Rachel Wiseley is a Triple Jacket from Georgia Tech, a title she holds so assuredly that at times she forgets the doubts and confusion that trailed close behind in the wake of her first degree—a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics. Back in 2014, teaching seemed a natural next step, but based on her mother’s decades-long tenure in the classroom, Wiseley knew that wasn’t a fit.
She took a job at Synovus Bank in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia. Her manager came from a larger bank, and he was thrilled to teach new hires the importance of analytics. A thick textbook about analytics, data science, and modeling techniques soon made its way to Wiseley’s desk. After meeting with business stakeholders, her manager requested Wiseley find and use data to build models and solve corporate-sized problems.
Wiseley often didn’t know where to begin. She said, “I was like, cool, but we don't have that data. Where does that data live? I kept finding myself in this gap where I didn't have the business acumen to speak the language needed to solve complex problems. I recognized I needed to be able to speak both the technical and business languages to be in those meetings and provide real value.”
Finding the Right Fit: Business or Analytics?
Graduate school was calling. But after two years of work experience, Wiseley struggled to find a program that fit just right. Her search expanded nationally. Every program she looked at was either analytics-focused or business-focused; there didn’t appear to be any way to get exposure to both.
Wiseley applied to both the Full-time MBA and Master of Science in Analytics programs at Georgia Tech. After getting accepted to both, Wiseley felt even more torn. Two conversations with two Georgia Tech women on opposite sides of campus influenced her next steps.
Beverly Wright ran what is now called the Business Analytics Center at Georgia Tech and understood Wiseley’s blossoming passion for data and drive to know more of the why behind the numbers. Wiseley told her, “I sit in a cube at Synovus and code. I just type, type, type all day long, and that is not what I want to do long-term. I want to be the person talking to businesses and translating their data needs back to the team that’s coding.” Wright encouraged her to get her MBA.
Wiseley then connected with second-year Georgia Tech MBA ambassador, Victoria Morich. After graduation, Morich was going to work in Atlanta for Slalom, a business consulting firm. Their quick friendship helped solidify Wiseley’s plan to pursue her MBA.
A few months later, Wiseley answered a call from Wright who was walking between meetings in Midtown. Over the background noise of people and traffic, Wright told Wiseley, “I don't know if you've heard, but they're opening a dual degree with the analytics program. If you want to do both, go do both.”
Without realizing it, the dual degree was exactly what Wiseley had been waiting for, and she jumped at the chance. “I wanted more business,” she said. “I had been doing some of the technical parts, but I didn't know why I was doing them. I was being told to do step one, then step two, and then step three. But why do I do step three? And why does it need to come after step two? I needed the reasoning and logic behind it.”
Wiseley entered Georgia Tech’s MBA and M.S. Analytics dual degree program in 2016. She made her mark, starring as a TA in new online videos for a Python class, forming a close network of friendships in her MBA cohort, serving as the Business Analytics Club president, interning at Home Depot, and telling her career advisor she did not want to do consulting.
Where Is She Now?
In October of her second year, Wiseley went with a friend to Slalom’s info session. They were hiring for data and analytics, and Wiseley was excited to reconnect with Victoria Morich who was now working there full-time. That evening, she also met one of the leads for Slalom’s data analytics practice.
Wiseley didn’t go to the info session prepared to interview with them. So, when the data analytics lead asked for her card and insisted he would follow up with an interview, Wiseley scrambled up to her business school locker to grab one. By December, she had a job offer from Slalom, perhaps surprising no one but herself when she went to work for a consulting firm after graduating the following spring 2018.
Wiseley continues to work at Slalom as a principal consultant. She’s grateful for the strong company culture that exists, one that encourages authenticity, humility, curiosity, and an entrepreneurial spirit. She sees the way her dual degree from Georgia Tech continues to impact her career.
“I get to know and work with my clients on-site in Atlanta. I love that conversation where you’ve got a technical person and you’ve got a businessperson,” she said. “Neither one of them speaks the other person’s language. I get to come in and be that translator, be the person that helps figure out what the missing puzzle piece is.”
Wiseley is on the cusp of her next step at Slalom, a decision that reminds her of the crossroads she was at seven years ago. Her next role can take her down a more technical route, or she can pursue business development. Before beginning her dual degree, Wiseley was beginning to envision what she wanted. Today, she takes counsel from what she has already learned.
“Seven years ago, when I started looking at MBA programs, I wanted to be the person managing a team of data scientists, talking to businesses and guiding both on how to be successful,” Wiseley shared. Today, she’s re-seeing it all with more experienced eyes, understanding that her strengths and passion allow her to walk most confidently where the two paths converge into one.
Note: This piece was originally published November 1, 2023 on the Forté Foundation blog.