For students in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), consulting is a popular career to pursue. Rising ISyE 5th-year Aaron Brown never considered this career path until he joined Epic Intentions (EI). EI is a project-based consulting club at Georgia Tech, focused on serving nonprofits in Atlanta. In this Q&A, Brown shares his experience in leadership in EI -- as Director of Strategy, and now, President.
What is Epic Intentions?
Epic Intentions is an interdisciplinary, project-based consulting club on campus. Our members act as both the consultants to nonprofits and as the product managers for the deliverables handed off each semester. Epic Intentions’ objective is to enable students to use what they’ve learned at Georgia Tech to serve the Atlanta community, specifically in the areas of homelessness, food insecurity, and underrepresented communities.
How did you get involved in Epic Intentions, and why this particular consulting organization over the others also at Georgia Tech?
I heard about EI before I enrolled at Georgia Tech, but after speaking to the president at the end of my first semester, I was sold and joined the next term as a general consultant. During my first term in EI, I worked on a website rebranding project for a children’s Type 1 Diabetes camp. I was drawn in by the project-oriented nature of the organization. Although strategy consulting is incredibly insightful for a nonprofit, these organizations typically don’t have the resources to follow through with the research done. Epic Intentions does both, so I was able to experience the traditional consulting and the agile development cycle in producing a solution for the camp.
How has your involvement in EI complemented your ISyE studies, and has it shaped your post-graduation plans?
I never considered consulting as a career I’d pursue, but after absolutely loving my time working on Epic Intentions’ projects and serving as the director of strategy, I’ve interned in and plan on pursuing consulting after I graduate. I gained a massive amount of respect for nonprofits’ efforts to help others with extremely limited resources. I’d love to continue working with nonprofits’ long-term planning.
What was an unexpected challenge when you served as director of strategy? What has been a success you're proud of?
Over the three years I held that position, I was most surprised by the difficulty of retaining members. Not only does Epic Intentions see great opportunity to improve member retention, but we’ve also facilitated numerous partnerships with nonprofits suffering from the same problem.
In the past two years, we’ve seen many returning nonprofit partners from previous terms praising the quality and depth of Georgia Tech students’ work. In my first couple terms, the organization struggled with finding nonprofits and recruiting members – now we cannot host all nonprofits or students who apply to join our network. I’m excited to see the strong foundation of EI, through both increased nonprofit and student requests.
Describe your transition from director of strategy to president. How is your role different now, and what goals do you have as president?
During my four years in Epic Intentions, I worked closely with four presidents with different leadership styles and strategic objectives. The rapid exposure to their executive directions with varying beneficial effects on the organization and on members’ enjoyment in participating has given me a sampling of how I can best use my skills to lead my executive team and my membership. Now that I’ve taken the seat of president, I’ve redistributed my previous role as director of strategy to all members so that they can contribute to EI’s strategic growth and process improvement. As we continue to grow, I aim to help expand EI beyond its current footprint as a student organization and potentially partner with other colleges in the Metro Atlanta area to maximize the impact to the Atlanta community with our interdisciplinary -- and soon, interinstitutional -- projects.
Why should ISyE students get involved with EI?
Many Epic Intentions projects require the skills learned in industrial engineering, such as data analytics, database research and management, dashboard building, and process improvement. What makes EIs so interesting is the interdisciplinary nature of all our projects. Although the principal focus of a project might be planning and creating a database system, you might realize it would be even better if you could dive deeper into the data and perform some market research to help inform the nonprofit. These exciting questions of “what if” allow us to explore how ISyE perfectly complements many unexpected fields. Combining consulting with project management, Epic Intentions is a great snapshot into the field of industrial engineering.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering