Katie McReynolds, leading woman in nuclear and MBAchic Fellow

Katie McReynolds at the Nasdaq closing bell, February 2020

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Profiles of MBAchic Fellows: In conversation with Katie McReynolds

Last year, we had the opportunity to establish the MBAchic Fellowship at Brenau University’s Executive Women’s MBA. The women in this program are blazing trails in their industries, poised to move into the C-suite. We are thrilled and grateful to be a part of their journey. We just launched our second year of thee MBAchic Fellowship at Brenau University (apply here!). Katie McReynolds is our first MBAchic Fellow profiled from the inaugural class. Keep reading to hear her experiences and get a glimpse into the EWMBA. Katie McReynolds, Brenau EWMBA candidate working in nuclear energy and MBAchic-champion-from-Day-1 is our first profile. She’s brilliant and incredibly supportive of her classmates and the entire MBAchic Community. So excited for you to get to know and connect with her here!

Katie McReynolds, Brenau Executive Women's MBA Candidate 2021
Katie McReynolds

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I live in Knoxville, TN. I moved all over when I was younger before we made our way to Tennessee.

Where did you go for undergrad? What did you study there?

I went to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which is the flagship UT campus. I obtained my BS in Communications. Going to UT changed my life completely. Moving out and being on my own opened my eyes to the world outside, and it certainly didn’t hurt that I met my best friends there.

What is your current role? Can you describe some of the challenges you are tackling in your current role? What else are you involved with that complements your day job?

I work in business development for EnergySolutions, a radioactive waste management company. We work with commercial nuclear plants to safely transport, process, and provide permanent disposal of their radioactive material. I am also an active member of Women in Nuclear, the American Nuclear Society, and the North American Young Generation in Nuclear.

What does quarantine life look like for you?

Quarantine life has been a HUGE shift from what was previously my “normal” life! I typically travel every couple of weeks to meet with my customers, visit power plants, and attend conferences, but all of that came to an abrupt halt in early March. the first week of March, I had the pleasure of being in NYC with my classmates and MBAchic and I got an alert on my phone as I was boarding my flight home that the first East coast case had been identified in Manhattan. I went on home, and left a couple of days later to go to a conference in Phoenix. We were ultimately told to quarantine after returning from Phoenix.

I used to sew quite a bit, so when quarantine first began, I spent a lot of time sewing fabric masks and donating them to a group that distributed them locally to healthcare workers (this was when finding N-95s was impossible). Wish I had other new hobbies I picked up, but normal work life and our classes have taken up all of my time! I have had more hours in my day due to not having a commute, and that has been really nice. I miss traveling, both for work and for pleasure, more than I can possibly say. This is by far the longest stretch of time I have been home since I graduated from undergrad!

What is your dream job? Where can we find you in 5-10 years?

I love my industry very much, so I hope I am still in the nuclear business. I am passionate about customer relations, so my dream job would be a CMO-type position where I could still have my finger on the pulse of customers, while also leaning on my communications background.

What company or leader do you believe is really making the most out of the opportunities that come with the challenges arising from the pandemic?

One inspiring company/leader with a personal tie to us in the program is Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid and author of Permission to Screw Up. We read her book as part of our professional development book club and had the opportunity to have a Zoom call with her as well. When the pandemic began, she committed to taking care of her employees, and she made sure she did that, by applying for loans, grants, PPP, everything you can think of.  I was thrilled to see her post on Instagram a few days ago that Q3 2020 was the most successful quarter in Student Maid’s history!

Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University's Executive Women's MBA overlooking NYC's Financial District from Manhatta
Each for Equal… on top of the world. | Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University’s Executive Women’s MBA overlooking NYC’s Financial District from Manhatta
You’re part of the trailblazing inaugural cohort of Brenau’s Executive Women’s MBA program. How did you find out about the program and determine that this program was right for you? Any insights you can share about the application process?

I knew I wanted to get my MBA at some point, but I had plenty of excuses about it not being the right time to pursue going back to school. However, I read the EWMBA article and interview with Dr. Juli Clay on MBAchic and Jen graciously offered to get me in contact with Juli. I was so inspired by the entire program that I applied a couple of days later — I knew I had found the one. I went on to apply to a few other programs, and although I was accepted, I knew this was the one I wanted to pursue.

How did you determine that part-time, online studying was the best format?

As for the part-time/online format, with my travel schedule, that would be the only way I could do it. I don’t ever anticipate a time in my future where I will be in one place for 18 months and could complete a traditional program. I flew to Salt Lake City on the very first day of our very first class and to have the flexibility to do my job while in school is incredibly important to me.

Who inspires you, in your career and in the rest of your life? How do they inspire and challenge you?

My classmates, without a doubt. This is a powerhouse group of women, juggling careers, graduate school, families, friends, hobbies, and now a global pandemic. They do it with grace and truly make it look easy. On top of all that, they always have time to hang on our video chats a little longer, or laugh at each other in our group text. I could not be luckier to have this group of ladies in my life.

Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University's Executive Women's MBA at Manhatta NYC
Send-off brunch up in the sky | Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University’s Executive Women’s MBA at Manhatta NYC
What were your main concerns / hesitations around heading back to school? How did you deal? What would you say to someone considering going back to school to pursue their MBA?

I was concerned that it wasn’t the right time due to my workload, but I don’t know that there will ever be a “right time.” As a professional, you are always going to have a lot on your plate. Finding this program through MBAchic solidified my decision to go back to school right then and there.

To someone considering pursuing their MBA: you probably shouldn’t wait for what you think is the perfect time to go back to school. The ideal time may not come.

What would you say to someone considering Brenau’s EWMBA? What has surprised you about the experience? What’s been your favorite class or [virtual] part of the experience?

The instantaneous connection when I met my classmates has been the most special part of the program. These ladies will be a part of my life for years to come.

What was your favorite memory of the NYC residency?

Everything we did in NYC was special, but my favorite part was our unwillingness to be separated! We had just met, but we were all having so much fun together that we stayed up late every night to spend time together, even though we had to get up early every morning.

Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University's Executive Women's MBA on the famous staircase at Diane von Furstenberg's NYC studio
The power of community (event) | Inaugural Cohort of Brenau University’s Executive Women’s MBA on the famous staircase at Diane von Furstenberg’s NYC studio
What does being a part of MBAchic mean to you?

MBAchic is such an empowering group to be in. I am incredibly thankful to find this community of like-minded individuals online that ultimately led me to dream program with an amazing group of women as my classmates. MBAchic has been a wonderful asset during this phase of my life, offering so many resources and such valuable insight. I hope I can be as helpful to those who come after me.

What’s the first thing you’re doing after graduation (and after quarantine)?

We will be having a huge celebration immediately after graduation, for sure. I hope all travel restrictions will have been lifted by then because I would like to take some time off work and go back to Europe for a few weeks.

Thank you, Katie, for sharing your advice with MBAchic and offering a glimpse into your Brenau EWMBA experience! Your incredible support of everything MBAchic means so much and has carried so much of what we do forward. We are so grateful to have you here and be a part of your journey.

Katie McReynolds is roughly halfway through her program at Brenau’s EWMBA, graduating in 2021. You can stay in touch with her on Instagram, LinkedIn, and soon, on MBAchic.

Photos furnished by Katie McReynolds and AJ Reynolds.

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