Atlanta MBDA Center’s Students – Where are they Now: Brandon Miller of Clarkston Consulting

Atlanta MBDA Center’s Students – Where are they Now

Earlier this year, we produced a series of articles focusing on how your group can employ student workers by utilizing the resources provided by the Georgia Tech Career Center. If you were not able to read those articles, make sure to check them out on our blog. To show you that we practice what we preach, this week, we will be highlighting some of the students that have worked with our centers over the past few years and where they are today.

Brandon Miller

            Brandon graduated from Georgia Tech in 2014 and received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Technology and Management from the Denning Technology and Management Program. Brandon began working with the Centers in 2013 as a summer intern, but his role eventually extended into a year-round position. Brandon’s role focused primarily on project management for the Atlanta MBDA’s healthcare initiatives. Brandon also conducted a number of research projects as well as helping shape social media marketing for the Centers and help cement the role and scope Atlanta MBDA Center internships.

At Georgia Tech, Brandon was very involved on campus. Brandon served as President of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and also served on the Executive Cabinet for Georgia Tech’s orientation program, FASET. In his undergraduate career, Brandon held a number of on-campus jobs including work with the Office of Minority Development as well as his work with the Atlanta MBDA Centers. Brandon also participated in the Co-op program with an Atlanta orthopedics company while an undergrad at Georgia Tech.

Below is what Brandon had to say about working with the Centers:

How would you describe the atmosphere within the Atlanta MBDA Business Center?

At no point did I really feel like an intern. I felt like I was a staff member and an employee. Everyone was great, and I really felt like we were a family after all of the time we spent together on the impactful work that we were doing. I felt like I was entrusted with a lot and given a lot of autonomy to create, try new things, fail, and pivot with a support system in place where I didn’t feel like I was going to mess up at the end of the day. Working there also provided a lot of opportunities. For example, I still have some of the relationships that I made with some of the suppliers and manufacturers that were in the various programs. The Center also sent me to a national conference on supplier diversity which was a really cool experience. Overall, I would say that it was a very unique internship program where I didn’t feel like an intern at all.

Are there any projects from your time as a student assistant that you’re particularly proud of?

What comes to mind is being able to and being entrusted to help develop net, new programs at the Center, whether they exist today or not. It was super cool to be able to create the internship and the ambassador programs at the Center. I was also able to create the HTAC program for healthcare and the CAMP program for manufacturers. I remember making the logos and websites for these programs. It was a great opportunity to be a part of these from their origination and seeing them grow. We also put together a conference for diverse suppliers and manufacturers from all over the country. Knowing that I was able to represent the Center, coordinate the agenda, and get everything together as an undergraduate college student was a fantastic experience.

How did working for the Atlanta MBDA Business Center contribute to your undergraduate career at Georgia Tech and your professional career after graduating?

            I’m currently a consultant for Clarkston Consulting, and I focus on project and program management. I also lead our diversity, equity, and inclusion services (DEI), so how we partner and help our clients in the DEI space. A lot of what I learned with my experience in the Center helped me realize that I did not want to do engineering even though I have a Biomedical Engineering degree. I realized that I really liked working with different companies and different people on different types of projects. My work with the Center was really a launchpad into consulting rather than engineering. I would say that my work was a differentiator as I was coming out of Georgia Tech and starting to interview because a lot of the work that I did was the work that consultants do.

Now that I’m in the DEI consultancy space, I’m having a lot of conversations about supplier diversity and approaches which is what the Centers do. They focus on diverse suppliers and how to get them into the supply chain, so that’s a direct correlation. I also want to mention the project management skills, the sense of autonomy, and being able to coordinate and communicate across different parties, and all of that is a direct correlation to the work that I do now. In hindsight, I realized that this was one of the more impactful experiences when it comes to what my career has turned out to be, and I still go back to different anecdotes and lessons learned from the centers and my internship there even over my co-op which was almost a full-time job.

Constructing Communities

Ujamaa Construction was originally founded in 2002 by Jimmy Akintonde, President and CEO. In 2017, however, Ujamaa Construction opened an Atlanta based office led by Co-Principal and Executive Vice President Todd Pressley. Serving as a general construction company specializing in demolition and mill work, Ujamaa has grown to an organization of 75 employees and projected growth throughout the southeast.

After opening the Atlanta office in 2017, Ujamaa Construction soon began working as a client of the Atlanta MBDA Centers. Since becoming a client, Ujamaa has pursued and received a number of contracts via the assistance of the Atlanta MBDA Centers staff. Most notably, Ujamaa was contracted on the START to Build Program for the Microsoft Atlantic Yards Project in Atlantic Station. The Atlanta MBDA Centers START to Build program is a client-led consortium that includes construction firms, specialty trade contractors, and developers, as well as facilities management firms interested in building connections to create new business opportunities.

In opening the Atlanta office, Ujamaa was specifically looking to fill the gap of black owned construction companies operating on the south side of Atlanta. Operating on their business values to help contribute back to their local communities and rebuild rundown areas, Ujamaa centers their projects around their tagline Rebuilding our Community One Block at a Time. At this time, Ujamaa has been contracted for a number of projects with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Atlanta including Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. They have also been involved with a mentorship program through Construction Ready West Side Works to help open up opportunities for apprenticeships in the construction industry.

To learn more about Ujamaa make sure to visit their website, LinkedIn Page, and Facebook page.

The Benefits of Immersive Business Education

Charles Weems was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia, and attended Columbia High School. As an avid video game player as a child, Mr. Weems noted that it was a high school teacher who first introduced him to computer science. Mr. Weems then followed a golf scholarship to Grambling State University where he graduated with a degree in computer science. Upon graduation, he began working on individual projects mostly involving developing websites with flash animation and working as a software engineer for a small business. By 2006, however, Mr. Weems had decided to go out on his own and open Weems Design Studio (originally named Weems Web Consulting). Today, Weems Design Studio employs over 50 individuals who help provide custom software solutions and technology expertise for private businesses and government entities. 

In a conversation with Mr. Weems, he noted that his original business strategy and philosophy was simply to never spend more than he made, and while this method was successful in his early years, Mr. Weems began to seek professional and industry related training. By 2010, Weems Design Studio was beginning to pursue government contracts, and it was through this process that he got involved with the Small Business Administration (SBA). Via his relationship with the SBA, Mr. Weems learned about the opportunities available for him at the Atlanta MBDA Business Center. After contacting Donna Ennis, Atlanta MBDA Centers’ Project Director, Mr. Weems began to participate in programs and receive counsel in attaining credit, identifying customer bases, investing money, and developing a strategic vision for a business. 

“The Atlanta MDBA Centers are a very engaged organization in the Atlanta area from a business standpoint. I would encourage any business owner to get involved with the MBDA. The resources are out there, but many times we don’t know where to look. By connecting with groups such as the MBDA, you’re connected with people who really want to see you succeed and are there to help.” Charles Weems

Most notably, Mr. Weems described his experience participating in the Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business Program in 2015. After finding out about the program through his relationship with the Atlanta MBDA Business Center, Mr. Weems participated in the intensive program and made a point to say his colleagues described him as a “new person” after completing the program. He noted how the program helped him understand his overall vision for the company. Instead of trying to do all things information technology (IT) related, Mr. Weems decided to focus his company on software engineering and development.

Another area of notable interest and personal development Mr. Weems took from the Tuck program was the accounting section. He described how the program walked its participants through items such as balance sheets and cash flow statements. Through this immersive educational opportunity, Mr. Weems was able to create projections for his own company and escape a month-to-month financial system of operating. As a result, Mr. Weems now focuses on future implementation of skills and further development and regularly engages his staff with certifications and staff trainings.

Mr. Weems is also one of the Atlanta MBDA Centers’ clients who was recently accepted into the Ernst & Young Accelerator Program. This online program assists entrepreneurs in launching their own products and learning more from industry professionals.

To learn more about Weems Design Studio make sure to check out their website and LinkedIn page.