With support from family and women in engineering, Brandi Bridges builds a ladder to success.
Brandi Bridges ’07 doesn’t take the role models in her life lightly. “My dad was an engineer and my mom was a teacher — both were incredibly supportive of my undergrad and graduate education.” In addition, her cousin and her aunt went to Rice. “I was lucky enough to have two Rice alumnae in my family.”
She was also fortunate to feel supported as a female engineering student at Rice. “Of the eight students in the civil and environmental engineering program in my class, seven were female, which was rare at that time,” she said. “Throughout my career, I’ve participated in events like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and STEM camps. It’s on all of us to support girls and women pursuing science careers.”
Bridges also majored in Hispanic studies to continue her study of Spanish, which led to a semester in Madrid. “Unsurprisingly, it was my favorite semester,” she said. “I still speak Spanish, and it has allowed me opportunities to work abroad in Mexico and Chile.”
After graduating from Rice, she began her career in production operations at ExxonMobil, a company she was familiar with after completing two internships there. Based in Houston, she traveled frequently. “Having the opportunity right out of college to get out of the office, travel and see where the real work was done was really neat,” she said.
Inspired by her father who pursued an MBA while working full time, Bridges always knew she would go back to school, and did so after four years at ExxonMobil. She chose Harvard Business School because of its case method curriculum. “Business school was very different from my engineering classes,” she said. “It focused on critical thinking, considering peer perspectives and thinking through an argument. While preparation was important, it was more about being in the moment, and it took me a second to get comfortable with that. It takes practice to hone those skills.”
After earning her MBA, Bridges joined the consulting world at McKinsey & Company in Chicago, where she’s been for more than five years. As a project manager, Bridges serves a variety of manufacturing companies as they work on improving their operations. “For each project, I get the chance to go into an organization and work alongside their employees toward the same goal,” she said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie that develops in my work, and it’s very rewarding to see the transformations.”
Bridges’ greatest challenge — professionally and personally — is recognizing where she can make the biggest impact every day. “You’ll always have 100 things to get done and only enough time to get to 20,” she said. “You must focus on the highest-value opportunities, which is a critical skill to develop.”
While her career has taken her all over, Bridges finds ways to connect with her Rice roots. She serves as a board member for the Association of Rice University Black Alumni and was recently elected to the board of the Association of Rice Alumni. She enjoys hosting Rice alumni events in Chicago with her husband, Vasco Bridges ’03. With the arrival of her first child, Bridges is undoubtedly a role model to another girl, Joycie Serena, whose namesakes are Bridges’ grandmother and the greatest athlete of all time. — Kendall Schoemann