A brand is more than an identity. It also gauges an organization’s worth. Instead of assets, brand value is reflected in reputation and goodwill. By that measure, Georgia Tech represents one of academia’s healthiest brands. Just ask the first-year MBAs from the Scheller College of Business.
Samantha Sutton, a product specialist before joining the Class of 2023, associates the school with “technology and innovation.” Her classmate, Courtney Felinski, trumpets the “critical thinkers and high achievers” on campus. Of course, STEM comes to mind. After all, Georgia Tech is closely tied to “engineering excellence” in the words of Maggie Joyce – a Booz Allen Hamilton consultant whose sister graduated from the Engineering College. However, family wasn’t Joyce’s only connection to the school.
“What I didn’t expect in going to Georgia Tech was the network strength of the entire school beyond Scheller,” she tells P&Q. “Over the summer, I wore my Georgia Tech hat during hikes on the West Coast and encountered Tech grads who stopped me to say hi and chat on nearly every hike I went on! It was a huge testament to the size and strength of the broader Georgia Tech community.”
AN ENGINEERING SCHOOL? HARDLY!
Of course, branding can cut both ways. In Georgia Tech’s case, that can mean being reduced to an engineering school. Fact is, the university ranks among the elite in every imaginable engineering field: aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical. Hence, some MBAs expect their classes to be “packed full with engineers throwing crazy equations on the whiteboard” in the words of ’21 grad Amanda Grupp. Reality is, the program is quite the opposite say Scheller MBAs, past and present. It was a lesson that Muna Khali learned during orientation as she listened to her 78 classmates introduce themselves last fall.
“After hearing from countless classmates over the first couple of days as they shared the greatest hits of their educational and professional lives — the nuclear surface warfare officer, the indie rocker with 47 million YouTube views, the British parliamentarian, the car dealership owner, the pro volleyball player, and the internationally renowned swimmer — the intimidation factor was set at level 11. After “Muna Khalif” rang out through the auditorium, the adrenaline hit full force, and I delivered a blistering PowerPoint that remains a blurry spot in my memory.”
Not only do Scheller MBAs deviate from their ‘engineer’ stereotype, but they also find work in fields far different than operations and supply chains too. “There’s an incredible amount of professional diversity within my class that truly benefits all of us, adds Abby Brenller, a 2021 MBA grad who landed at Bain & Company. “I know I’m biased, but I am so proud of all of the incredible opportunities my classmates have earned and continue to earn. I now have friends working in a variety of functions at Nike, Delta Air Lines, McKinsey, Amazon, Apple, and so many other awesome companies. For a small class, we’ve got a pretty stellar network.”
BRINGING EVERYONE UP TO SPEED
Savannah Thomas personifies the type of student who thrives at Scheller. A Photography major from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Thomas served as the visual arts director for the Creative Arts Guild. For her, Scheller’s biggest selling point were the people, whom she describes as “brilliant, innovative, passionate, and – perhaps most important – very proud of their alma mater.” After joining the Class of 2023, she quickly discovered that her background brought a valuable perspective to her peers.
“I knew I wouldn’t have the financial or operational expertise that many of my classmates had, but I also didn’t want to feel like my pre-MBA background cheapened my perspective in the classroom. And while, yes, taking business classes alongside PhD and MD students may have felt even more humbling at first, the fact that Scheller is intentional about the make-up of the cohort meant that I wasn’t ever the only one in the room with a unique viewpoint.”
And Scheller isn’t just intentional about its class composition, adds Nammu Kumara, a ’22 grad who’ll be joining Bank of America’s strategy program. “The first semester at school is all about leveling the playing field so no matter what your background, you will learn all the skills you need to succeed both at school and out in the real world.”
A WORLD CLASS CAREER CENTER
Make no mistake: even engineers aren’t guaranteed smooth sailing starting out at Scheller. Just ask Francesca Sally, a ’22 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA who transitioned from designing electrical systems for air force bases and hospitals to becoming a Bain & Company consultant. “Trying to readjust to being a student, taking a packed course load, while also attempting to network and determine the direction of my career pivot, ended up being far more overwhelming than I expected,” she admits. “I assumed that my experience as a Division I athlete studying engineering would adequately prepare me for it, but the social expectation of the MBA program was something I underestimated!”
Luckily, Scheller differentiates itself by focusing on the right areas in the right location – all while providing unparalleled support. “Georgia Tech is an institution steeped in a tradition of innovation, observes Thomas Landzert, a Bank of America financial advisor. “Scheller stays true to these roots by being at the forefront of technology and business education. Located in the heart of Tech Square, Scheller College is the pulse of this vibrant start-up and innovation incubator. I have found that the Jones MBA Career Center is a tremendous resource in supporting students in their pursuit of career opportunities due to the number of alumni who work for companies in Tech Square.”
Make no mistake: the Jones MBA Career Center is Scheller’s secret weapon. This year, in student and surveys conducted by The Financial Times and The Economist, the center notched the 2nd and 4th best scores respectively. Last year, every MBA graduate seeking a job received an offer within 90 days of graduation. What’s more, the school reports that Scheller MBAs enjoy a 115% pay increase within three years of graduation. The Jones Center’s success is based on a deeply hands-on and personalized approach, which includes one-on-one coaching, resume and interview prep, and networking events. A unique wrinkle to the center, notes ’21 grad Marcus Harmon, is that each student is assigned a career advisor, who acts both a mentor and employer liaison. As a result, he says, the staff is on “the lookout for the absolute perfect career for us as they really get to know who we are as people.”
Like Harmon, the Class of 2023 has been singing the Jones Center’s praises. “I knew I wanted to make a career pivot and wanted guidance and support in doing so,” writes Stacy Feeling, an electrical engineer and former competitive ice skater. “Before the fall semester began, we had assignments to revamp our resumes and cover letters and to prepare for the internship search which was incredibly helpful in preparing to start the program. I felt very prepared to enter recruitment season in the field I want to end up in.”
RETURINING TO GEORGIA TECH
For Yuval Safra, a Scheller MBA is a homecoming. Six years ago, he earned an undergraduate business degree at Georgia Tech before becoming a member of the Israel Defense Forces – and a professional swimmer. In fact, Safra jokes, he has “swam enough kilometers throughout my career to circle the globe.”
“Being a professional swimmer, I have competed in multiple Olympic qualifying events, world championships, and European championships,” he adds. “Yet, my biggest accomplishment was finishing 4th at the European championships in the 25km race in the North Sea. That race was one of the most challenging of my career and my proudest finish.”
Brianna Thornton has also maintained close ties to Georgia Tech. She earned her Master of Science in Chemical Engineering here. At the same time, she worked as the project manager for Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. In this role, she led a team of 50 graduate and undergraduate students in the design and testing of an automobile.
“EcoCAR is a four-year long project to convert a conventional Chevy Blazer into a hybrid and semi-autonomous vehicle,” she tells P&Q. “It’s been amazing watching undergrad and graduate students work and grow their skills over the years. This role allowed me to see their progress throughout the years, as well as the progress of the car itself. I initially wanted to pursue a career in academia, but this role has been the highlight of my career so far and is what motivated me to pivot career paths and pursue an MBA.”
CASE COMPETITION DOMINANCE
Not surprisingly, Scheller is a place where many career paths converge. Kashis Mends-Cole, a budget officer in the U.S. Army National Guard, earned an Army Commendation Medal for outstanding performance when handling responsibilities above his rank. As the assistant general manager at a Marriott International hotel, Felicia A. Lamothe’s site received an Employee Engagement Survey score that was 12 points above the national benchmark – and its best score in over a decade . Paroma Chakravarty served as a green building consultant, while Leo Haigh partnered with the British Government to implement software designed to aid small businesses. At TD Ameritrade, Thomas Landzert launched a national network connecting business development specialists.
“As a result of spearheading this initiative, I was invited to TD Ameritrade’s annual gala, where I and a select handful of others received the “Better Begins with Me” award,” he tells P&Q. “This award recognizes individual contributions to the overall success and goals of the firm. I felt privileged to be part of an organization that acknowledges individual efforts towards building a better company culture. It was quite the experience to network with executive leadership and I even took a selfie with the CEO.”
The Class of 2023 has maintained this ragged pace since arriving on campus. Last year, Felicia A. Lamothe competed in the National Black MBA Association Graduate Case Competition, where her team finished 2nd out of 33 schools and collected $15,000 in prize money. Not to be outdone, Yuval Safra’s team also placed 2nd – in Deloitte’s National Supply Chain Case Competition. Leo Haigh has been busy hosting the Scheller College of Business podcast, while Thomas Landzert has hosted Schell-X – the school’s answer to TED Talks. For Savannah Thomas, the highlight of first year was stepping up and leaning in to a project that might overwhelm many others.
SHOWING BILL GATES AROUND PARLIAMENT
“When my Graduate Research Assistantship supervisor asked if I was comfortable doing market analysis and putting together a presentation for key stakeholders, I didn’t stop to think about my lack of experience before saying yes,” she tells P&Q. “Thanks to her great mentorship and armed with less than half of a semester of Marketing Management and Analytic Tools for Decision Making, I found myself on a team call presenting my research just a few weeks later. After the call was over, I had several people reach out wanting to discuss the presentation more in depth and brainstorm ways that we could apply some of the analysis to their specific department. It was surreal to have the opportunity – and trust – to go from student to consultant just a few weeks into the program!”
Outside work and school, Paroma Chakravarty fosters dogs and cats. Kashis Mends-Cole is a DJ who produces music, while Savannah Thomas sells home-made ice cream. Before business school, Courtney Felinski spent five years playing professional volleyball in Europe. As an undergraduate, Thomas Landzert interned for two members of Congress…and the governor of North Carolina. Speaking of government, Leo Haigh once gave a tour of the UK Parliament – to Bill Gates. And how is this for an inspirational story?
“My friend invited me on a big hiking trip, and it was an idea I originally laughed at considering my fitness level at the time,” notes Felicia A. Lamothe. “When I got chuckles from a few people I shared it with, my passive interest converted to serious motivation. Two months later, I successfully summitted Mount Kilimanjaro. The time I spent preparing is when I discovered a love of hiking.”
Next Page: An Interview with Katie Lloyd
Page 3: Profiles of 12 Scheller MBA Students
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