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Countdown to Commencement: Meet Undergraduate Sam Gill

As part of Scheller’s Countdown to Commencement series, we interviewed a few soon-to-be graduates from our Undergraduate program to learn about them. Meet Sam Gill.
Sam Gill, Georgia Tech Scheller Class of 2021

Sam Gill, Georgia Tech Scheller Class of 2021

As part of the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business Countdown to Commencement series, we interviewed a few soon-to-be graduates from our Undergraduate program to learn about their backgrounds, why they chose Scheller, and what they plan to do after the Spring 2021 commencement.

Meet Sam Gill, who is graduating with a concentration in information technology management with a minor in computer science.

Where are you from?

Woodstock, Georgia.

Where did you attend high school?

Woodstock High School.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? 

The greatest lesson I have learned over my four years in business school all relate to business being what’s known as an infinite game in game theory. In finite games, there are known players, fixed rules, pre-determined objectives, and the game eventually ends. Infinite games differ in that players can be known or unknown, rules are not agreed upon, objectives fluctuate, and the game does not terminate. I have always approached business as one would if they were the character in a movie—beat competitors and become the best. The more I learned and the more experience I gained, it became apparent that business is, in fact, a game (and it’s an infinite one). This changed my whole outlook. I no longer had competitors, but rivals that improve my performance and are unbeatable, at least not in any final sense. 

My strategy had to take the long view because I would fail if I applied the same approach to episodic, finite games as I did to infinite games. Relationships, resilience, quality, and diversification all became orders of magnitude more important, since they all play out on large timescales. Recognizing that business was a game also took some of the pressure off, because creatively breaking the rules or attempting what has never been done before was necessary to the perpetuation of the game rather than a risk too great to bear. This has applications to many areas of life and the analogy now permeates my thinking. You don’t win in marriage; you don’t win in politics; you don’t win in education, which seems intuitive, but my actions were not in accordance with that intuition. The subject-in-school perspective was what allowed me to study the pattern that eventually had broad application to my life.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? 

My advice to anyone considering business as a career would be to explore until landing on “work” that you find yourself coming back to again and again. I believe your youth and time in college should be for broad exploration with as little narrowing as possible—like a brainstorming session. Scheller in my opinion, does a great job at this breadth-first search through the core curriculum, which runs the gamut of business-field possibilities. If you find that to not be enough, you can super-charge your exploration by taking online courses, reading books, and following news stories related to business. The more you invest in that journey, the more closely related your satisfaction will be to your success. The way I see it, saying “no” is for when you have wisdom, which is the product of knowledge and experience, so say “yes” as often as you can until the wisdom gained from experience tells you otherwise. 

As a business student in the heart of Tech Square, how do you think Scheller College embodies the intersection of business and technology? 

I have always seen Scheller as the gateway of Georgia Tech’s main campus to the greater Atlanta area. No college is better at fostering and maintaining relationships with companies, research centers, and entrepreneurship hubs in Atlanta than the Scheller College of Business. As business students, there are a wealth of opportunities for us to become Swiss army knives in our prospective career fields. Today, professionals cannot simply understand finance, supply chain, human resources, accounting, or other core functions, they must also have a deep familiarity with how technology enables every single aspect of business.

My major area of study informed my minor studies in computer science, serving as my guiding light as I began to understand the fundamentals of computing and bleeding edge technologies alike. Courses such as Database Management (MGT 4058) and System Analysis & Design (MGT 4052) incorporate real-world projects and College partnerships by inviting industry experts as guest lecturers, which not only provides context for the course content but facilitates work experience opportunities through networking.

What was your favorite business course?

By far, my favorite business class taken at Georgia Tech was Marketing Management I (MGT 3300) with Dr. Michael Lowe. The atmosphere was electric in Dr. Lowe's classroom. Marketing, as I would soon learn, is truly a composite of a multitude of disciplines—from design to psychology to economics to data analysis—and is best taught by passionate individuals that mirror the multi-dimensionality of the subject itself. Those individuals, like Dr. Lowe, are among the faculty at Scheller. I have shown people across the world the videos of the famous “marketing raps” that Dr. Lowe is known for, and it blows them away as much as it did me how engaging a professor could be.

To this day, I think about and apply what I learned in that class to my professional work. Professors and courses like Dr. Lowe’s make me proud I chose the major area of study I did, and I am certain they have had an impact on the professional success I have already experienced before even leaving college.

Who is your favorite professor?

It may be apparent from my response to my favorite business course, but my favorite professor is also Dr. Michael Lowe. Being a non-STEM major at a predominantly engineering school comes with benefits and drawbacks. At times, it’s easy to feel an acute sense of imposter syndrome among peers within “harder” disciplines. Dr. Lowe is one of the professors that has what might be considered an unusual academic history, with an undergraduate degree in music, a master’s in marketing, and a doctorate in business administration. What’s more, he incorporates that entire history beautifully into “marketing raps,” wide-ranging required readings from economics to psychology, and does his best to deconstruct the monotony of a traditional academic format.

Add that to his approachable, knowledgeable, energetic, “fun dad” demeanor and that’s surely a recipe for a favorite professor experience. He models how to radically own your trajectory with style and charisma. Few classes have organically pushed me so hard, or rather, naturally caused me to test my personal limits, and that can be wholly attributed to Dr. Lowe’s ability to capture his student audience. His class became a source of pride that replaced the narrative in my head that non-STEM areas of study were second-class. Over six months after his course ended for me, I reached out to him to recommend a book I loved and thought would fit perfectly into his class, after remembering that he was always open to suggestions, and to my surprise he included the book in the readings for the upcoming semester! That goes beyond learning outcomes; that is channeling the passion of students to improve a course that is already outstanding.That is the gold standard in my opinion.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business at Scheller College?

The culture! Friends of mine do not speak about their respective colleges like I speak about Scheller. There is such camaraderie within the College. The students and faculty are welcoming, and the beautiful building breeds positivity. I have never thought very romantically about institutions, even ones I care deeply about like the Institute. My focus is on people. After my first few semesters at Tech, I thought that all students had the experience of walking into small-to-medium sized classrooms to see familiar faces and welcoming smiles from new ones. I thought all students had the experience of putting up name tents and having people come up and introduce themselves. As my network of friends grew and I took classes outside of Scheller, I learned that was not the norm on campus. It took a fair amount of effort to recreate those environments, but I am so thankful that I had a blueprint for doing so.

What are some of your extracurricular activities, community work, and leadership roles during college?

First-Year Activities Board member and sophomore advisor, public relations committee of For the Kids, IFC programming committee (sexual violence awareness), Wreck Techs residential technology advisor and current lead staff advisor, FASET student orientation leader, Wreck Camp extended orientation counselor, Georgia Tech Student Ambassador, member of Executive Round Table, annual Tech Beatification Day volunteer, annual MLK Jr. Day of Service volunteer, overnight volunteer at Atlanta’s Central Night Shelter.

Cribbs Scholars Award (for evidence-based entrepreneurship), Georgia Tech Alumni Association Board of Trustees panelist, Outstanding Leader Award nominee (within the Scheller College of Business), and Dean’s List distinction all semesters of college.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of?

I am not sure if this is exactly what is meant by “achievement,” but a moment of pride most salient in my mind is when I went on exchange to Italy the fall semester of my third year. Before I left the States, my family life was in turmoil when my parents filed for divorced. My disintegrating concept of “home” made me want to put space between myself and the situation, but I was terrified to be 5,000 miles from all I have ever known.

I landed in Milan, after a day of travel, with no directions to my soon-to-be residence and no cell phone data plan. Several hours later, I had managed to travel with my one huge suitcase the nearly forty miles from the airport to my residence hall by train, tram, and my own two feet. How did I manage to navigate there? Based solely on the kindness of strangers that could understand my broken Duolingo-taught Italian or spoke English. This set the tone for the next four months. I knew that if I kept my wits about me, talked to friendly strangers, and picked up the languages of the places I travelled that I would be okay. By the end of that semester, I had visited nine countries, inside and outside of the European Union, both in groups and solo (all without a cell phone plan—because I had already had so much fun without one!). That experience instilled in me the confidence to be able to go anywhere in the world and create my own sense of “home.”

Where have you interned during your college career?

I interned at OneTrust LLC., a late-stage startup in privacy, security, and governance sectors as an enterprise implementation consultant within professional services. During my time at the firm, I worked on a brand-new team to develop a new third-party risk offering and did everything I could get my hands on, including product pipeline management, competitive research, data analysis, technical documentation, enterprise client implementations, and partner onboarding. The diversity of my skill set because of my education made me a valuable contributor in only a couple weeks.

My second internship experience was at NCR Corporation as a technical consultant within the hospitality industry of professional services. Again, my role grew to a boundary-spanning position as my ability was revealed through customer interactions. By the end of my interning summer, I had clients and implementations I owned end-to-end, along with customer innovation proposals that enhanced our suite of tools for restaurants that garnered company-wide recognition. This work opened the opportunity to help found a team within professional services to lead innovation, extended my internship into the following two semesters (part-time), and landed me a full-time offer after graduation.

Where will you be working after graduation?

I will be working just a stone’s throw away from Scheller at NCR’s global headquarters as an associate business consultant in the restaurant transformation practice of professional services.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? 

If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to be more diligent about maintaining relationships with professors. While in their classes, I was a frequent visitor during office hours, but after the class ended, I allowed the busyness of Tech to justify the atrophy of those relationships. My idea of a mentor was constrained to someone in my desired field, a part of industry, and not someone academic, because I didn’t see myself staying in academia. In retrospect, my mentors were never carbon copies of the person or professional I wanted to be in the future, they were people with important lessons to teach me. I know now that professors that inspire me, push me, and grow me are the ones I should take with me into my future.

Which classmate do you most admire?

I am fortunate to know so many outstanding individuals worthy of my admiration, but who comes to mind first is a fellow computer science student by the name of Zach Minot. Each new class of undergraduates has consistently blown me away, and Zach stands out among even that crowd. I have been in recitations with him while he furiously programs for a company “on the side” in an all text-based code editor (a difficult skill to master in and of itself) while correctly fielding questions from me about the recitation content. He plays board games for several hours with a large group of friends and maintains a thriving social life. He has always respected my observance of academic integrity and would help me understand my classwork through a series of Socratic questioning and multiple scratch pages. He is good enough at basketball to actually give me a run for my money. He has taken online summer classes, completely unaffiliated with credit towards his degree to “prepare” for a class he’s taking the following semester. He holds chair positions in organizations he’s a part of. He plays instruments, including those not considered mainstream because the sound is “more interesting.” Amazingly, he does all this without an arrogant bone in his body and without ever having gloated about his professional success. I aspire to live life as holistically and humbly as Zach does.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?

As I’ve said previously, life is a team sport, so there is a whole group of people who have supported me throughout my journey. However, if I had to choose one person in this world I would want to thank for my success, it would be my mom. She taught me when to speak and when to listen (my reward for conflating the two was a spoonful of Tabasco). She read to me when I was growing up because I was a slow reader and it made me feel dumb. She helped me navigate the emotion of love, my first relationship, and all those that followed. She sat next to me as I anxiously reloaded the college decision page for Tech and cheered me on when I got accepted.

She encouraged me when the weight of classes, extracurriculars, a social life, and world events seemed too great to bear alone. She held me to my standard of excellence, which she always knew was the highest expectation there was. She always made me take pictures, which I don’t normally like to do, to record my life knowing the day would come when even my most important memories would be difficult to recall. She showed me how to be resilience in the face of death and divorce. She made a million little unseen sacrifices for me all my life to ensure I could chase my dreams, and for that I can never express my gratitude enough. So, she’s owed far more than thanks for success, to say the least.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? 

These are easy, I think about them often: to lead an internationally distributed team and found a company.

What are your hobbies? 

While most of Atlanta was shut down, I visited my uncle who lives in rural Georgia to learn how to ride a motorcycle. That took up most weekends my fall semester, and I got my license before the end of the year. Now I ride about every other day. I love to read multiple books at a time, on rotation, before I go to sleep. After I passed my license test, a friend gifted me “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig, which I read over winter break and found brilliant. Currently, I’m working through three books, but my favorite among them is “Think on These Things” by Jiddu Krishnamurti. I am also fascinated by sleep’s relationship to happiness and well-being, so recently I created a program that adds my nightly Fitbit sleep data into a Google Sheet where I add my subjective happiness score between negative 2 and positive 2. As it turns out, a few minutes more than 8.5 hours of sleep is most correlated with my subjective happiness! Lastly, I enjoy creative writing, so in true writer fashion, a friend of mine and I booked a month-long stay this summer at a little cabin in the middle of a Montana wildlife reserve to focus on creation.

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