2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Francesca Sally, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Francesca Sally

Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

“Adventurous leader driven by curiosity. Competitive problem-solver constantly searching for humor in every situation.”

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Fun fact about yourself: My favorite superhero is Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Northeastern University, Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Minor in Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked for Jacobs Engineering Group as an Electrical Engineer designing airfield electrical systems for United States Air Force bases in places like Greenland and Alaska. Prior to graduate school, I completed a work assignment in Brisbane, Australia, supporting the design for a new hospital.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I interned with IBM as a Product Manager in their Extreme Blue Program.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be joining Bain & Company as a Consultant in the Atlanta office!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Graduate Business Council – I sat on the board of Scheller’s Strategic Planning Committee, where we updated the school’s mission and vision statements, set school-wide goals for the next five years, and determined the appropriate metrics to measure our success. I provided an open platform to all the students to ensure everyone could share their questions, concerns, and ideas for ways our processes can improve. I also worked to obtain additional funding for traditionally under-funded programs. As the first Black President of Scheller’s Full-Time MBA program, I used my platform to better communicate the experience of Black students at Georgia Tech and the downfalls that we see in the curriculum and Scheller sponsored events.
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Student Services – I provide support to the student services team on best practices to retain diverse talent and improve their experience on campus. I worked to start programs to diversify talent for mandatory speaker series, conducted reviews of panel guests, and improved communication between club affinity groups and Scheller staff. I also assisted in the development and implementation of the CHARGE leadership program tasks and events as well as distribution of prizes.
  • Graduate Research Assistant, MBA Admissions – I work closely with the admissions team to ensure we are implementing inclusive recruiting practices, including partnerships with Georgia Tech Athletics to improve pipelines for student athletes to Scheller MBA. I also support the team with empathy interviews to better understand the experiences of Scheller students.
  • Social Co-Chair, Blacks in Business – During my first year, I worked as social chair for Blacks in Business, a role typically held by second-year students, and planned events for current and alumni club members, including the facilitation of their annual Trivia for the Culture event which promotes students’ knowledge of African American history.
  • MBA Ambassador – I connect with students interested in Scheller’s MBA program, sit on informational panels, conduct admissions interviews, and coach students through the process of choosing the MBA program that best suits their interests and goals.
  • René A. Simon Fellow – I was honored to be selected as the 2022 René Simon Fellow, a fellowship started by a 2018 alumnus, meant to honor one student per year who has been committed to serving their community.
  • Peer Mentor – I mentored four first-year students by providing council on personal/academic issues, and helped guide and encourage them through academic, job search, and personal roadblocks they encountered.
  • Leadership Fellow – I was one of 10 students selected as a Leadership Fellow to receive exclusive access to C-level speakers, participate in individual coaching with alumni, and practice leadership skills through group facilitation.
  • Member of Net Impact Club, Women in Business Club, Blacks in Business Club, Managing Tech Club, Strategy & Innovation Club – As a member of each club, I participate in networking events, leadership and professional development programming, and philanthropic efforts.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being elected as the first Black President of the Full-Time MBA program in Scheller history. I felt honored that my classmates believed in my ability to represent the program and effectively lead the student body moving forward. It felt encouraging that Scheller is not only talking about making systemic changes but is building an environment where people of all backgrounds not only feel comfortable in this space but feel comfortable stepping-up to lead it. To know that I was the first Black person to be selected for this position added a layer of graciousness for the chance to represent this historic accomplishment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had the opportunity to participate in a company program called “Jacobs Global Opportunities”, for which I was relocated to Brisbane, Australia. I was one of 30 candidates selected from over 7000 international applications. In the program, I had the chance to learn about new technologies, meet a diverse range of people from around the globe, represent the Jacobs Black Employee Networking Group on various panels with our CEO, and travel throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. That experience taught me to jump into everything with two feet and make the most of how short the two years of business school would be.

Why did you choose this business school? Scheller has so many incredible opportunities, which I found compelling during the application process. However, the thing that I felt separated it from the other schools I was considering was its focus on community. I am a people person and thrive when I am able to foster real relationships with the people with whom I am working. The community aspect of Scheller was of paramount importance to me. I didn’t want to be in a program where I felt like every social event was a networking event, I wanted to genuinely get to know my classmates and feel like they were genuinely trying to get to know me. I come from a big family and grew up playing a lot of team sports, so I perform much better when I have the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment. Scheller searches for those types of students and works diligently to create a supportive environment during day-to-day activities.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? “Scheller Madness” is by far my favorite MBA event! Every year our Athletics Committee puts on a 3-vs-3 outdoor basketball tournament that aligns with the NCAA March Madness events. Students who are not participating come and cheer on the different teams and it is an extremely enjoyable and encouraging environment to be in. That being said, as a former collegiate basketball player, I am biased to prefer the basketball event!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could go back in time, I would have done a better job exploring greater Atlanta and connecting with local networks. The pandemic restrictions curtailed my affinity for exploration. While I was happy about fully thrusting myself into the program, being in school provides a unique amount of time and freedom to tap into the resources of the city. Atlanta has so many avenues to explore, so I am excited to be here for a few more years and have the chance to make up for lost time!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think Georgia Tech’s stellar engineering reputation precedes that of the MBA program, so people worry that the reputation won’t hold enough weight during the recruiting process. I have found that the wider Institute’s name has opened doors I never expected and Scheller’s presence at top companies is only continuing to expand! In addition, Scheller alumni are unbelievably helpful and invested in continuing to create success for the Scheller brand; I have never reached out to speak to an alumnus and not heard back.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I tried to show my personality in my application and brought a lot of energy to my interview. Now that I am on the other side and help interview prospective students, I can understand why people who bring energy are set apart from the rest. Regardless of what else happened during the process, I wanted to make sure I was my authentic self throughout and felt that whether I got in or not, I was proud of what I presented.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have been consistently impressed with my classmate Nammu Kumar. Nammu is the President of Scheller’s Women in Business club where she and her team have facilitated a plethora of events. These events not only connect and uplift all the women and allies in the club, but also provide a space where our students can be vulnerable and create more healthy support systems within the school. I have both seen and felt the way those events impact our community at Scheller and strengthen the bonds between students — which allowed all of us to get the most out of our time at Georgia Tech.

Nammu is also the head of Scheller’s International Committee and gives international students the chance to share about their backgrounds. Many of the events highlight different cuisines, including cooking nights or dinners at international restaurants, and allow students to shed light on the traditions that they grew up celebrating. Similarly, to the events by Women in Business, this programming has played a big factor in the tight-knit community here at Scheller. In addition to those leadership roles, Nammu is also a Graduate Research Assistant for Georgia Tech Venture Labs and during our classes she always provides interesting perspectives that push her classmates to diversify their approach to problem solving. I admire the unwavering dedication Nammu has to everything she is involved in, and to creating a sense of belonging for all students. I cannot imagine what Scheller would have been like without Nammu and am excited to see how she continues to have an impact in her career moving forward.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother has been instrumental in many of the biggest decisions of my life. She sent me to engineering camp in high school, which inspired me to become an engineer and then encouraged me to get my MBA when she saw that I was craving a more interactive and people-facing role. She knows me better than anyone, but always gives me the space to figure things out on my own. In fact, when I decided to enroll at Scheller and expressed that I wanted to be a product manager, she said, “Have you thought about consulting? You should just go work for Bain!” And now… here I am!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Bain is launching an incredible program called, Global Fellows: Africa, where they send a small group of consultants to their Johannesburg office for 3-6 months. I would love to be selected for that program. Given that it is a very competitive process, if I do not get accepted my goal would be to work abroad in a country whose native language is not English. The second item on the top of my professional bucket list is to launch the company that I have been working on, OneSTEM, which aims to assist minorities and women in STEM throughout the lifecycle of their education and careers. I was lucky to be a finalist in Georgia Tech’s 2021 Ideas to Serve competition after pitching the idea last year.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic completely rocked my view of my career. I thought I felt comfortable in my engineering role because I got to travel quite a bit to interesting locations, and I had unbelievable work-life balance. However, I spent most of my days working on the same software design program and I wasn’t truly being challenged. When the pandemic hit and all the external activities stopped, I realized how stagnant I felt. I did a lot of self-reflection, reconsidered what different aspects of my career meant to me, and determined that I wanted a career that would challenge me to expand my approach to problem-solving and allow me to work in an environment that relied on daily collaboration.

What made Francesca such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Despite virtual delivery in the Spring ’21 semester due to COVID-19 restrictions, Francesca Sally stood out as an intrinsically motivated and natural leader among her incredible Scheller MBA classmates. I have the great pleasure of teaching the required MBA Strategy core course. One of the cases we discussed was Nike. As a former Division 1 (full-scholarship) athlete, Francesca provided crucial insights during the case discussion. However, what impressed me the most was that Francesca approached me to discuss some of the more thorny issues in the case after class. Incidentally, the NCAA Division 1 Final Four tournaments were going on during this time. The NCAA’s unequal treatment of male and female athletes became apparent to the public. Francesca provided further insights that most top apparel and sports shoe companies don’t have fully dedicated high-performance lines for female athletes (which resort to using shoes, for example, made for male athletes). From there, our discussion turned to address issues of equity and inclusion in business. Francesca laid out constructive ideas to address some of these shortcomings. The clear-eyed strategic initiatives she laid out not only would improve equity and inclusion but also provide significant business opportunities.

I’m sharing this example to showcase the kind of leader Francesca is. She sees a problem and provides a solution that creates a win-win situation. Her positive energy and leadership capabilities are infectious as she has the gift of motivating her team members, classmates, and professors. In sum, Francesca is a natural leader who is intellectually curious and intrinsically motivated to provide actionable solutions to use business and community to make the world a better place. I have learned much from Francesca. I’m grateful for our Scheller MBAs to challenge our thinking, identify problems, and generate actionable solutions. Go, Francesca!”

Frank T. Rothaermel
The Russell and Nancy McDonough Chair
Professor & Sloan Industry Studies Fellow


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