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Atlanta: Why You Should Choose The City of Fintech, Fortune 500s and The MBA

Atlanta: Why You Should Choose The City of Fintech, Fortune 500s and The MBA main image

Sponsored by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia and the New South, is an upbeat and progressive city to live, work and study – especially for desirable business school graduates.

Add to that its kick-back leisure lifestyle and charming culture makes for the perfect balance with the city’s fast-paced state of mind. You’re going to want to make the time to explore all that the city has to offer, from sampling classic Southern eats like sweet tea, pecan pie, and fried chicken, to visiting its renowned performing arts district and film and television industry, and not forgetting the nearly 18 square miles of green spaces and 600 miles of multi-use trails.

Never to be underestimated, Atlanta has witnessed explosive business growth in recent decades with a multitude of Fortune500 companies headquartered in the city, including the Coca-Cola Company, Delta Airlines and The Home Depot.

Plus, the Atlanta Tech Village is fueling the local startup scene, having created over 300 startups and 6,500 jobs, generating over $900 million since its founding in 2013.

The world of fintech is also no stranger to Atlanta with the likes of WorldPay and Global Payments establishing the city as an emerging global leader in this area. Business school graduates can make the most of the exciting career opportunities created by the industry in finance, strategy, tech consulting, and marketing.

Graduates and students also massively benefit from the city’s international airport which serves affordable and direct flights to 150 US destinations, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as more than 75 international destinations in 50 countries worldwide.

And despite the city’s larger than life reputation, you’d be mistaken for thinking the cost of living reflects this. In fact, living costs in the state of Georgia are generally lower compared to other major US cities according to the Expatistan Cost of Living Index.

So what’s it’s like studying an MBA in the heart of this thriving hub? We spoke to Ryan Roark, a second-year MBA student at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School to find out.

Hi Ryan, can you tell us what led you to decide to move to Atlanta from Florida and study your MBA at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School?

The city itself and the opportunity to attend Emory. Before business school, I was at Georgia-Pacific in an internal consulting type role where I helped evaluate optimization opportunities. I traveled throughout the country, so although Georgia-Pacific is based in Atlanta, I only had visited a couple of times for work or to see friends.

I remember enjoying each trip, as there were always new places to explore and countless things to do. Atlanta offers everything that big cities usually have but with the benefit of being a short drive from hikes and lakes.

I also was very excited to move here and start at Emory for my MBA. Emory has a strong reputation, and it’s well-known for consulting recruiting, which is where I was hoping to transition following my MBA.

What were your first impressions when you got to Atlanta? 

I had been living in Tampa, so it was a bit of a change moving away from the ocean and adapting to the Georgia environment. I had limited experience in Atlanta, but I was able to enjoy a lot more of the city after moving here.

I moved at the beginning of the summer, so the weather was great, and I was able to check out a lot of the area while I transitioned back to being a student. I spent time at the pool and on hikes over the summer while exploring areas that I had never really gotten to before.

I feel like I have done a lot of different things over the past year and still haven’t been able to see everything there is around Atlanta.

Can you tell us a bit about the MBA, and what you have enjoyed the most about it so far?

I think I have most enjoyed getting to meet students that have come from different places and backgrounds and have unique skills and goals. Everyone has an interesting story on what led them to their MBA and big aspirations for what they hope to accomplish.

The MBA process requires individuals to think about their long-term plans, so their goals go beyond just getting a post-MBA job and include things like starting an entrepreneurial venture or pro-bono consulting for small businesses.

Can you talk us through a typical academic day? How busy is your schedule? What do you do in your free time when you aren’t studying?

The first year and second year differ a bit in terms of the typical academic day. During the first year, you are in core classes, and the schedule is quite busy between classes and projects. As that progresses, you then begin planning for recruitment for whichever industry you are hoping to pivot into (or go back to), but I found that I was able to learn a ton during this period.

There is still recruitment going on in the second year, whether you are looking for full-time roles or helping others to prep for interviews, but I found the school aspect slows down a bit after that core semester (or maybe the students are just better prepared to handle it!).

How much of an impact do you think the MBA will have on your future career?

I think choosing to attend Emory and get my MBA will change my career path drastically. While my previous companies gave me great experience and I was able to work with fantastic managers and co-workers, the MBA allowed me to gain skills that are significant to understanding how businesses function and grow.

Additionally, it allowed me to understand a variety of concepts around different topics that I had never had exposure to before, like how financial markets work. Learning all these aspects of businesses will enable me to better perform as a consultant and as a business leader in the long-term.

While I may have gotten some of this knowledge over time through work, the MBA expedited that process by allowing me to learn from faculty and professionals that have already worked in these fields and can supplement class materials with their real-world expertise.

What types of professional development opportunities have you undertaken during the MBA? Can you tell us a bit about them?

When I started my MBA, I knew I wanted to focus on both consulting and entrepreneurship, so I joined both the Goizueta Consulting Association and the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club. This year I am one of the leaders in both groups. Through these organizations, I have had access to various professional development opportunities.

Through the Consulting Association, I was able to join case competitions with other students and build presentations for different problems. Through the EVCC, I have learned more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem around Atlanta and been able to see how start-ups go about raising Venture Capital through live pitches.

There are many different opportunities for professional growth in the MBA through the various organizations, so it is helpful to come in with a solid idea of what you would like to develop and learn. I also was able to join the Entrepreneurship Initiative as an Entrepreneurship Fellow, where I am working with the team to help further develop the programs at Emory and connect students to resources for launching and growing start-ups.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving to Atlanta to study an MBA?

I would highly recommend visiting Atlanta and checking out the city. Even if you are applying during the virtual environment, there is research you can do to see the area and everything around. I wanted to heavily research the towns and cities where I may be spending two years for school.

I also think a pivotal part of the process is understanding what you want to accomplish through the MBA. The MBA application process is good at making you clarify your goals. Everyone is very focused on getting a high GMAT and writing unique essays, but you want to make sure you have a good idea of what you want out of it. It is also okay to have the goal to explore (one of my goals was to explore and better understand new fields and industries).

There are a ton of opportunities in Atlanta, and it can be overwhelming sometimes because there is so much you have the potential to work on through things like competitions, start-ups, and consulting. If you have an idea of what you want to accomplish in those two years and do that research on what the program offers, what groups you can join, and what organizations in Atlanta you can follow, it will put you ahead when you kick off your MBA.

Written by Stephanie Lukins

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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