Beyond Business School: Emory Goizueta MBA Alumni Make Waves
One of the key quality indicators of an MBA program is its alumni. By looking at a school’s alumni, you can get a sense of the kinds of individuals who are drawn to the program, the impact the program can have on your future career, and the type of network you’ll have access to. At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, this network includes Nick Harris, the director of digital operations and optimization for United Airlines in Chicago, and Elizabeth Halkos, the chief operating officer at Purchasing Power, an e-commerce company that provides voluntary benefits programs to employers to help their employees improve their financial well-being.
Nick Harris — ’08 EvMBA
Nick Harris’ job is all about enhancing the online shopping experience for United Airlines customers. To do this, he spends his days studying the behavior of visitors to United.com, from using their smartphones to shop to purchasing a service bundle. He then looks at what the competition is doing to ensure that United Airlines keeps on top of the latest trends.
Talking about his job, Harris told Goizueta: “An average week for me usually involves looking at a wealth of information or data and trying to understand what types of hypotheses we can generate based off how customers are behaving or transacting with our channels.”
For example, one of Harris’ main tasks is ensuring that consumers can purchase products on the United Airlines app as easily as they do on a webpage using their smartphones or computer. He also has to keep up with what the giants of customer service—Google, Apple, and Amazon—are doing.
Harris told Goizueta that when these companies offer a new service or do something really intelligent, they set a new standard that United Airlines has to keep up with. “You’re not just competing against others in your industry; you’re competing for mind space and time with all of the other devices and apps that are on customers’ phones,” he said.
However, this can be difficult for a large company that’s nearly 100 years old, but that challenge is part of what Harris enjoys. Harris regularly partners with other product owners to enhance the digital experience, collaborating across teams to assess metrics together to identify opportunities to improve the overall United Airlines customer experience.
“One of the things that we’ve been doing a lot is looking at web analytics data and marrying that with transactional data. As a company, we have loads of transactional data, which is one of the things that I absolutely love about being at a company this size,” explained Harris.
His interest in working for a company like United Airlines was one of the reasons that Harris chose Emory for his MBA. Prior to attending Goizueta, he was employed at a small tech firm and considering launching an investment group with a few friends. The problem was that Harris didn’t have the right tool set and background to succeed. So, he began to look into the Goizueta Evening MBA program.
“I felt it was worth the investment to go back to school and take the time to grow in a structured learning environment, in order to build that tool set,” he said. “This way I could evaluate our opportunities and learn the science of business.”
But, in the end, it wasn’t just the classroom experience that impacted Harris, it was the relationships that he built. In particular, his relationship with Professor Patrick Noonan led him to the airline industry. “We were talking one day, and Noonan said, ‘If you really like this work and you’re interested in doing optimization, you should think about the airline industry, given all of the work they do from a space revenue management standpoint,” remembered Harris. And the rest was history.
Elizabeth Halkos – ’01 MBA
As the chief operating officer at Purchasing Power, Elizabeth Halkos has a good deal of leadership experience, which was recently recognized during the 14th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Halkos was praised for raising the bar professionally and as a teacher and mentor for young women looking to launch their own ventures. This and her other accomplishments led her to be named a Silver Award Winner in the “Female Executive of the Year, Business Services: 11 to 2,500 Employees – Business Services” category.
Since 2002, the Stevie Awards have honored women executives, entrepreneurs, employees, and the companies they run globally. Each year, more than 170 professionals worldwide come together on five specialized juries to nominate the top women and organizations across more than 60 nations.
After earning her MBA with a concentration in statistics and data analytics at Emory Goizueta in 2001, Halkos went on to work as a brand manager at Earthlink, Inc. and an account executive at Monster.com. From there, she served two years at the Inforte Corporation, where she consulted with such clients as Miller Brewing Company and Ocean Spray. Then, finally, she found her way to Purchasing Power in 2006.
Halkos started at Purchasing Power as the vice president of sales and marketing and quickly moved up the ranks. By 2010, she was promoted to chief marketing officer and then to chief revenue officer by 2014. In January of 2017, she was appointed to her current role of COO.
Halkos’s achievements at Purchasing Power include driving the top line revenue from $30M to more than $400M over a decade and helping the EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) grow from $5M to more than $40M. Most recently, she played an integral role in launching Purchasing Power’s 2017 rebranding campaign, which included new channel partnership strategies. This resulted in a 19 percent revenue and 80.5 percent adjusted EBITDA growth, compared to the same six months the previous year.
Halkos’s responsibilities at Purchasing Power include oversight of sales, account management, client services, customer experience, customer care, customer operations, business-to-business marketing, and public relations. She is also responsible for leading the broker and employer growth strategies for the company, which has helped Purchasing Power place on the “Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies” for nine years in a row.
Outside of her job at Purchasing Power, Halkos is still very involved at Emory Goizueta. Since 2008, she has served as a board member, and previously served as president and vice president of the board. Recently, Halkos was also chosen as the recipient of Emory University’s “Annual Service Award” in recognition of her involvement in mentoring and supporting students at Goizueta.
To learn more about MBA alumni at Emory Goizueta, visit the school’s website.