2019 Best EMBAs: Rebecca J. Von Der Heide, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Rebecca J. Von Der Heide

Georgia Institute of Technology, Scheller College of Business, EMBA

Mom, Wife, Research Scientist, Neuroscientist, Pet Owner, Lifelong Learner, and Travel Lover.”

Age: 40

Hometown: Hopatcong, NJ

Family Members: My immediate family includes my husband, son, daughter, two adopted dogs, and a fish.

Fun fact about yourself: I have a Ph.D. in neuroscience and I frequently write papers and publish my research. One of my favorite topics has been studying how the brain develops and functions during the teenage years.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rutgers University, Bachelor of Arts, Psychology & German

Graduate School(s) and Degree(s):

2011, Ph.D./ 2008, MS, Penn State University – University Park, PA

Cognitive Psychology, Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

2005, MA, University of Massachusetts – North Dartmouth, MA

General Experimental Psychology

Where are you currently working? I recently accepted a new role as a Senior Research Scientist at Amazon.com, Inc. in Seattle, Washington. Most recently I was Research Director at Nielsen working with clients across numerous industries (CPG, Retail, Technology, Finance) to design global market research studies using a variety of research methods (EEG, Facial Coding, Eye Tracking, Biometrics, Surveys).

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I am a member of the Steering Committee for the Edison Awards and a corporate member and volunteer for the Network of Executive Women. I am also a member of the Society for Neuroscience and, since graduation, I have been serving as an Alumni Ambassador for Scheller College.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During business school, I was proud to be recognized and featured by the Edison Awards as one of the “Women Behind Innovation.”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A month before I graduated with my MBA, I had an opportunity to write and submit a business plan for a new service, the Nielsen Behavioral Sciences Institute. This service was recently launched by Nielsen and it has been amazing to see a great business idea that many people contributed their thought, time, and effort to come to life.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It would be impossible to choose one. The professors at Scheller College are all experts in their field and each brings their own unique style to teaching. My favorite things about the professors I had as a whole are that they are incredibly smart, energized by what they teach, and constantly challenged us to push ourselves and learn more.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Our Management of Technology (MOT) Capstone course was my favorite course. The biggest insight I gained is that I could push myself even harder than I thought was possible to achieve my personal business goals. As I completed the curriculum, I was able to narrow down a new product idea that I am passionate about and I plan to bring market one day. This would not have been possible without the MOT Capstone course.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I am a busy mom, working full-time as a research scientist. I chose the Executive MBA program because it offered an incredible curriculum on a schedule that worked with my job and my home life.

Why did you choose Scheller College of Business? I chose Scheller College of Business because the curriculum in the EMBA program was exactly what I was looking for to fill in gaps in my knowledge and help me take the next steps in my career. I wanted to learn business strategy, how to be an entrepreneur, and how to speak to companies in order to progress along my career path.

As a business student in the heart of Tech Square, how do you think Scheller College embodies the intersection of business and technology? The location of Scheller College in the heart of Tech Square embodies a vast and dynamic culture that exists at this intersection of business and tech. It is not the location or the building, but the people at Scheller College (faculty, students, alumni, staff, scientists, engineers) and the surrounding community in Tech Square that are the dynamic bridges between technology and business. As a business student, one of the most valuable resources I will walk away with is the relationships I forged with other people at Scheller who are leading experts in fields that bridge technology and business.

What is your best advice to someone interested in getting their MBA at Georgia Tech Scheller College? The MBA program at Scheller College offers a significant number of unique opportunities to be an engaged and active student. My advice to a prospective student is to make sure the timing is right for them to take full advantage of those opportunities during their time in the program.

What is the biggest myth about Scheller College? The biggest myth about Scheller College is that the classes are filled only with engineers. One of the things I loved most about Scheller is the incredible diversity. The diversity and fantastic group of different people and backgrounds made it a great opportunity to learn from other people in addition to our class work.

What was your capstone project – provide details re. project, product, company, etc.

What did you think about the final presentation before the judges? My capstone project was the development of a healthcare app called “NutraBuddy” that helps individuals with dietary restrictions shop and easily gain access to a wider variety of food choices. The final presentation before the judges was an inspiring and amazingly unique learning experience. They provided us with valuable feedback on our product and on our presentation.

Please provide details about international or Silicon Valley travel and what you learned, companies you met, etc. I had an opportunity to go on the optional trips to Silicon Valley and Panama. Each of these trips was an incredible experience and left me with memories I will be talking about for the rest of my life. In Silicon Valley, we had an opportunity to visit big companies like Auto Desk, Twitter, and Schlumberger – along with smaller startups. We talked to C-suite executives, venture capitalists, and Georgia Tech alumni working at the companies. My favorite company was Potrero Medical, whose CEO, Joe Urban, is a graduate of the Scheller College EMBA program. It was great to see someone who was in our shoes only a few years ago living his dream and leading a company he is passionate about.

In Panama, we received an unbelievable behind the scenes tour of the Panama Canal, hiked in the rainforest, and took a dugout canoe to the village of the indigenous Embera tribe, taught children English in one of the local schools, and visited with country managers and CEOs at companies like Kellogg’s, Grupo Rey, FCI Logistics, and Hospital Punta Pacifica. The first-hand experience, knowledge, and advice we received in Panama were unique and impactful. I am grateful that I had an opportunity to have these once in a lifetime experiences.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the in-depth business conversations I had with my classmates, professors, and professionals across a wide range of industries.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? During my capstone class, I learned the end-to-end process of taking a business idea from concept successfully through to business execution. This new knowledge allowed me to write a business plan for a global business service that was commercially launched several months later.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My daughter was born halfway through the completion of my executive MBA. Having a detailed plan that was complete with multiple backup plans and the organization of a great support system allowed me to stay completely current with my school work and were the key to successfully juggling a new baby, work, and education.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? There are an enormous number of unique opportunities to be an engaged and active student. My advice to a prospective student is to make sure the timing is right for them to take full advantage of those opportunities during their time in the program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My business school experience was fantastic. I have no regrets and would not change anything about it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire the many women and men in my cohort who were not only full-time students in the executive MBA program but were also working full-time jobs and taking care of their families full-time. The ability to successfully balance school, work, and family is not easy and I admire their determination and commitment.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that a formal business education would provide me with additional career opportunities.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a consumer and behavioral research neuroscientist.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is to be a senior executive who is leading global teams on the implementation of research initiatives that have a positive, meaningful impact on business.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a hard-working and supportive classmate that hopefully helped to make their time in the program as great as they made my time in the program.

Favorite book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Favorite movie or television show:  Hidden Figures by Theodore Melfi

What are the top two items on your bucket list?  

  • Visit 50 or more countries
  • Write a children’s science book

What made Rebecca Von Der Heide such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“Rebecca came into the Executive MBA program with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Very smart and hard-working, Rebecca was eager to complement her scientific skills with business acumen. She is one of the most thoughtful and dedicated student in the class, always well prepared and with a wonderfully positive attitude. In spite of her demanding job and having a baby while in the program, Rebecca was able to exceed our expectations in everything she did in the program. She truly is a role model for others and a positive force and influence in class – always asking insightful questions and displaying an enthusiasm for the material that is so exhilarating for faculty.”

Saby Mitra

Professor of Information Technology Management


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