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Yolanda Gant of Equifiax earned her Executive MBA-Global Business in 2007.
Yolanda Gant of Equifiax earned her Executive MBA-Global Business in 2007.

Executive MBA Profile: Degree Proved Key to Career Change for Yolanda Upshaw

Yolanda Upshaw works for Equifax as a process improvement leader, a job that involves looking for efficiencies and opportunities for continuous improvement. Prior to joining the Atlanta-based consumer credit reporting agency, the Windsor, Conn., native embarked on another improvement project — herself.

In 2005, some 14 years removed from undergraduate school, she enrolled in the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at the Scheller College of Business because "I wanted to enhance the skills I already had. 

"Up until then, I pretty much relied solely on the culture within the company for idea generation," explains Upshaw, who earned her MBA-Global Business in 2008. "After going through the degree program, I have a much broader viewpoint as well as the confidence that has helped me advance in my career."

At Equifax, Upshaw is responsible for the execution and management of process and business-excellence initiatives utilizing Lean, Work-Out, Six Sigma and similar methodologies. She also engages cross-functional project teams to evaluate business opportunities and determine the key initiatives that will provide greater productivity and increased growth. In addition, she facilitates problem-solving events designed to increase revenue, efficiency, quality, customer satisfaction and optimize cycle times.

Attending Georgia Tech was itself a personal accomplishment, according to Upshaw.

"I had always wanted to go to Georgia Tech, even for my undergraduate degree, but I think I was probably a little intimidated by Tech's name and reputation," she laughs. "I wasn't sure if I could even get in, so naturally I was elated to be accepted into the EMBA program. There was no other option for me. I was interested in no other program than Tech's."

A 1991 graduate of Clemson University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in industrial management, Upshaw spent the next four years at United Technologies-Pratt & Whitney working as a value-stream quality manager. Next, she was a manufacturing engineering manager with BMW for nearly 10 years, and helped launch the company's manufacturing plant in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.

Upshaw credits her EMBA degree with smoothing her career transition from manufacturing to a service business.

"There were 48 of us in my class, so I got to work and collaborate on projects with people who had completely different backgrounds from one another — it was great," she says. "That experience gave me confidence that I could work across different types of organizations and not simply be confined to working in a manufacturing environment."

Her "late" start into graduate school proved to be perfect timing.

"My real-world work experience and the discipline that comes with it helped me to do well," she says, and also put her in a position to help some of her younger classmates keep things in perspective. "Those of us who had been out of school for some time would calm them down when they'd get stressed or frustrated about grades and explain that understanding the material is more important. If you know the material, the grades will take care of themselves."

As an alumni ambassador, Upshaw is still imparting the lessons of her academic journey.

"We reach out to prospective students and serve as a touch point to answer any questions or concerns they may have about the EMBA program," she explains. "The EMBA has done so much for me that I want to share the experience with people who are at a turning point in their lives and who are trying to make a decision about which graduate business degree program to choose. The EMBA at the Scheller College is among the best, and it continues to get even better."


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