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Success Story

Ashley Vanderpoel, 2007 MBA Alumna
Ashley Vanderpoel, 2007 MBA Alumna

For Ashley Vanderpoel, MBA is Key to Global Positive Impact

Ashley Vanderpoel's initial encounter with the MBA curriculum at Scheller College of Business was a marked contrast to her undergraduate studies in communications and Spanish.

"I thought, ‘Whoa! Numbers!’" she laughs, recalling her first class, statistics. "But actually, that was one of the reasons I decided to get an MBA," she says. "I wanted to do more quantitative work, so I knew that I needed to build up skills in those areas." 

Since March 2014, the 2007 alumna has worked in the Global Sustainability Marketing Group at The Coca-Cola Company’s Atlanta headquarters. She is responsible for the company’s global social media activities supporting its hundreds of sustainability initiatives, a role in the intersection of new technology, marketing, and causes within the most recognizable brand in the world.

"We have what we call three pillars," she explains. "One centers on healthy, active-living programs that promote health and well-being. The second pillar addresses empowerment of women and communities. For example, our '5by20' program is aimed at empowering five million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020. The third pillar encompasses our sustainability efforts on issues such as water replenishment, water access, sustainable packaging, sustainable agriculture and climate programs. This balanced approach helps us simultaneously address individuals, communities, and the planet as a whole."

On any given day, Vanderpoel’s job can pull her into work with leading global foundations and non-profits, product development teams for Facebook and Twitter, and innovative creative agencies. “I am incredibly fortunate to do what I do,” she says. Maybe so, but fortune favors the prepared, and that’s where Georgia Tech’s Scheller College enters Vanderpoel’s story.

After graduating from Wake Forest University in 1999, Vanderpoel moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in consulting. She began in product development and product marketing with two of the Big Five consulting firms, but projects implementing the ideas of others left her wanting to swim upstream.

I wanted to do something a lot more strategic, so I began thinking about different ways of getting to that. The most efficient path was to go back to school and round out my skill set by getting an MBA.
— Ashley Vanderpoel

Scheller College was an obvious choice, not only because of its proximity, but a Tech education offered the marketing specialist the quantitative muscle she wanted, "to make myself the type of consultant I really wanted to be."

Two aspects of the MBA program that particularly appealed to her were its relatively small size and the collegiality it fostered.

"You have the opportunity to get to know the faculty as well as the other students," says Vanderpoel. "You get to know people who will offer advice or answer questions if you ask. Even after graduation networking with former classmates or with those who were a year ahead or behind you in school, everyone seems very open.

"I have friends who went to other places for their MBAs, and their experiences sound a lot more cutthroat and competitive than mine. I'm not saying we were all best friends at Tech, but you looked forward to helping people out."

Graduate degree in hand, Vanderpoel was recruited from the MBA program by a boutique consulting firm in 2007, and launched into a career of marketing and communications strategy work that took her to three continents for a who’s-who of brands.

When Coca-Cola’s chief sustainability officer’s team pursued her for a social media marketing position Vanderpoel was ready for a new opportunity in a different environment – one where she jokingly refers to herself as a "reformed consultant."

Her determination that things go better with Coke was tied to the nature of the job itself.

"I thought the position was absolutely fascinating," she says. "When you're on the consulting side of things, you might have a month to six months with a client and you can maybe make a difference, but once you leave they might take your ideas and put them on a shelf.

"It was very compelling to be a part of a company our size with the footprint we have — Coke is sold in 207 countries — and to have the opportunity to work on something I can own from initial concept all the way to the a positive impact that our programs have on so many people around the world."


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