Faculty Spotlight: Alex Gabbi, Principles of Marketing

Written by Nicholas Kuehl

Professor Alex Gabbi teaches MKT 337H, the honors section of Principles of Marketing. For many BHP students, this is the first marketing course that they will take, and Professor Gabbi loves challenging students’ expectations of marketing. Because many students believe that marketing is solely the domain of creatively-minded people, one of Professor Gabbi’s favorite things to discuss is how broad marketing can be, from analytics to product management to promotion design, and how understanding your customer and how to build value for them are important skills for everyone in business to know.

Because this is Professor Gabbi’s first semester teaching BHP students, he has been excited to experiment with several new class concepts, such as a new game-based assignment delivery system, and he has enjoyed gathering feedback and other new ideas from his BHP students. When asked about his BHP students, he mentioned their high level of pre-class preparation, high work ethic, and high level of support for each other as some characteristics that he has noticed. For his students, Professor Gabbi offers this advice: “One of the most important things for all students to do is to first develop self-awareness. What are you great at? What things do you love? What inspires you? Then I encourage students to take those answers to heart and follow their passion and strengths. I always tell a student to ‘make it YOUR major,’ ‘make it YOUR career.’ If you always do the things that inspire you, then your odds of success will be dramatically higher.”

Professor Gabbi attended the MBA program at UT, and during this time he served as a teaching assistant for some of the courses that he teaches today. After getting his MBA, Professor Gabbi worked in industry, and he has founded several startups. He deeply enjoys teaching students the tools and techniques that he uses in industry, and he enjoys showing students how what they are learning in class can (and, in his case, has) applied to real-life business scenarios. “Teaching at the university level brings many rewards,” Professor Gabbi said. “I find undergraduates still very open to different perspectives and learning. I love the short-term gratification of seeing a student engage enthusiastically in a class discussion or a concept, and nothing is more satisfying than befriending a student later in life and having them recount the impact you had on their development.”

Outside of industry work and teaching, Professor Gabbi loves traveling to exotic locations with his children. In fact, during the past year, he has been able to see the World Cup in Russia, visit the Global Seed Bank in Svalbard, see the Redentore fireworks in Venice, visit the solemn site of Auschwitz, and experience the Northern Lights in Iceland. In addition to traveling, Professor Gabbi enjoys playing strategy games, playing basketball, and building Legos!

An Utterly Amazing Alumni Speaker Visits BHP Sophomores

Written by Victoria Bennett

Lynn Utter, CEO of First Source, recently visited the Honors Lyceum course attended by all Business Honors sophomores. In a lively conversation driven by student questions, Lynn shared her experiences navigating the business world as a woman and her path to her current success.

Lynn began her academic and professional career as a student on the Forty Acres. She is Business Honors Program alum, so she was once in the same position as the sophomores in the class, and she encouraged students to both maximize and enjoy their time in the program. After her time at UT, Lynn took the next step in her education at Stanford Business School where she earned her Master’s in Business Administration. She then began her professional career as a manager at Strategic Planning Associates in DC.

As she walked the class through her path to the role of CEO, Lynn revealed that her career path has been defined by tough decisions. She emphasized the importance of knowing what decisions are best for yourself, as she shared the story of her move to Denver during her time with the Frito Lay Company. Despite the fact that first position she took did not immediately advance her career, she knew it was the right career step for her at the time, and eventually led to her position as Area Vice President. Lynn’s story is full of these kind of decisions, as she pivoted through numerous leadership roles. Following her time at Frito Lay/PepsiCo Lynn worked at Coors Brewing Company both in Operations and as a Chief Strategy Officer and Knoll as a President and Chief Operations Officer, all preceding her time as CEO at First Source.

In her time as CEO of First Source, a US leader in packaging and distribution of specialty candy and snacks, Lynn led the company through mergers and managed full strategic and operating responsibility. Most recently, she transitioned into the role of Chief Talent Officer of Atlas Holdings LLC, where she works closely with the company’s partners and portfolio company leaders.

Throughout the session students were curious to hear Lynn’s advice and asked numerous questions about her biggest challenges and lessons. She talked about the importance of finding community in the workplace and she described the close bond she had with the other women in her office. In this conversation, she emphasized the importance of not only finding coworkers or peers who will support you, but also give you honest and critical feedback when necessary. She shared about her experience on numerous boards outside of her job, including the boards for WESCO, Merchants Metals, and numerous non-for-profit boards. In reference to these experiences, she encouraged Business Honors students to find work they are passionate about despite their busy schedules.

With her lively personality and years of experience and wisdom, Lynn Utter created a fun and informative class experience for the sophomores. Students loved hearing from a fellow BHP alum, and were inspired by her and her work.

Alumni Spotlight: Ethan Perez – Software Engineer, Peloton

Ethan Perez

Featured: Sports/Fitness, Technology, Computer Science, Graduate School

Ethan Perez is a software engineer at Peloton Interactive, where he works to bring the company’s fitness content to the web. Previously, Ethan was a software engineer at DraftKings, a daily online fantasy sports contest platform. He graduated from McCombs in 2016 with degrees in BHP and Management Information Systems, and has continued advancing his computer science knowledge by enrolling in the Georgia Tech Online Master of Computer Science program. We recently caught up with Ethan to learn about his experience in tech and how it intersects with sports and fitness.

You have done numerous technology roles in various industries. Can you walk me through where you’ve been and how you got to where you are today?

After graduating, I went to work as a Software Engineer at DraftKings in Boston. I found that opportunity through the Technology and Science Career Fair – at that point, I already knew that I wanted to be in a more technical role, and the intersection of sports and technology felt like a great fit. I spent two years at DraftKings, and learned a great deal about working in the industry. I recently made the move to NYC, which has been a dream of mine, and am currently working at Peloton in a similar role.

Peloton started out as an indoor bike company in 2014, but has rapidly grown beyond that. The company has been looking to bring its fitness content onto more devices than just the original bike to broaden the experiences it can give, and most of that has been focused on mobile device experiences. I joined Peloton about 4 months ago, and have been working to bring that idea to life on the Web – and we just launched our Digital Content on the Web at the beginning of October!

What do you enjoy most about technical roles?

At the core of it, technologically driven roles are about problem solving at a granular level, where the results are very immediate. I think that immediacy of improvement creates a very quick feedback loop, and you are able to see value building right in front of you. The first time I realized this was during my time as a member of Texas 4000 at UT; I built a pretty simple management system that cut some of our manual processing flow out, and the extreme joy that came out of that saved time is a feeling I’ll always come back to.

How were you successful in finding technical roles with your business background? What would you encourage current students to do?

Once I got that kick of joy from seeing the value some technological skills brought to Texas 4000, I knew that I wanted to start out my career by being hands-on and directly building value through technology. Because I was already fully ingrained in McCombs and BHP, I knew that I would have to turn to alternative outlets to supplement that technical skillset. I spent a lot of time outside of the classroom building side projects and attempting to learn CS fundamentals like algorithms and data structures. However, I believe my passion and interest for building value through software was the biggest reason I was able to land a software engineering job out of school. Looking back, I didn’t know nearly as much as my peers who had a more technical academic background, but I think the companies and interviewers saw that I expressed genuine interest in the industry and brought some curiosity to the table.

What inspired you to obtain your MS in Computer Science, and what has your experience in graduate school been like?

I am enrolled in the Georgia Tech Online Master of Computer Science (OMSCS), and it’s precisely the reason that I am able to work and continue a formal education that attracted me to the program. As I mentioned, I lacked a decent amount of computer science foundational knowledge. OMSCS is a program that has allowed me to build knowledge in core parts of my industry that I was curious about, but not knowledgeable enough to know how to start learning. It also gives me the opportunity to continue learning new technologies and techniques from a great engineering school – I am currently on a Machine Learning track, and that allows me to keep my technical knowledge moving forward.

How do you think your BHP and MIS degrees from UT aided you in what you are doing?

I think BHP and MIS were both foundational to the start of my career. I have been working in consumer technology products for almost three years, and the biggest challenges I have encountered have always been between humans, not with computers. BHP and MIS both gave me extraordinary opportunities to build a skillset that has allowed me to make technical and business connections and also to see the ramifications of actions beyond a technical level. As someone who aspires to lead, build, and grow teams in the future, I think that skillset is extremely important to my growth.

Any advice for current students?

Care about your peers and coworkers. It’s a noticeable quality, and it is something that will allow you to trust and be trusted in the workplace. You will probably spend more time with your coworkers than most others in your life, so I believe it is important to grow and nurture those relationships. I have created life-long friends in workplaces, and they have increased my quality of life by magnitudes. Regardless of what professional goals you may have, caring for and about your coworkers will never let you down.