2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Adanna Ohaegbulam, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Adanna Ohaegbulam

Georgia Institute of Technology, Scheller College of Business 

Age: 47

“Daughter, sister, friend…I have never met a stranger, building relationships is who I am.”

Hometown: Tampa, Florida

Family members: There are four people in my immediate family: Mother, father, older brother, and myself

Fun fact about yourself:  I am an avid traveler. After visiting China, I fell in love with the country, people, and culture. Since that trip, prior to the pandemic, I visited China every year. I also started teaching myself Mandarin and to immerse myself in the culture and language, I only watch Chinese programming and listen to Chinese music. 我爱中国!

Undergraduate school and degree:

  • S. Chemistry, Florida State University
  • S. Chemical Engineering, University of South Florida

Where are you currently working? North America Quality Leader, Supply Chain and Manufacturing at Vanderlande Industries

Extracurricular activities, community work and leadership roles:

  • Festus & Emma Ohaegbulam Medical Foundation, Board Member
  • Word of Faith Missions Team, Member (Volunteer)
  • Vanderlande Cares, Activities Chair
  • Connect Community Resource Services, Volunteer and Consultant

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Honestly, being nominated for Poets&Quants by my peers and Georgia Tech faculty and staff is one of my proudest achievements. Admittedly, I was not the best student during undergrad and after joining the workforce I suffered from imposter syndrome; I lacked confidence and felt like a fraud at work. Over my career, I was fortunate to have mentors, managers, and experiences who encouraged me to find my voice. This time, I am committed to taking advantage of every opportunity presented in this program and applying myself to the best of my ability. I am deeply humbled and honored that my peers, faculty, and staff consider me among the best and the brightest.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In December 2020, my manager approached me regarding expanding my role to include Vanderlande Manufacturing (plant), VIM, quality. My first thought was, ‘No thank you.’ The expanded role included building a quality organization from the ground up, developing and implementing a quality management system within the facility, and shifting the culture of the plant to a culture of quality.

I would do all this while pursuing an EMBA and fulfilling my supply chain quality responsibilities.

After careful and thoughtful consideration, I accepted the challenge. I developed a vision and the strategy for implementing a QMS in the manufacturing plant, collaborated with Toyota Lean Manufacturing consultants to complete gap assessments of the facility, created an implementation plan, and established performance indicators to measure the success. Within a year, the QMS was established, and the quality performance of the plant improved significantly.

I have been recognized by the President of N.A. Business Operations and Toyota Lean as being a strategic leader. The Global Quality Leader formally acknowledged me as her successor and in my last performance review, I received the highest rating achievable – All of this amid global supply chain disruptions and pursuing my MBA.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? As an engineer, I naturally gravitated to Georgia Tech. However, it was important for me to make sure I found a program that was globally recognized, geared to the working professional, in-person, and had a diverse (professionally and ethnically) class profile. I attended many information sessions and spoke to alumni and current students of the program and found one common theme: “It changed my life and trajectory of my career.”

I think what swayed me most was the number of spouses who pursued the executive program following their spouse’s completion. There was an undertone of pride and camaraderie. It felt like home, and I wanted to be a part of that. But, if I am to really be honest, it was Georgia Tech’s reputation for excellence. To quote my boss, Scott Clifford, “Adanna, if you get into Georgia Tech, you go to Georgia Tech!”

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I have gained during my MBA was obtained in Marketing class, specifically lessons in value proposition and identifying your target segments.  The concepts learned in Marketing were immediately applied at work.

Vanderlande, my company, is a material handling and logistics automation company providing solutions in the airport, parcel, and warehouse space. Vanderlande, like our competitors, is experiencing tremendous growth and expansion due to the rise of e-commerce. There is more than enough business for everyone in this industry right now. However, over time, the growth will dissipate. Therefore, it is important to understand Vanderlande’s value proposition to our customers, what distinguishes Vanderlande from competitors, and the value I bring to Vanderlande.

As I reflected, I identified Vanderlande’s Services department as an area for targeted improvement, specifically to improve the customer service experience in our warranty and claims and field services departments. Increasing the core competency level of the service department gives Vanderlande a competitive advantage. Now, but more so in the future, there is a huge market for maintenance services in the warehouse sector. Most customers in the warehouse sector will not create their own reliability, maintenance, and engineering (RME) departments to maintain their material handling and sortation equipment. It is more likely that maintenance and reliability activities will be contracted out. Additionally, there will be some customers with their own dedicated RME teams who will discover that it is more cost effective to secure a service contract with a third party. Based on this, it is imperative that Vanderlande increases the competency level in the warranty and claims and field services departments.

I immediately started having conversations with members of senior leadership to discuss how my team and I would like to collaborate with the services department to reduce the resolution time on warranty and claims tickets by customizing and providing problem solving training to the service organization collaborating with the service department to re-define and improve the project service take over process to enhance the customer experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Prior to starting my MBA program, I made sure that my manager, team members, and colleagues were aware and supported my decision to pursue my MBA. I worked with my team to develop stretch goals and assignments that would help develop their leadership skills, while also freeing up some of my capacity to meet MBA deliverables. When possible, I learned how to delegate responsibilities that did not require my presence and/or input.

Similarly, I had conversations with my family and friends to ensure that they were aware of my decision to pursue an MBA and the time commitments associated with the degree. I provided close friends and family members with a copy of my class schedules so they had visibility of my availability and made sure that they were aware that my focus would be on the MBA over the next 18 months.

Time management and establishing a regular routine has kept me grounded.  Regardless of whether it was a class weekend or not, I had a hard stop of 2 p.m. at work on Fridays and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I found that establishing boundaries and adhering to them strictly provided an element of balance in juggling work and education. At the beginning of each week, I scheduled time for studying, free time to decompress, and time to catch up with friends and family.  To limit distractions and maintain focus, I went to school to complete assignments. Reading assignments were completed at home or via voice reader during commutes to and from the office.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The advice that I would give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program is to ensure that you have prepared your family, friends, and colleagues. You will need their support, understanding, and encouragement throughout the program.  They need to be prepared for the time commitments associated with completing the program and if applicable, make necessary adjustments and accommodations for responsibilities that you are unable to complete.

Secondly, learn to manage your time effectively. Balancing a career and family while pursuing your MBA leaves so little time to study. Therefore, effective time management and setting priorities will be critical to success.

And finally, make time for self-care. While sacrifices will be inevitable, sacrificing exercise, nutritious meals, time to decompress will lead to burnout, so carving out time for yourself is essential to your success.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that you do not have the time. For several years, I thought about going back to school to pursue an MBA, but failed to do so because I thought I did not have time. The pandemic shifted my perspective.  What I was really saying was I did not have time to invest in myself. Going back to school is a big commitment and perceived sacrifices will be necessary, but what I have learned, the growth that I have experienced, the connections and relationships that I have established are so valuable that in reality, I have not sacrificed anything.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not pursuing the Ray C. Anderson Graduate Sustainability Fellows in the Fall of 2021.  After completing the Sustainability course, I found that corporate sustainability is an area that I want to be more involved. The fact that I did not reach the conclusion or research the fellowship sooner is one of my biggest regrets.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Dr. Nini Wu. Nini is an oncologist and the Senior VP, Strategic Initiatives at McKesson. I would guess that she is the most accomplished student in the program. After reading her bio and LinkedIn profile, I was a little intimidated –How can I share the same platform with someone so accomplished? However, from the moment you meet her, you feel her warmth. She is so incredibly caring and down-to-earth, has a passion for uplifting women, imparts her wisdom and knowledge, and encourages others to be the best versions of themselves. She embodies style and grace. If I were to model myself after anyone in the program, it would be her.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The main reasons I chose the executive MBA was due to the cohort-based learning experience, the class profile (specifically the minimum years of work experience requirement), and the in-person class requirement. The exposure to diverse backgrounds (both ethnically and professionally) and points of view are very important to me. I believe exposure to new perspectives shapes us as individuals, you become more empathetic of others, and it exposes you to different approaches to solving problems. Additionally, I felt that sharing this experience with the same individuals throughout the journey would provide a stronger support system throughout and after the program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to transition to operations, becoming the President of Vanderlande Industries’ North American Operations and the first North American and minority member of Vanderlande Industries’ Board of Directors. Ultimately, I will become the CEO of my own manufacturing company, built on Nigerian soil (paying homage to my father – a Nigerian immigrant), leaving a legacy for future generations.

What made Adanna such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Adanna is one of those students who simply exudes positive, enthusiastic energy. She is a joy to teach and always comes to class with a passion to understand the concepts and apply them to her own situation. Our goal in the Executive MBA program is have students be able to apply the lessons they learn in class back at their job. Adanna attacked my marketing course with such passion, going beyond what would be expected. In fact, she would share how she would apply what we covered in a weekend class the very next week at her workplace. As an instructor, when you have students with that kind of enthusiasm, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Tim Halloran
Senior Lecturer, Marketing
Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business

DON’T MISS: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2022

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.