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Georgia Tech Full-time MBA alumna Abby Brenller
Georgia Tech Full-time MBA alumna Abby Brenller

Abby Brenller Named a Poets&Quants 2021 MBA to Watch

“A chocolate-loving foodie who loves dogs, the outdoors, and nerding out over business strategy.”

Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.

Fun fact about yourself: I met my now-husband while both of us were serving in the Peace Corps and I had pneumonia, ringworm, and parasites. Thankfully it’s been mostly uphill since then!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Saint Vincent College

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was the sales and marketing coordinator for Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, an Atlanta-based craft chocolate maker focused on ethical trade and sustainable business.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Even though I lost my original internship in the travel industry due to Covid-19, I ended up loving my summer experience as a digital sales strategy intern at Westlake Plastics.  The opportunity to be exposed to a completely new industry and work with an incredibly supportive team and great boss (a Ross MBA alumnus) is one that I’m very thankful for!

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m excited to be joining Bain & Company in Atlanta as a consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* As vice president of internal affairs & student readiness for the MBA Consulting Club I helped first and second years learn how to exceed in interviews and networking sessions.  It has been so fulfilling to see many of the students I worked with start to receive and accept offers they’re excited about!

* I also serve on the Peer Leadership Committee, where I work with two other second-year MBA students, and we organize opportunities for students at Scheller to make meaningful connections with each other.  We run a mentor/mentee program and have hosted small events to safely connect students during COVID-19, such as small group picnics, a virtual speaker series, and socially-distanced scavenger-hunt type challenges that help new students get to know Atlanta.

* Since my admissions experience had such a big impact on my decision to come to Scheller, I wanted to pay it forward by volunteering as an admissions ambassador.  I attend admissions events to meet prospective students, connect with new admits before and after their interviews, and try to be an overall welcoming face in a time that I know is stressful. As a second-year ambassador, I also get to help conduct admissions interviews.

* I’m a graduate research assistant (GRA) for the Marketing Department. This means that, in addition to doing TA tasks, I plan for and implement large departmental events like our annual Marketing Innovation Conference @ Scheller and our first ever public case competition, tentatively scheduled for fall 2021.

* This past summer, I worked on a pro-bono project with Farmer-to-Farmer where I helped advise a Peruvian chocolate maker on wholesale strategies and potential sales pivots now that the tourism economy has experienced major disruptions.

* I love that Georgia Tech offers graduate students the opportunity to participate in activities across campus, and one of my favorites is a leadership development program called LEAD.  My first semester, I worked on my own leadership skills as a “coachee”, and I’ve since become a leadership coach for undergraduate students.

* I’ve worked on multiple case competitions with my classmates over the past two years.  We’ve been national finalists with AB InBev, Patagonia, and Goodyear (in progress!) and we won 2nd place in both Mars’ sustainability competition and in Honeywell’s operations strategy competition.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? When I signed up to help lead our Peer Leadership Committee (PLC), we didn’t know just how much COVID-19 was getting ready to impact the student experience. Along with my teammates, Michelle Rosenbaum and Ian Gresov, we had to completely pivot from the large, in-person events PLC was known for to a model that would keep our students and faculty healthy while allowing people to really connect with each other. It has been a huge challenge and there are certainly ways in which we’re still seeking to improve. However, hearing from so many students about how we’ve helped to strengthen the community and make people feel supported during an already challenging transition makes all of the work so worthwhile.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In two of the three years I spent working with the Peace Corps in Panamá, I was assigned to teach micro-entrepreneurship and business skills to cocoa farmers in a rural, indigenous village. As a side project, I started a women’s baking club in which we’d look at costs, pricing, and potential sales while we waited for our home-made treats to bake. One of the mothers I worked with in that club started using the recipes and business skills we worked on to sell baked goods to neighboring communities. Almost two years later, she told me that she was able to go back to school and work towards a college degree with some of the extra money she earned from baking! While it may not be the largest quantifiable accomplishment, it’s been the greatest joy for me to truly invest in individuals and hear that I had a positive impact in their lives.

Why did you choose this business school? Choosing a business school felt really daunting at the beginning; However, the choice became so clear to me that by the end of my year-long search; I only applied to Scheller. It was important to me that I find a program that could both help me reach my professional goals and provide me with a supportive network where I could get plugged in and feel a sense of community. A big sign that Scheller would be that place for me was that someone, either a faculty member or current student, always remembered me when I came to one of the school’s events.  I felt like I had a support system before I even enrolled there, and I can say wholeheartedly that Scheller has fully delivered on that!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is marketing professor Tim Halloran.  His core marketing class was one of my favorites because of the energy, experience, and enthusiasm he brought to the classroom; it really reminded me of why I love marketing in the first place. He’s constantly looking for more ways in which he can help his students succeed academically and professionally. I got to see that first-hand as his GRA over the past two years. Before going through our big goals and tasks each semester, he always started by asking what my personal professional goals were and how he could help me get there, and I think that’s really special.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? We really lean into the “nerdy” stereotype and do a 3.14-mile weekly run called the “Pi Mile.” It’s such a fun way to stay active and catch up with friends, and we always end by getting Waffle House for breakfast!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I’m surprising even myself with this answer, but there’s not a single thing I’d do differently with my MBA experience, and I owe a lot of that to the eco-system here at Scheller. I knew coming into the program that I really wanted to be excited about my post-MBA career and that I also really wanted to develop deep and meaningful friendships over these two years.

On the career side, I worked really hard and recruited broadly during my first year which helped me immensely in my career search.  Thankfully, there were so many amazing classmates who were there to help along the way and I always tried to offer that same type of support and friendship to others as well.

What is the biggest myth about your school? There are two that I really want to dispel:Georgia Tech is just an engineering/tech school and that it will be hard for you as an MBA student to succeed if you don’t go to an M7.  While we do attract plenty of engineers, there’s an incredible amount of professional diversity within my class that truly benefits all of us.  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.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most was that business school could be so supportive! I was afraid that a program full of high achievers would feel cutthroat and competitive, and that has been anything but my experience at Scheller. My classmates get up early and stay up late helping each other prep for last-minute interviews, case prep with each other for hours on end, and even hand-make birthday cards for each other!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? It was really important to me that I find a good cultural fit, so I visited Scheller at every opportunity I had. By the time I finally applied for round one in the fall of 2018, I had been engaging with students and staff for nearly a year through info sessions, speaker events, and open houses. Something that really stood out to me was that either a student or faculty member remembered me every single time I came back. I loved that I started to feel like I had a community at Scheller before I was even a student, and I definitely took advantage of that to get students’ perspectives and advice pre-interview.  While we joke that I had worn everyone out by the time I finally enrolled, I believe it was clear to everyone involved that I really loved the program and was excited to contribute as a future student.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many smart, kind people in my class, so it’s really hard to choose! That said, I really admire Christine Scott. I remember getting to know her the first few weeks of school and thinking, “Dang, that girl is focused!” She’s always had a very clear career path and is one of the hardest-working people in our class. In addition to her professional success, she also gives back to other students through leadership roles in Women in Business and the Operations Club.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? To be honest, it was really challenging, especially when I lost my original summer internship due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economic environment. While this certainly wasn’t the environment that any of us wanted, it became really important for me to both remember how privileged we are to have the opportunity to pursue higher education, particularly now. It was also a reminder that this is also what companies around the world are dealing with.  The skills that we’re learning now about how to adapt to and excel in an online environment are skills that will help us continue to excel in our new professional roles.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It would be my undergraduate marketing professor and personal mentor, Dr. Dawn Edmiston.  She’s an incredible marketer who earned her MBA from Columbia Business School and she’s one of those people who makes everyone feel like they’re her most important priority when she’s talking to you.  I truly admire how she’s been able to grow in her career while consistently building others up along the way, and that’s exactly the type of life and career I aspire to.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I believe strongly in working towards big “bucket list” goals with small actions along the way. Long term, I’d love to be leading international teams on projects outside the United States and eventually end my career by doing pro-bono work full-time for organizations I believe in. Until I get there, though, I’m looking forward to building in small opportunities to coach and mentor young professionals and taking on side projects with organizations like Farmer-to-Farmer that match professionals with organizations outside the US looking for consulting help on specific projects.

What made Abby such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“I remember sitting down to my initial advising appointment with Abby and being instantly struck by her warm smile and humble presence. As she has excelled here at Scheller, that aura of her personality has not changed one bit. She is an all-star because she cares about others (bringing in baked treats for the staff and helping her fellow Jackets in career prep and more), is focused and persistent about going after what she wants and has a heart of gold that constantly gives to the Scheller community. She has added so much to the program – whether it has been as one of the co-presidents of the Consulting Club, creating a Scheller MBA case competition for other schools to participate in, or through participating in the MBA Breakfast Running Club. I know she will bring that same spirit, care, and dedication to her future career at Bain, and I am excited to see her continued engagement with Scheller as an alumna.”

Dave Deiters
Executive Director, Jones MBA Career Center

“Abby Brenller is one of those rare students that combines a healthy dose of passion and a truly inquisitive mind. Abby is a student that I can count on to add significant value in the classroom – her work is flawless, her in-class participation is invaluable, and her passion is contagious. She is a natural born leader as shown by her management of our annual Georgia Tech marketing conference where she led numerous students to deliver an outstanding experience for participants. In short, Abby will be a tremendous asset wherever her career takes her. I’m honored to have been her instructor.”

Dr. Tim Halloran
Senior Lecturer, Marketing Area
Faculty Director, Executive MBA

“When the Admissions Committee met with Abby during the interview process, we knew immediately she was a top candidate who would make a terrific Scheller student. Abby has exceeded our expectations in every way. She has not only wowed the administration, but also her peers. She cares about her peers and her efforts have directly helped create a close-knit student body. Abby’s impact can be more fully understood by comments shared by her peers:

Abby came to Scheller to learn and that is demonstrated by her excellent academic performance, both at Scheller and across campus where she chooses to go above and beyond by pursuing her passions by enrolling in language and international courses. She is sought after for case competitions and projects because of her academic merit and collaboration skills.

Abby is involved in numerous activities at Scheller: putting on meaningful events through Peer Leadership Committee, mentoring numerous classmates through Leadership in Consulting, and being a member of several other campus organizations. Outside of Scheller, Abby serves her community and volunteers for Concrete Jungle to bring food to underserved communities. She never hesitates to drive across town to help a friend, most often bringing homemade baked goods to celebrate special moments and uplift others when they’re feeling down.

Abby Brenller is easily one of the most impressive women I’ve ever met. An absolute heart of gold, undaunted work ethic, and one of the sharpest minds combined in one. Even through ups and downs, she’s always graceful, thoughtful, and thinking about what’s next. I truly believe Abby is capable of anything, and I can’t wait to see all she accomplishes post-MBA.

Abby has the gift of making everyone feel welcome, of demonstrating that she is truly invested in hearing their life story and supporting them in personal and professional growth. She makes people feel cared for through meaningful conversations, the best darn baked goods I’ve ever had, and setting an example by leading her life with integrity and drive. She has done a lot of work for the Tech Consulting Club and marketing initiatives through her GRA. Additionally, Abby is a Sustainability Fellow. Several first years came to her for career advice, and as always, Abby was generous with her time as she coached them.

Abby is the embodiment of what you expect a Scheller MBA to be. In first meetings, I imagine one can perceive Abby to be another elite persona in the hyper-competitive MBA world. But as you begin to understand how she thinks about the world around her, you realize there is only space to draw strength from her. With an abundance of knowledge, a curiosity to learn ever more, and a calm logical decision process, Abby has performed with exception in every environment I’ve seen her in. Despite her ability to always be one of the best, she is never competing with you, only herself. There’s always one more objective to accomplish, one more mission to undertake, one more connection to make. And this is perhaps her greatest gift to give. As you are never in competition with her, every success she has is a success for you, every success you have, she wants to celebrate with you. She accepts who you are with a mindful serenity, and tactfully brings you along in her system of working, where you can grow however you desire. In a world where we are all striving to find the best in ourselves, Abby is one of those rare connections you make that you hope you never lose.

Scheller has been lucky to count Abby as an MBA student. When she leaves Scheller in May to join Bain, we will miss her tremendously. We have been so fortunate to have her dedication, energy, and enthusiasm in our program, but I anticipate we will see those same factors as a dedicated alumna.”

Katie Lloyd
Associate Dean, Full-time and Evening MBA Programs

 

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