2020 MBAs To Watch: Amy McBrien, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Amy McBrien

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Ambitious leader with a tenacious career approach that doesn’t forget to have a little fun.”

Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: I traveled to almost half of the United States before the age of 12, which spurred my passion for travel both nationally and internationally. I will hit my 50th state in June of this year on an Alaskan Cruise!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Michigan State University, BA in Supply Chain Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Focus Factory Manager at Gilbarco Veeder-Root, a Fortive Corporation Company.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? I am a one-year MBA student, so we started classes in June 2019. The 1Y program at Kellogg is 4-quarters straight and doesn’t require a formal summer internship.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be joining the Nissan Rotational Development Program (NRDP) in the Marketing and Sales track at Nissan Motor Corporation.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director of Kellogg Marketing Club
  • 1Y Student Admission Committee
  • I was also a recipient of the Kellogg Scholarship, which is awarded to students in full-time programs based on overall achievements, demonstrated leadership and academic abilities.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Prior to Kellogg, I worked primarily in operations for five years, where I grew my expertise in supply chain but was not heavily exposed to commercial business functions. I wanted to expand my acumen through an MBA focused in Marketing in order to land a position in a customer-facing role.

My focus at Kellogg has been in marketing academics and gaining exposure to the evolving customer-centric world. In a short period of time, I was able to expand my understanding of brand building and successfully land a marketing role at a well-known Fortune 500 company.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? We implemented a new Enterprise Resource Planning system at my old company, which resulted in an abnormally high order backlog. This was deterring us from hitting our customer request dates and causing severe site installation delays for our customers. In an effort to fix this issue, I created an order fulfillment war room where a group of 30 people, ranging from individual contributors to our president and CFO, met twice per day to review the oldest and largest revenue orders. I set up a visual management system to review these orders by department, from the point-of-order entry through shipping and invoicing the customer.

This process helped us identify issue buckets where orders were getting stuck and enabled the development of reports to proactively find the issues so they didn’t cause a delay. Creating a war room did not resolve all our issues, but it brought together a cross-functional group to solve the problem. As you can imagine, leading a war room in a high-pressure environment came with times of awkward tension and increased emotions. Through this process I learned a lot about my ability to lead people to a common goal.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had Professor Nicholas Pearce for Negotiation Fundamentals in the fall quarter. Professor Pearce had a way of artfully engaging the classroom and taught by showing, not telling us what to do. He brought in real-life examples and made it a safe space to practice the tools we were learning. I was inspired by his ability to be flexible during his lectures and let the conversation flow, yet still achieve the goal of each class.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? That’s a tough one! There are so many events to choose from, but my favorite was KWEST, Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student trips, which are designed for first-year students to get to know a core group of their classmates, and second-year students who lead the trips prior to the fall quarter. While traveling with 24 other students and Joint Ventures (JVs), it’s easy to get to know each other, especially because for the first 3-4 days you cannot talk about your background.

It definitely made us step outside of our comfort zones and move past small talk into deeper conversations. This is a great example of the level of community and inclusion that Kellogg has, especially since we are all here with the goal of professional and personal growth.

Why did you choose this business school? I decided that Kellogg was the one for me for several reasons: the one-year MBA program matched my ideal career path; the highly regarded career management center assisted in career planning and the “create your own” experience feeling, and the highly collaborative culture of the school fit with my strengths.

I will say the biggest driver for me out of that list was the 1Y program. Kellogg is one of few high caliber programs that offer a one-year option. However, compared to others, it is not specialized and allows us to form our own pathways. Our class is also integrated into the community. This is different than one-year programs at other schools, which don’t always promote the same assimilation among MBA programs. Overall, I felt that I would have the same experience as a 2Y student at Kellogg which was important to me in making this decision!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Promote what makes you unique throughout the application process. Kellogg’s goal is to cultivate diverse cohorts that can grow and learn from each other’s experiences. In addition, they want to see the passion to be part of the Kellogg community. Making connections with current students and alumni and attending preview days will help bring context to your essays and interview.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Prior to coming to Kellogg, I was a bit apprehensive of my ability to find my way in a highly extroverted environment as I consider myself as more of an introvert. Although there are plenty of opportunities to show my extroverted side through group trips, activities, and nights out, there are also plenty of opportunities to connect with peers one-on-one.

I often participate in small group dinners which are organized by students and can either have a focus such as a specific cuisine or conversational topic or just a few classmates enjoying dinner together. It’s a great way to meet Kellogg students that you may not have had the opportunity to meet yet or deepen relationships you already have.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have narrowed my focus during full time recruiting to save time for other activities that I wanted to participate in. Since I was pivoting from operations to marketing, I cast a very wide net which resulted in endless hours prepping, networking, and interviewing with more companies than necessary.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Alice Murray. I had the opportunity to meet her at Day At Kellogg and she is actually a close friend of mine now. She has such an infectious personality with so much optimism and charisma. She comes from a background in digital marketing and UX design, much different from many students at Kellogg.  However, you can tell during any conversation with her how much motivation she has to get out of her comfort zone and achieve personal growth during her one year here.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Up until 8th-grade biology class, I wanted to be either a veterinarian or physical therapist. I quickly realized during the class focused on dissecting rats that a medical profession was not for me. Both my parents are CPAs so that’s what led me to decide to study business in undergrad. Ultimately, my friend Joe Mills convinced me to try a supply chain class and I ended up loving it!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Become an executive mentor to young professional women starting their careers.
  2. Work 1-2 years internationally, which will be achieved through Nissan’s Rotational Development Program that I will be starting in July.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope my peers remember me as approachable, humble, and driven.

Hobbies? Hiking, traveling, dog sitting (aspiring dog mom)

What made Amy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Amy is a student in our 1Y MBA program, which means that she will earn her MBA in just one year. While a shorter timeframe than some students earning their MBAs, she has taken advantage of her time at Kellogg to make an impact and accomplish her recruiting goals. Her interest in broadening her skill set and gaining marketing skills led her to run for and win a Director position focused on marketing and special events in the Kellogg Marketing Club. She is also a tour guide for student admissions and participates in the Women’s Leadership Seminar. While participating in these activities to support her classmates and welcome and foster interest in Kellogg through her admissions role, she actively and successfully recruited for her post-Kellogg role in Marketing and Leadership Programs. Amy also looked for ways to give back to her classmates and Kellogg. She is engaged with current classmates and brings enthusiasm in her role as a Kellogg ambassador in her position with admissions. She has been a truly invaluable asset as a student and I am quite sure she will continue to be so as alumni.”

Mary Simon
Director Career Advising & Education – Career Management Center


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