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When a person exercises, they lose not only water but also electrolytes through their sweat. Gatorade, which is currently manufactured by PepsiCo, contains the necessary electrolytes and carbohydrates that athletes need to refuel and rehydrate. Their optimal mixture, which is distributed in over 80 countries, provides energy to working muscles and enhances athletic performance. Former NHL hockey player Ryan O’Byrne, who spent a decade playing professionally, knows all about peak sport performance and it’s no surprise he ended up working for this iconic sports brand.

But how did Ryan O’Byrne transition from being an athlete who drank sports drinks like Gatorade to seeing the brand from the other side as a Marketing Manager? In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear how Ryan reinvented himself at the Kellogg School of Management to pursue a meaningful second career in the industry he is most passionate about.

Read on to hear why Ryan O’Byrne chose Kellogg, how his MBA has given him the tools to succeed in his current role, and much more.    

Ryan O'Byrne

Ryan O’Byrne, Northwestern Kellogg ‘19, Associate Marketing Manager, Gatorade

Ryan O’Byrne, Northwestern Kellogg ‘19, Associate Marketing Manager at Gatorade

Age: 36
Hometown: Victoria, BC, Canada
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Cornell University: Hotel Administration
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management Class of 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 10 years, professional hockey (including 6 years in the National Hockey League) 

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I attended business school to further my personal and professional development, and to position myself to have a purposeful second career. I left Cornell after my junior year to play in the NHL and so, after retiring 10 years later, I returned to Cornell to complete my degree. As a 32-year-old student, I benefited from being completely focused on academics and approaching my work as a mature student. Resulting, my second time at Cornell was transformational. I hypothesized that if I could go to school for another two years, I would continue to grow both personally and professionally. My hypothesis was correct! Athletes are forced to retire at a young age and reinvent themselves. I retired at 32 with an entire life to live and I wanted to guarantee that I would pursue a meaningful second career; business school was that catalyst.  

Why Kellogg? Which factors influenced your decision?
I chose Kellogg because of the culture and its history as a top business school. I loved my time at Cornell and I wanted a similar experience; I wanted to attend a mid-sized school located outside of a large urban area. This format offers fewer distractions of a big city, thus forcing students to forge new friendships. Additionally, before applying to business school, I interviewed MBAs graduates from a range of schools and was intrigued that many interviewees mentioned Kellogg’s unique, fun, and inclusive culture. I was also attracted to Kellogg’s tradition as being a top U.S. business school with a deep alumni network. 

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I worked at Allianz Real Estate of America as an Acquisitions Associate. Given my lack of experience in real estate, I wanted to work for a strong brand in New York City, the center of the real estate world, and get exposure to both equity and debt. 

Why did you choose to work for your current company?
I was most recently a brand manager at Gatorade working on the Muscle Milk and CytoSport brands. After my internship working in real estate, which taught me valuable analytical skills, I realized that my skillset fit better as a manager rather than as an investor. As a result, I pursued a career as a brand manager in sports and health, an industry that I am passionate about and have experience in. I chose Gatorade because of its legacy as an iconic sports brand, athletic culture, and history as the market leader in sports drinks. 

How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career?
The brand management role at Gatorade functions as a mini general manager and my MBA gave me the tools to succeed, including: managing cross-functional team members, thinking strategically, building consensus internally, analyzing sales data and drawing conclusions, and presenting to senior leaders.

What advice would you give to a current MBA student?
Focus on quality over quantity. Business school offers an array of options to pursue from clubs to classes to internships, but chose wisely and stay focused on your goals. Before you sign up for something, ask yourself “What is my objective in pursuing this option?”


Learn about more business school alumni like Ryan O’Byrne by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.

To see what current students from Kellogg School of Management are up to, visit their Real Humans: Students profiles.


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Interview Invite to Stanford GSB via email.
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