Kara Montellano ’23 MBA: Unexpected Detour Led Her to an MBA at Whitman

Kara Montellano ’23 MBA believes that life “has a way of taking you on a detour you didn’t plan for.” Fortunately, her most recent detour took her to Syracuse University’s Whitman School this past fall to pursue an MBA with concentrations in supply chain management and business analytics.

Montellano came to Whitman with almost a decade of engineering experience in the petrochemical industry. A Texas native, she was working for BP in Decatur, Alabama, as a process engineer when she met and married her husband, an active duty officer in the United States Army. As a military spouse, Montellano knew she would be moving frequently while her husband continued his Army career.  She soon found herself living about as far away from her southern roots as possible – at Fort Drum, an Army base in Upstate New York, just miles from the Canadian border.

“With few prospects in the oil industry in Northern New York and knowing that we’d probably be moving again every two years until my husband retires from the military, I wanted to give myself as many options as possible,” she explains. “An MBA seemed like a good place to start.”

Montellano was accepted into the Whitman School’s MBA program and began her studies in the fall of 2021. While she wanted the overall business background of an MBA, she also wanted to pursue concentrations that would give her more versatility for future job prospects. 

“Supply chain actually has a lot of concepts that overlap with engineering, in general, but can also be translated into different applications,” she explains. “And, of course, any form of analytics is going to be valuable in the future. I already have a foundation in this area, so, if I decide to go back into engineering, that will benefit me. If not, I know I can apply it to so many other things.”

Although she lives an hour-and-a-half from the University, Montellano has made time to get involved in campus life and is pleased with the diversity of her MBA cohort. “I didn’t expect to meet so many international students,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed interacting with them and learning about their cultures.”

She has also found time to participate in a few activities offered through the Whitman School. Montellano is the vice president of events for Whitman’s Women in Business and has used her own experience in the workplace to help come up with valuable professional development topics for the group. 

“The context of having worked in the real world versus starting this program right after completing an undergraduate degree gives me some unique insight into what might be valuable information for the group,” she explains. “Many ideas – like salary negotiations and career pivoting – are things I’ve had to face in my own career.”

This summer, Montellano has secured an internship in supply chain at IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, and is looking at it as an opportunity to see if she might enjoy a career path in that space. Once she completes her degree in spring 2023, she might like to combine her experience as a chemical engineer with her MBA and explore the technology industry or maybe take on some kind of project management role. Whatever detours lie ahead, Montellano is certain she’ll be able to leverage the skills she’s learned at the Whitman School into new opportunities.