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Tarik Gaertner

Tarik Gaertner
Class of 2015
Global Business Analyst

During his capstone MBA project at the Bryan School, Tarik Gaertner (’15 MBA) of Mannheim, Germany, was teamed with a classmate from the United States and another from China to develop a strategic sourcing solution for TE Connectivity, a global manufacturer of sensors. It was exactly the kind of internationally rich experience Gaertner sought when he chose BiP, a unique Bryan School program that allows German students with company sponsorship to complete their MBA at UNCG in a year.

“Throughout the MBA program, I was able to learn and work together with a quite international and diversified cohort, with different backgrounds and cultures, as well as ways of thinking and problem solving,” says Gaertner, now a global business analyst for BASF SE, the world’s leading chemical producer.

Gaertner’s capstone project for TE Connectivity is illustrative: His team was assigned a project in the company’s automotive division. “By conducting interviews with American and Mexican colleagues at TE Connectivity, we were able to identify hidden cost drivers and their impact on day-to-day operations, as well as on costs. In a nutshell, our analysis shows that factors such as a different language or culture, different time zones, as well as the complexity of a supply chain increase hidden costs substantially,” Gaertner says. “The interviews also showed that one factor can decrease hidden costs and make communication and the cross-functional work much more efficient: Relationships. Consequently, proposals were made on how to improve the relationship between American and Mexican TE colleagues, as well as further suggestions on TE’s sourcing strategy.”

Such Bryan School experiences are a boon to Gaertner in his current position at BASF. His responsibilities include everything from various analyses, budgeting and forecasting to implementing new tools and processes within business units in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

When Gaertner arrived at the Bryan School, he already had an impressive portfolio of international adventures and viewpoints of his own to share with classmates. Gaertner, who grew up in a small town close to Frankfurt, spent a semester during high school in the United States and, after graduation, taught English for a year in Mexico as community service. He then earned an undergraduate degree in international business administration from the University of Applied Sciences in Ludwigshafen through a program offered in partnership with BASF. Over the course of three years, Gaertner would alternate, concentrating on academics for three months and then working in various BASF departments (including a stint at a subsidiary in Hong Kong). Given his love of studying and working abroad, Gaertner could not pass up the opportunity to finish his MBA at UNCG.

“The American approach to business is different, and I really learned a lot in the courses I took in Germany about project management, management science and global financial markets,” he says. “I especially liked the practical orientation of the Bryan School and the use of tools—such as Microsoft Project and features of Excel—I didn’t know before. This was also why I decided to continue with the MBA courses at the Bryan School in Greensboro.”

This spring, Gaertner had an opportunity to bring his Bryan School education full circle when he helped host MBA students during a company visit to the BASF facility in Ludwigshafen, close to Mannheim. The UNCG students spent a week in the city as part of the Experience Business Abroad course. Among other duties, Gaertner organized a tour of the plant—the largest chemical production facility in the world.

“Fortunately, Jan Freudenberg (’06 MBA) joined me for the presentation. He is now head of financial reporting compliance at BASF and has had quite a career,” Gaertner says. “Together, we were able to give the students the experiences of both a recent graduate and one who has been in the corporate world for more than 10 years.”

As for his own career goals, Gaertner would like to lead a sales or marketing team—and, not unexpectedly, spend more time abroad. “Ultimately, I do not want to be driven by a certain title or salary,” he says. “I want a job that challenges me and provides me the opportunity to learn, as well as to apply my strengths and skills.” And Gaertner’s experiences at the Bryan School have readied him for that: “The MBA is a holistic learning experience, which prepared me well to cope with all challenges, hurdles and opportunities in the ‘real world.’ ”

Article by Julie Palm

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Iva Wepner: Bryan School strength is education through involvement

Iva Wepner

Iva Wepner
Class of 2016
Zenergy Technologies
Client Services Manager (Internship)

When Iva Wepner (’16 MBA) was searching for a graduate business program that would position her as a standout performer throughout a long, successful career, she turned to an adage she uses as a guide in life.

“As is stated in one of my favorite Chinese proverbs, ‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand,’” Wepner says. “I was attracted to the Bryan MBA promise to teach through involvement in real-word situations, problem solving and decision making.”

Wepner earned her undergraduate degree in business administration from the Bryan School in 2014 and considered going elsewhere for a graduate degree. But the school’s Day MBA Program is widely recognized for providing students with practical, translatable experience—exactly what Wepner wanted and what she knew today’s organizations demand.

Involvement has been a hallmark of Wepner’s time at the Bryan School, which offers a wealth of ways for students to build networking and leadership skills. She has volunteered with Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina, taking a key role in planning a local high school career fair, and worked on the Marketing Committee for the UNCG GOLD Council, which supports and encourages young alumni engagement at UNCG.

Perhaps most gratifying has been serving as president of the UNCG chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA), a national organization dedicated to empowering both female and male professionals, assisting in leadership development and enhancing workforce diversity. The UNCG chapter offers seminars and mentorships, as well as networking and volunteering opportunities. In Wepner’s leadership role, she planned the Fall and Spring Community Leaders Networking Event, which draws together Bryan School MBA candidates, alumni, faculty, and business and community leaders for an evening of networking and learning opportunities. She also attended the 2015 National NAWMBA Conference and Career Fair in Houston.

“For me, one of the biggest strengths of the Bryan School MBA is the valuable connections I have made,” Wepner says. “The students, professors, faculty and alumni are very engaged.”

Wepner appreciates the Bryan MBA’s broad business focus, which will give her professional flexibility for a lifetime. Although she has concentrated in marketing and is interested in human resources, she says, “I didn’t want to limit myself. One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned at the Bryan School is how to learn—how to find, understand and utilize information. That’s something I’ll be able to use every day of my career.”

A case in point is Wepner’s internship with Zenergy Technologies, a Greensboro-based software testing firm. She began working in the human resources department on employee recruitment. Because of her success, her internship was extended and she took on more of a client relations role. “I’ve learned so much about the industry but also the dynamics of the business,” she says. “I attend the weekly meetings and interact with the CEO and VPs every day.”

Article by Julie Palm

Photograph by Martin Kane