Congratulations to Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12), Senior Manager for Global Corporate Brand Marketing at GE. She is a Grady College alumna and honoree for this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class.
O’Brien graduated from the college with a degree in Mass Media Arts. She studied abroad for two summers during her time in college — once in Australia for media and production and once in France for global advertising and marketing.
Since graduating, O’Brien has worked for well-known brands including UPS, Kohler, Colgate-Palmolive and General Electric. Apart from her work, she volunteers with Hudson River Park Friends to enhance and care for New York City’s parks through gardening and environmental clean-up. She also volunteers with Meals on Wheels and the Read Ahead program.
Following are responses O’Brien provided about her experiences at UGA and working in the industry.
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?
Dr. Tom Reichert’s ADPR class introduced me to the magic of advertising and brand storytelling. It was this Grady coursework and professor that inspired me to apply to attend the Cannes Festival of Creativity study abroad program. I credit my experiential learning as an invaluable career awakening that completely shaped my journey to corporate America to work for some of the world’s most beloved brands. Not many people can speak to an exact moment that completely crystallized their career aspirations, but I can. The opportunity of access and exposure to an industry at the highest level opened my eyes to the intimately emotional impact a giant global brand can have on a person. Owing my career to UGA Grady and studying abroad makes giving back to the university effortless. I’m always looking for reasons to talk about UGA and how the experiences it offered me got me to where I am today.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Being yourself is your strongest asset. How many times have you heard people say, “Just be yourself” to the point of wanting to roll your eyes? It’s such a good reminder for students in their 20s to hear though. At that stage, you can get fixated on making connections by force-fitting yourself to be like everyone else. What I’ve learned is that standing out and staying real is what really draws people to you.
What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?
Always show up with a point of view. In my experience, the employees who rise through the ranks the quickest are not necessarily the ones who get to work first or stay the latest. People will be more impressed by a unique perspective shared in a meeting than your willingness to respond to an email at 10 p.m. Never forget the value of your opinion and the work you do. Make sure you don’t forget, always capture your work output and document your successes. Even if for your own self-worth, it also makes conversations about promotions much easier.
What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
When I worked at Colgate-Palmolive, I had one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments when my alma matter and work collided. UGA was gearing up to host Notre Dame (also known as the Fighting Irish) and as a lighthearted way to spark rivalry, a local Georgia grocery store rid their shelves of Irish Spring products. The local action made national headlines which brought one of my company’s brands (Irish Spring) front page news. We had a viral moment on social media that then manifested into a paid media partnership with ESPN’s College Game Day, onsite activations at the actual game day, and millions of impressions and positive sentiment for the brand. Agile marketing opportunities that allow your brand to be culturally relevant in a surprising and unexpected way is always such a good time, but it was extra special that it involved UGA.
What do you believe is your biggest strength and how has it helped you in your current role?
Relationship building. I like to think that I’m never too cool, but always warm. My enthusiasm to make people comfortable and connected is embedded into my passion for leading the alumni chapter here in NYC and my successes at work. My favorite thing to do is bring different groups together for a common purpose. Together is always better.
New York Magazine’s Pivot podcast hosted by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.
One job-related tool you can’t live without
As simple as it seems, my work calendar. I protect my time by booking meetings with myself to ensure I’m as productive as possible.
Favorite restaurant in Athens
It’s very hard to go wrong with the peanut butter bacon burger at Clocked.
Favorite place you’ve traveled
Domestically, I’d say Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Internationally, it may have to be Cape Town, South Africa.
Item on your bucket list: Visiting all 7 continents would be amazing, but climate change isn’t making travel to Antarctica any easier!
Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Grady College alumni honored in 2023 include:
- Kim Gebbia Chappell (ABJ ’06)
- Kaitlin Miller Febles (ABJ ’13) *
- Christina P. Koebel (ABJ ’07)
- Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12)
- Mandy Rodgers (ABJ ’08, AB ’08)
- Stacy Willingham (ABJ ’13)
Please plan to join us on Friday, Sept. 22, for a breakfast reception to help welcome them home. We will gather in PAF 10:15 – 11:15 a.m. All faculty, staff and students are invited.
* Will not be in attendance