day-to-day basis and in the future, I want to work in a role where I act as a bridge between a company’s information technology and business functions. It was key that I learn about business from people who get how emerging technology affects workplace decisions and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business is a clear leader in this space.”
Just look at its curriculum, where concentrations include Managing Innovation and Technology, Strategic Sustainability, and Business Analytics. At the same time, the course catalog features unique programming like Emerging Technologies, Managing Resources of the Technological Firm, Understanding Markets with Data Science, and Introduction to Climate Change Planning, and Uncertainties and Opportunities of the Emerging World. Underlying these courses is a focus on the empirical – and how data reveals pathways and probabilities.
For Michelle Albert, this concept was hammered home in her big data course. “I developed an understanding of how data empowers businesses to better understand the needs of their consumers while creating value for the company. “In God we trust; all others bring data” is now etched in my mind.”
AN INVENTOR…A SOLDIER…AN ACTOR
That’s great advice for the Class of 2021, who hail from seemingly every sector imaginable. Take Candice S. Blacknall, a U.S. Army Sergeant and Medic who is earning an MBA alongside her MD. For her, MBA training brings a “pluralistic” perspective that sparks innovation. “Whenever I am in dealing with a clinical problem, I will be able to see the business solution and vice versa. Over time, I anticipate that practicing this dimensionality will fortify each individual perspective and aide me in creating innovative solutions to obstacles that I may encounter within the industry.”
Her classmates include Bartlet DeProspo, who has notched 19 U.S. patents at IBM in spaces ranging from “mainframe technology to competitive skiing, security key systems, and anti-counterfeiting.” In contrast, Marcus Harmon was a member of the Bravo Company 3rd Ranger Battalion – the team featured in Black Hawk Down. During his service, Harmon was deployed in Afghanistan and the Pacific before he retired due to injuries. Chances are, he will sometime team with Sara Chamberlain, who studied marketing and theater as an undergrad. Her experience as an actor, choreographer, crew member, and business manager gives her a unique perspective on organizational operations.
“Through theatre, I learned a lot about how to present myself and my stories to be as clear as possible,” she explains. “The realities of facing firm performance deadlines certainly helped me see just how much a well-coordinated team can accomplish in short periods of time. I’ve learned a lot about moving forward when things don’t go smoothly, such as supporting my fellow actors onstage when lines are forgotten or when props break during a show. As a choreographer, I learned a lot about gaining people’s trust as a leader, tailoring my plans to fit the strengths of a team, and gauging where I can help my team build new strengths.”
This recipe doesn’t just work in theater. Andrew Eskander followed a similar protocol as a U.S. Marine Corps Captain. Here, he trained and led a team of 35 members that connected radio systems and enterprise-level IT networks with multinational forces. “It was extremely challenging yet rewarding to work through both technical and language barriers,” he notes. “I was able to leverage my Arabic language skills to create an environment of trust with our Iraqi partners and complete a long-term project that increased the security, collaboration, and safety in the area ultimately saving lives.”
The same could be said for Kelsey Lyford, an Executive Officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore. “I had the incredible opportunity to lead my 24-person team through the preparation and execution of a 40-hour core training curriculum with Department of State approval. These trainings were provided to 18 partner nations and culminated in a joint operation at sea that strengthened our international partnerships and effectiveness to carry out law enforcement missions at sea.”
In the Peace Corps, Abby Brenller’s mission was teaching entrepreneurship and business skills in rural Panamá. However, Brenller didn’t just teach it. She turned one “side project” into a transformational career for one woman.
“I started a women’s baking club in which we’d look at costs, pricing, and potential sales while we waited for our home-made treats to bake. One of the mothers I worked with in that club actually started using the recipes and business skills we worked on to sell baked goods to neighboring communities. Almost two years later, she told me that she was able to go back to school and work towards a college degree with some of the extra money she earned from baking!”
A FEAR OF ROLLER COASTERS…AND YELLOW JACKETS
Abby Brenller herself was homeschooled growing up and met her husband “while I had pneumonia, ringworm, and parasites.” Not surprisingly, she is the class member who once ate armadillo. Andrew Eskander is a rock climber outside work, while Bartlet DeProspo reached the summit of Mount Fuji. Despite spending six years jumping out of military airplanes, Marcus Harmon fears roller coasters. Kenneth Hettler, UH-60M Blackhawk pilot and Company Commander, led the #1 air traffic control unit in the U.S. Army. He also enjoyed a brush with fame when he made Bruce Springsteen a sandwich. Then again, Julie Deng met Owen Wilson when she got lost during her first day of college. While Kelsey Lyford boasts the resume of a Scheller MBA, she might not be quite a fit.
“I am absolutely terrified of yellow-jackets and might be scared of the GA Tech mascot,” she admits.
What does the class have to say about each other? After a semester together, Julie Deng calls them a “roll up your sleeves” bunch who aren’t “afraid of taking on a challenge.” Bartlet DeProspo and Andrew Eskander have also been struck by how diverse their classmates are.
“No two classmates at Scheller are alike,” Eskander observes. “As a result, this has created an open environment to share ideas. Every candidate is genuinely interested in their classmates’ backgrounds and is excited to learn about their respective career fields. This diversity also provides another learning dimension when students are broken down into their four-person project groups. Scheller staff placed an emphasis on balancing each group based on personality, industry, and future career aspirations. As a result, the approach and presentation of similar problem sets are all achieved by different methods allowing the class to learn through varying perspectives.”
Go to Page 3 for in-depth profiles of the Class of 2021