2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Colby Bermel, University of Texas (McCombs)

Colby Bermel

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Energy journalist turned energy marketer. Passionate about people, product, planet.”

Hometown: Chestnut Hill, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I once found an obscure filming location from a Drake music video on Google Maps – years before the popular Geo Guesser game became a trend. Yes, this is how a rap nerd like myself has spent their free time!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Principia College; I earned a B.A. and double-majored in political science and mass communication.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Politico; I was their California energy reporter, covering the business and politics of climate change in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? NRG Energy in Houston; I was their only MBA intern, and I created new processes and tools to govern the retail electricity division’s product development and execution pipeline.

Where will you be working after graduation? NRG Energy; I will be an MBA rotational manager, working six-month rotations at four of NRG’s retail electricity brands on different marketing- and strategy-focused projects.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-Chair, McCombs Ambassador Committee (MAC)
  • Co-President, MBA Soccer Club
  • Co-VP of Education, CleanTech Group
  • McCombs CleanTech Fellow, Motor
  • McCombs+ Consultant, Strategy&
  • Teaching Assistant, McCombs Marketing Department
  • Peer Career Coach, McCombs Career Management & Corporate Relations
  • McCombs Team Member, MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT)
  • Member, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was planning the Winter Classic, the national MBA soccer tournament that McCombs has hosted every spring since 1998. My Soccer Club co-presidents and I recruited teams across North America; collaborated with vendors, sponsors, and university staff; hired workers, referees, and athletic trainers; and managed our finances, operations, and communications. We were proud to have dramatically increased participation in our tournament compared to past years – our 2023 edition featured 43 teams with 610 players from 19 of the top U.S. and Mexico MBA programs traveling to Austin to play 102 total games and eat 1,000 breakfast tacos! The Winter Classic was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply learnings from my MBA courses – both the hard skills of business and the soft skills of leadership – and I couldn’t have done it without my co-presidents Jesse Buller, Nora Moriarty, Kevin Rodrigues, and Will Simmons. I’ve loved playing soccer with them and other classmates during my time at McCombs.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My summer internship project. NRG Energy is the country’s largest competitive electricity retailer in the 13 states (and D.C.), where you can choose who you get power from. The firm serves 5.9 million residential customer accounts across seven utility brands. Those brands were acquired, not organically developed, over the past 15 years – and thus each brand historically had their own way of doing things internally. NRG leadership has made significant strides to bring brands together and create cohesive culture, but there were still some key pieces missing. I’m fortunate to have been given the chance to create or standardize products’ business case metrics, project management tracking, execution punch lists, and post-launch performance reviews. My success was thanks to the help I received through countless stakeholder interviews across brands and functions, and I’m grateful to have been trusted with such a high-impact project.

Why did you choose this business school? Collaborative, friendly, and inclusive people! From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I felt truly seen and valued for who I was – and I’ve since made it my mission to pay that feeling forward to prospective, admitted, and current students through my role as McCombs Ambassador Committee co-chair. Our smaller class size lends itself to a tight-knit community, and I’m proud to have had meaningful moments, conversations, and experiences with virtually all of my 219 classmates over these past two years. McHomies, as we affectionately call each other, go out of their way to help each other, be it lending a listening ear, teaching a complex concept, or even sharing interview questions for the same internship that you’re both applying for. And while I like to lead with our people for my “why McCombs” answer, we also have top-notch academic and career outcomes, facilitated by a prestigious public research university and an exciting city of culture and innovation.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Mike Peterson. We’ve gotten to know each other in two radically different settings: first in Chile’s Patagonia wilderness when backpacking during a week-long leadership development course, and then in the classroom when taking his New Venture Creation course. We grew very close by cooking our meals and sharing our tent together, and I learned a lot from his gentle, considerate character. And now in my final semester at McCombs, Mike is sharing his lessons from the corporate and startup worlds to galvanize me and my classmates to stock our entrepreneurial toolkits. Mike gives his students the space and support to learn and grow through experiential learning, especially the navigation of uncertain terrain (both literally and metaphorically) – and I’m forever indebted to him for that.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Financial Statement Analysis. Yes, it’s the go-to answer for what the quintessential McCombs course is, but FSA is nevertheless an insanely compelling and worthwhile experience. While the subject matter might seem wonky and quantitative, it is just the opposite: FSA, as taught by the brilliant Patrick Badolato, is actually a critical reading and thinking course that empowers you to challenge the conventional wisdom of financial metrics. Prof. Badolato taught us that cash flows do not drive value on their own – rather, they are how we measure or count value. Thus, by analyzing the actual value created by companies, you can strengthen your knowledge of business fundamentals to create sustainable competitive advantage. I promise you’ll never look at EBITDA the same way after taking FSA!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Football tailgates! Our MBA Program Office graciously hosts tailgates for four of the seven home football games every year, and It’s fun to revel in school spirit with students, faculty, and staff. This past season was especially sweet because Texas won its conference championship and played in the College Football Playoff! Some of my fondest McCombs memories are attending home football games with my classmates, along with traveling with them to Tuscaloosa for Texas’ upset of Alabama and to Dallas for the Big 12 title game. I’ve also loved cheering on other Texas sports, including women’s volleyball (back-to-back national champions!) and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I’ve taken full advantage of the cheap student tickets at UT!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Take it easier. Given my nontraditional background, I was eager to maximize every academic and professional opportunity to pull off the “perfect” career pivot (if such a thing is even possible). This manifested itself through getting involved with lots of student organizations and part-time internships or projects. They taught me a ton, and I’m glad to have gone through them all. But getting that involved certainly came with tradeoffs and costs, especially in the work-life balance and self-care/wellness departments. I did get better at prioritizing and learning how to say no, though, which are lessons that all high-achieving MBAs should strive to apply. Nevertheless, it’s called a full-time MBA program for a reason, and I am blessed to have been fundamentally transformed both professionally and personally by this immersive experience.

What surprised you the most about business school? How much I would like business! This might seem like a silly answer, but for someone whose professional worldview was previously dominated by politics and policy, I never thought that I would gravitate toward the private sector. Furthermore, I used to shun numbers and anything remotely quantitative-related, but now I embrace them. In the words of Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash rules everything around me”. While this is true about our socioeconomic system, for better and for worse, I’m absolutely glad that I understand it much better and want to make a positive impact in my new career.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lori Romero. She’s the perfect example of a McCombs MBA who’s done everything – all while expressing incredible empathy, grace, and humility. Lori is a Consortium Fellow and a Forté Fellow, and was elected co-president of Graduate Women in Business (GWIB), which is McCombs’ largest and arguably most prestigious club. Lori also held a leadership role with the Latin American & Hispanic MBA Association (LAHMBA). And now in her second year, she has shown incredible resiliency by becoming a new mom to the beautiful Antonia. Lori inspires and uplifts those around her!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Learn and contribute! Seriously. I am so excited for my upcoming rotational program at NRG because it’ll basically be a second MBA – this one focused on marketing and strategy. I still have a lot to learn as a new businessperson, and my success thus far has been because of the people around me. I want to absorb as much information as possible so I can be in the best position possible to contribute to my team in whatever way I can. I am very open to seeing where my career takes me, and I am eternally thankful to McCombs for perfectly preparing me for this next stage of my life.

What made Colby such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“Colby Bermel approaches all he does at McCombs with depth, high standards and community-driven leadership. Whether it’s in the classroom, on a trip to Patagonia, welcoming prospective students or serving various organizations, Colby consistently demonstrates exceptional consideration, awareness, and willingness to assist his peers.

As one classmate characterizes his contributions: “He exemplifies the heart, sharpness, and wit of the grad students at McCombs. His selfless nature is like no other, consistently prioritizing the comfort of others before his own, and his ability to connect with others on a personal level, allowed many MBA friends feel welcomed and accepted in the program.”

Colby is a true leader with a diverse range of involvements across the McCombs MBA program. As MAC Co-Chair, he manages 90 student admissions ambassadors, spearheading admissions events and outreach efforts. As CleanTech VP of Education, Colby develops and teaches curriculum for first-years, organizes field trips to energy sites, and coordinates guest speakers and workshops in the cleantech space. His commitment to sustainability extends further as a CleanTech Fellow, where he worked for a clean tech industry company during his first year and participated in McCombs’ impact investing team, MIINT. On the sports front, Colby showcases his organizational prowess as Co-President of the McCombs Soccer Club, orchestrating the successful execution of the national spring soccer tournament, the Winter Classic 2023, which saw a record turnout of 600+ players from 19 schools across North America!

According to Financial Statement Analysis professor, Patrick Badolato: “It seemed clear that Colby excelled at listening. He would often pause class, offering a chance to break down points or pull together what was said. Most impressive is that given our discussion-based format, Colby’s synthesis was commonly integrating a handful of his classmates’ points, with some of mine and the class material as well. Colby’s ability to actively listen and offer perceptive questions and insights was exceptionally valuable to all of us in the room, exemplifying Steve Job’s ‘be a yardstick of quality.’”

Colby’s selflessness, kindness, and genuine sincerity make him a cherished friend and valued member of the McCombs community. His unwavering commitment to excellence and community building truly embody the spirit of leadership and service at McCombs.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean, Fulltime MBA Program
McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin


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