MBA@UNC Graduate: Brian Edwards

Brian Edwards, 34, had co-authored two patents for metallic materials by the time he was 26, working as an engineer in the U.S. Army. Back then, he had no plans to switch careers. But that all changed in 2006 when he started a new job in North Carolina and led a team to improve manufacturing of materials for jet engines. Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI) in Monroe hired Edwards as a product engineer, and gave him some assignments that required leadership skills. During those times, he found himself thriving and began considering a new career.

“I wanted to move into more of a strategic decision-making world."

He knew he would have a better shot at management if he added an MBA to his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Johns Hopkins University. But now he had two young children and a wife to consider. Spending time with his family was important. During the time he was an MBA@UNC student, he and his wife expanded their family, welcoming their younger daughter in June 2012, midway through the program. Juggling work, a growing family and school has not come without sacrifices. “You learn to live with a whole lot less sleep than you ever thought you could. And you find yourself reprioritizing your life,” Edwards says, adding that he watches very little football on TV these days. One sacrifice he did not have to make was the quality of his degree; the rigor and challenges of the online program came as a welcome surprise.

“In retrospect, I actually learn much better in this environment,” he says, talking about how much he benefits from the ability to rewind and re-watch professors’ lectures and his classmates’ discussions.

Midway through MBA@UNC, Brian transferred into his first official management position with Allvac, a division of ATI. Four employees now report to him, and leading them is an exciting new challenge — one that puts his education to work. “Coming up with a new and better way of doing business and knowing that it is positively affecting your organization as a whole is very rewarding,” Edwards says.