Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Brendan Gernes, Georgetown (McDonough)

Brendan Gernes

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

“I’m a lifelong learner with a deep curiosity that drives me to action.”

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota

Fun Fact About Yourself: One of my most prized possessions is a hat signed by Rafael Nadal my grandfather gave me. Not surprisingly, I was excited to have Nadal in town for the Citi Open!

Undergraduate School and Major: Creighton University – Political Science Major, Business Administration Minor

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: International Executive Service Corps (IESC), Program Associate

What excites you most about studying in Washington, DC? As an international hub for the private and public sectors, DC offers a plethora of global professional opportunities in a vibrant and historic city. In the two years I lived here prior to starting the MBA program, I consistently met passionate people working in a wide range of industries. I look forward to taking advantage of excellent networking opportunities while continuing to explore DC’s diverse offerings including outstanding museums, parks, and a great local food scene.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Georgetown McDonough’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Knowing McDonough’s excellent reputation as a globally-focused program, I wanted to learn as much as possible about what that looks like in practice during the application process. As I spoke with admissions, professors, and students, it became crystal clear that Georgetown emphasizes a global mindset in all aspects of the MBA program. I’m excited to deepen my international business acumen in a cross-cultural context.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Georgetown McDonough? I’m excited about the Georgetown Business for Impact initiative, which has a mission to unleash the power of business to help people prosper and the planet thrive. From my previous work, I’ve seen first-hand how a robust private sector can foster sustainable economic growth. Connected to Business for Impact, McDonough also offers an opportunity to pursue an MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business, aimed at teaching students how to incorporate sustainability approaches directly into competitive strategies to create value. I look forward to learning more about the work Business for Impact and its partners are doing, and I aim to earn the Sustainable Business Certificate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest career accomplishment so far was guiding project start-up for an $8.9 million dollar USDA-funded trade facilitation project in Paraguay during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that effort, I helped ensure the proper setup of operational, financial, and administrative systems and directly supported the hiring, onboarding and training of a 14-person field staff. Typically, I would have traveled to Paraguay to help get the team up and running; this was not possible during the pandemic. To ensure we stayed on our project timeline, I provided virtual trainings, continuous budget tracking, and daily support to our field team as they settled into their roles.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? In mid-March 2020 I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on a two-week work assignment. As travel restrictions increased, it became clear that I needed to cut the assignment short and make my way back to the United States. Implementing development projects during the pandemic presented novel challenges and a need for flexible problem solving. During this time, I reaffirmed how much I value working on a team. Our teams found ways to continue collaborating effectively and maintained a sense of camaraderie, critical to staying productive and sane during the pandemic. Additionally, I was able to examine what I liked most about my role and what I am drawn to for the future. My interest in strategic planning deepened and I solidified my desire to pursue an MBA to further my career goals. Outside of work, COVID-19 highlighted that for me, personal relationships with family and friends are the key pillars to a fulfilling life and finding ways to maintain them (even from a distance) is always worthwhile.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Having worked in both the private and nonprofit sectors, I’ve been able to develop an analytical and leadership skillset. Consistently, I’ve pursued opportunities where I could learn as much as possible and have a positive social impact in the work I’m doing. With this same mindset, I decided this is the right time for me to pursue an MBA to build on my professional foundation and expand my business acumen in order to pivot to management consulting in the social impact/public sector.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to McDonough after thoroughly researching various programs and knowing I wanted to stay in Washington, DC.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Georgetown McDonough’s MBA program? Georgetown McDonough’s admissions team will take a holistic look at your GMAT/GRE score, undergraduate GPA, and professional experience. Be as authentic as you can in your essays and during the interview process. Georgetown prides itself on the diversity of each cohort, and letting your interests and passions shine through is a great way to show what makes you unique and stand out.


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