Dragana Mendel, Jenkins MBA, 2012 & MS Computer Science, 2003
Degrees earned: North Carolina State University: Jenkins MBA, Poole College of Management, 2012 and MS Computer Science, 2003 and University of Texas at Dallas: BS Computer Science
Organization: ANAGARD, LLC
Title: President, Principal Consultant
Tell us about your current job duties, and how you’re working to integrate sustainability into your role.
I am a business growth consultant for startups and small businesses. I work with entrepreneurs in the early stages to develop a profitable business model through market research and customer discovery. My work is not focused on sustainability per se, but my clients are. The majority of my clients have been startups commercializing technologies that have a direct impact on our environment. They include startups developing advanced renewable fuels and chemicals; new LED products, including some used for disinfection and some used as emergency backup lighting; and energy-efficient IoT systems.
What experiences first made you interested in using your career to drive business sustainability?
As soon as I was accepted into the Jenkins MBA program, I knew that I wanted to be actively involved with the Net Impact club. I wanted to connect with colleagues who strive for the triple bottom line: profit, people, and planet. As part of the Net Impact leadership team, I had an opportunity to learn about sustainable business practices used in a variety of industries and expand my knowledge beyond my own experience in IT and telecom.
Give us some examples of how your company uses sustainability to drive innovation, produce results, or improve the way you do business.
I only buy 100 percent recycled printer paper, and my first action item upon becoming a board member at my office park association was to bring in centralized recycling (because believe it or not, Dumpster is a trademarked term).
What do you love the most about your job? What are the challenges you’ve encountered & overcome in your career?
I love creating something out of nothing! My corporate career was in R&D, where I was working as a software engineer and a product manager for IBM and Alcatel-Lucent (now acquired by Nokia) on brand-new products that didn’t exist in the market at the time. Brainstorming and the design phase have always been the most exciting periods for me during a new product development cycle. Now, as a startup consultant, not only do I keep the excitement for new ideas with each client engagement, I also have to figure out how to create something on an extremely lean budget.
What’s your advice for students who are interested in sustainability? How can students combine their sustainability interests with their day-to-day duties?
Sustainability is a way of life, not a title. Most MBA students will not be able to find a position of a sustainability manager for a corporation because there are so few of them out there. On the other hand, everyone can bring sustainability into their work if we are mindful about the ways we can reduce our resource use (electricity, gasoline, water, office supplies, and business travel). We can all support the local economy because that’s an important ingredient in a sustainable society where small businesses collaborate with each other, where customers are local, where the money stays locally, and where goods are not transported over large distances.
Feel free to add any observations about your career and/or sustainability that we haven’t covered in these questions.
Sustainability is also being mindful about your own well being.
“Earning an MBA from Poole College not only gave me the necessary skills to be a management consultant, it helped me establish my niche. I help grow early-stage technology companies that are trying to solve current environmental and energy problems. I also serve as the North Carolina Ambassador to the Cleantech Open national accelerator. My experience at Poole was instrumental in giving me the necessary hands-on experience and tools to build successful technology startups from ground up. I am thrilled to actively support the Sustainability Initiative by sharing my expertise.”