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Going Beyond the Traditional MBA

Alumnus, Brian Karp, reflects on his opportunity to be apart of the McLauchlan Leadership Series, a unique program, which develops MBA Leaders.

In his role at Wells Fargo, Brian Karp leads not just one, but two teams, and says he credits his experience as a McLauchlan Leadership fellow with the success he’s had in leading those teams today.

The McLauchlan Leadership Series is a leadership development program started in 2015 with a gift from Russ and Cara McLauchlan. Fellows take part in three sessions, each of which includes a Friday evening and all day Saturday. Each session has its own focus: personal leadership, team leadership, and organizational leadership. In addition to those sessions, students receive several unique benefits. These include extensive executive interaction, executive coaching, and a $300 gift to pursue a “personal leadership challenge.”

Karp MBA ’19, was introduced to the McLauchlan Leadership Series during his first year pursuing his MBA at Poole College of Management. He was accepted to the program during his second year.

“Seeing and hearing about it, I thought, this is what I really needed to build my career; this is what that missing step was,” Karp said.

I thought I could be a much better leader, and I needed to do a lot of learning and thinking about it.

The opportunity to be a McLauchlan fellow provided just such opportunities. Karp said he found every segment of the program to be valuable. Executive coaching provided him the opportunity to think about what he wanted to get out of his personal and professional life, for example. Simply being surrounded by other talented fellows provided the opportunity to learn as well.

“The people in my program were amazing,” Karp said. “It forced me to take a critical look at myself – where I was as a leader, and where I wanted to be as a leader.”

Even one activity that he might have initially been skeptical about – a trip to a ropes course – proved its value quickly as he saw the lessons learned in teamwork, encouragement, and providing support to others.

The fellowship gave me the tools to plot my path and to think about how I was going to get there.

Karp had been thinking about a Masters for quite some time prior to enrolling at Poole College. He saw NC State as providing great value for the money. He loved the flexible style of the MBA program, and the opportunity to concentrate his studies in both finance and analytics appealed to him as well.

Karp was working at the time, but said he wasn’t happy in his role. The McLauchlan fellowship also provided him time to think and learn about what would make him happy in the long-term.

Once he made the decision to get back into data analytics, Karp also began work toward a Master of Science in Analytics from Georgia Tech during his last semester at NC State.

From there, things fell into place. He began conversations with Wells Fargo on the day he graduated from Poole College and a month later, started his new job.

Today, he is Senior Audit Manager, Advanced Analytics & Innovation Excellence at Wells Fargo – a role that gets him excited to go to work every day and provides opportunities to use the leadership skills he gained as a McLauchlan fellow in his day-to-day work.

In that role, he is responsible for the development and implementation of the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Strategy for Internal Audit. Karp leads a direct team, consisting of four data scientists, as well as a dotted line team of five quantitative analysts. He is also innovation and automation relationship manager for Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Functions Line of Business audit team.

The most enjoyable part of my job is being able to coach and mentor my team. Watching people grow their skills and career is immensely satisfying for me.

The fellowship provided him with communication and leadership skills to guide those teams, he said, while it also helped him fine tune other skills that helped him become an empathetic and relatable leader. 

“All of those things really melded together to teach me how to be an effective leader,” he said.

He views support like that from the McLauchlans as essential for these types of added experiences that help students grow both personally and professionally while pursuing their degree.

“After an MBA, you’re expected to be a manager,” Karp said.

Leadership isn’t something that’s always natural for folks, and this fellowship was worth the price of tuition alone.

When he looks toward the future, Karp said he loves what he does and plans to continue down this path, though he says with a laugh, that his $300 gift to pursue a “personal leadership challenge” through the McLauchlan experience involved brewing beer, so perhaps there’s a brew pub in his future as well.

“Whatever path I decide for myself, I have the tools to say, this is my goal and to think critically about what steps I need to take to reach that goal,” he said.