Just a year after graduating from The Richmond MBA, much has changed for Brian Beckmann, GB ‘14.  When he began graduate school three years ago, he was working for the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates electric, gas and water utility rates in the state. “I worked as a utilities analyst for four years,” he said, “and I knew I eventually wanted to further develop my financial and analytical skills in the private sector. I decided an M.B.A. would be the best way to develop these skills and connections to take that next step in my career.”

On his search for an M.B.A. program, “I applied to several full-time and part-time programs in Virginia and D.C. However, most full-time programs were very expensive and considering the potential workload, it would have been impractical to work and study simultaneously. On the other hand, many of the part-time programs I researched did not seem rigorous enough to provide the high-caliber experience I was looking for.”

Beckmann explained, “When I found The Richmond MBA, it was a perfect fit and an easy decision. The program had a reputation for excellence, and the structure allowed me to balance part- and full-time class loads. The Richmond MBA also offered a study abroad opportunity in Beijing, China, which I took advantage of during the fall of 2013, and an International Residency Program. No other M.B.A. curriculum I’d researched offered anything like this.” Learn more about his experience studying abroad in his guest blog posts: 1, 2.

In the past year, he has leveraged his education to move into a new role that has allowed him to combine his financial and analytical skills while working for a business with annual revenues of $2 billion. “I am a financial analyst at Southern States Cooperative, a member-owned agricultural and retail cooperative. My responsibilities range from evaluating potential acquisitions and capital projects, analyzing financial performance across our company, data analytics and reporting and analyzing our inventory hedging strategies. Southern States invested significantly in data analytics over the past several years, and some of my most exciting work is in this area.”

Beckmann described the nature of his work at the cooperative. “Working at Southern States has been great because of the variety of businesses we operate. In the morning I might be looking at a petroleum company we are considering acquiring, and in the afternoon I could be mining retail transaction data for pricing issues. I use two data analysis tools, Alteryx and Tableau, to organize our data so as to present it to management and create tools for our operational divisions. I learn something new every day.”

He added, “I’ve had the opportunity to work on some major projects so far. Our retail merchandising team organizes products within our stores on a planogram, which is a standardized model of how products are organized on store shelves with the goal of maximizing sales. They had data spread across multiple databases, which hindered their ability to determine product performance. I worked with the team to build an application that pulls together their disparate data and creates dashboards that visualize the financial performance of each planogram and product in each store while comparing performance across locations. When something I’ve helped create saves the company money or provides insight into our business, that is the most satisfying feeling.”

Beckmann reflected on his time earning an M.B.A. “The Richmond MBA has helped my career tremendously. Not only did I grow my finance skills in the classroom, but also I was able to participate in the ACG Cup,[hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth], which gave me real-world experience building financial models that I use to this day. Furthermore, the data analytics class with Professor Thompson was also incredibly helpful and was a fantastic way to gain the ability to use data for creating insights and making educated decisions.”

He looked toward his future. "I hope to continue to improve my finance skills while getting to apply my data analytics experience to finance and my work in ever-evolving ways. I look forward to what the future brings."