Meet Georgia Tech Scheller’s MBA Class Of 2021

Abby Brenller

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business

“Focused, adventurous, and driven, but also really goofy!”

Hometown: Knoxville, TN

Fun Facts About Yourself: While I was receiving treatment for pneumonia during my stint abroad, I once secretly broke out of the hospital in search of a chocolate milkshake, IV bag in tow!

What are some fun facts about yourself?

    • I’ve worked in the chocolate industry for 5 years and still believe there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.
    • I met my now-husband while I had pneumonia, ringworm, and parasites. Hopefully, it’s uphill from there.
    • When I was growing up, my family rescued animals including Eeyore, a donkey, and Bambi, a baby deer.
  • I was homeschooled for 9 years and believe it helped make me a self-starter.
  • I was rejected from my high school’s cheerleading team for three years but finally made the team.
  • A little boy who lived in rural Panama once asked me if I could see in the dark because my blue eyes reminded him of his cat’s eyes. I almost said yes.
  • The oddest thing I’ve ever eaten is armadillo and I loved it.
  • I enjoy public speaking, likely due to the 4-H speech competitions my parents made me participate in.

Undergraduate School and Major: B.S. in Marketing at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Sales and Marketing Coordinator for Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate in Atlanta, GA

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Two of the three years I spent working with the Peace Corps in Panamá, I was assigned to teach micro-entrepreneurship and business skills to cocoa farmers in a rural, indigenous village. As a side project, 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! While it may not be the largest quantifiable accomplishment, it’s been the greatest joy for me to truly invest in individuals and hear that I had a positive impact on their lives.

I also love to travel, and Colombia is my favorite place that I’ve visited thus far.

I enjoy getting to know people from other cultures and am currently mentoring an Afghani refugee.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Supportive! From the very beginning of the admissions process, being kind and helpful was stressed to us as a key part of the Scheller culture. My classmates all have such incredible backgrounds, but are all so humble and willing to support each other—that’s exactly what I was looking for in a new MBA community.

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? The career center, for sure. The Jones Career Center at Scheller is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the world, and that was something that was really important to me when I was considering what program could help me advance my career to the next level. The career counselors make an effort to get to know each of us individually, prepare us for how to make the next step, and then facilitate connections with alumni and supporters in our desired industries. From constant networking events to gaining impressive internship and full-time placements, the opportunities our career center provides really stood out to me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The International Practicum! One of my favorite parts about the curriculum at Scheller is the emphasis on hands-on learning.  After completing the core curriculum, students are encouraged to take practicum classes that combine classroom learning with a real-life consulting project with a partner company. Since I want to focus on international business, I’m most excited about our international practicums that match student teams with companies in foreign countries. We’ll spend the first half of the semester doing research on the company and the problem they ask us to work on. During Spring Break we actually go and meet our counterparts in their country of operation before presenting our final recommendations at the end of the year.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I prepared a lot in the year leading up to my actual interview, so no single question took me by surprise. However, I’d say the hardest one for me to truly understand and prepare for was being asked to define my exact career goals. I was under the impression that every single person entering an MBA program knew exactly what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. During the admissions process, my career path still felt a little vague. I’m happy to say that that’s been a key part of our summer pre-orientation prep work, though, and I’m already feeling much more confident and ready to head into internship interviews!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Spending three years in the Peace Corps really developed my leadership and soft skills, but it wasn’t until I was able to complement that with marketing and sales experience with a local startup that I felt like I had enough career and life experience to get the most value from an MBA. At this point in my career, I feel confident that an MBA can fill in any technical gaps and refine my professional presence rather than be a stand-alone achievement.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? In a highly out-of-character move for me, I only applied to Scheller. When I first started thinking about my MBA, I had a small list of schools across the US and Europe that I was drawn to based on their student success and alumni networks. Eventually, I narrowed my pool down to two schools in Atlanta, the city where my husband and I had recently bought a home.  After researching and interacting with both of my top options, I felt so strongly that Scheller was the place for me that I didn’t even submit my other application!

What made you select Scheller? From day one, Scheller has been incredibly invested in my career and personal success. During an early school visit, I mentioned to my admissions counselor that Delta Airlines was one of my target companies. Several months later, that admissions counselor personally reached out to let me know that the CEO of Delta would be visiting Scheller and to offer me a seat in the program before it was even publicly announced. All of this happened before I was even a committed student! The fact that faculty and staff—not just admissions—care so much about me as a person that they remember the little details and go above-and-beyond to help me succeed really blew me away and made me excited to be part of this community.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? First-and-foremost, I looked into the recent and historic stats of where their alumni were working, what they were being paid, and how quickly they were able to find jobs. From there, I looked to see if the school and alumni had connections to companies that interested me as well as which academic and extracurricular opportunities that fit my interests.  Since working for a global brand is important to me, I also prioritized programs that offered hands-on international experience.

Once all the research was done, I visited my top choice schools as many times as possible.  Since both options were located in Atlanta, I was able to attend multiple evening and weekend events over the course of several months and truly get the feel of the faculty and student body. While both options had incredible programs, visiting Scheller always felt like coming home. Something that I heard early and often at Scheller that stood out to me was, “There are plenty of great jobs for all of us, so there’s no reason to do anything but support and build each other up.  We’re competitive outside Scheller, but inside this community we’re family.”

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Joining the Peace Corps and living as the sole non-local in my tiny community of fewer than 200 residents. While I, by no means, think that the Peace Corps is perfect, it absolutely made me into the hard-working and resilient person I am today and I treasure those three years.  Being accepted so completely into a community so foreign to me was incredibly humbling and I am forever grateful to the people who showed me what kindness, open-mindedness, and hospitality truly is.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Professionally, I’d like to be supporting international marketing teams for a global brand in the Consumer Goods or Travel and Tourism sectors.  It’s also really important to me to maintain time and space for my family and community, so I hope to be a resource for young women aspiring to become business leaders and an example that succeeding professionally doesn’t have to come at the cost of your personal life.

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