Areas of Focus
On July 15, 2020, the Georgia Tech Alumni Association announced 40 distinguished honorees as part of its inaugural 40 Under 40 class. Selected from more than 250 nominations, the Class of 2020 represented a wide range of industries and sectors and included four outstanding alumni from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering: Maithili Appalwar, Sheereen Brown, Jennifer McKeehan, and Evren Ozkaya.
“We are very proud of these four alumni who have made, and are continuing to make, a difference in the world,” said ISyE School Chair Edwin Romeijn. “They have all had amazing careers thus far, and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the future.”
Maithili Appalwar, IE 18
After learning that inconsistent rainfall was the leading cause of suicide among farmers in a district in India, Maithili Appalwar used her passion for manufacturing and affordable design to address their situation. Through her company, Avana, she’s helped more than 10,000 farmers conserve 50 billion liters of water with an eco-friendly polymer lining that helps harvest rainwater and create artificial ponds on farms. After just one year using the liner, she found that income for the farmers increased by 98.7%. “I want my legacy to be a world where every farmer lives with dignity and is empowered to create a world that they want to live in,” said Appalwar.
Fun fact: She once followed a professor around until he gave her a waiver to enroll in his Medieval Literature class.
Sheereen Brown, IE 13, MS HS 14
Senior Business Analyst, The Task Force for Global Health
Sheereen Brown likes to say that her work is about getting the right information (data) to the right people at the right time via the right tech to make the right decisions. As senior business analyst for The Task Force for Global Health, Brown travels the world from Johannesburg to Geneva to fulfill the organization’s mission to eliminate disease and protect populations. Working in partnership with WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she helps bring innovative solutions to global health challenges. Brown supported the establishment of an outpatient care system at the largest national hospital in Tanzania to reduce patient wait times and implemented a cloud-based solution to equitably allocate government health care workers in sub-Saharan African countries. For inspiration, she looks to her two sisters, also ISyE alumni, who have used their experience at Tech as launching pads to successful careers in the sciences and art. “Our parents raised us to be tenacious women. Tech reinforced that tenacity, and I’m proud of what my sisters have accomplished with it. I strive to be like them,” she says.
Fun Fact: This jet-setting humanitarian dreams of becoming a kindergarten art teacher in retirement.
Jennifer McKeehan, IE 05
Founder, Smith and James LLC and Former Vice President Supply Chain, The Home Depot
Jennifer McKeehan’s trailblazing career at The Home Depot over the last 15 years has been nothing shy of extraordinary. In 2016, she was named vice president of inventory for all 2,000 U.S. stores and online businesses, responsible for leading a $15 billion portfolio and 250 associates. It’s worth mentioning that at the time she was also the youngest officer and was a working mom with two children. Most recently, she founded Smith and James LLC, a retail consulting firm. But, perhaps even more noteworthy than her professional career is her commitment to service. She’s a member of CHOA’s Emerging Leader Committee, which recently raised $639,000 for pediatric cardiology research. She also serves on the Cobb Health Futures Foundation Board. “What I find most energizing, hopeful, and inspirational is when some of the biggest mountains are moved or seemingly ‘impossible’ problems are solved,” McKeehan says.
Fun Fact: She was part of the Yellow Jacket Marching Band in college, which cemented her love for Georgia Tech football and “Game Day”!
Evren Ozkaya, Ph.D. IE 08
Founder & CEO, Supply Chain Wizard, LLC
Dealing with the end-to-end operations in today’s global supply chain requires a true wizard like Evren Ozkaya. As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Wizard, Ozkaya is making pharmaceutical supply chains more secure, and ultimately safer for patients, by reducing the risk of counterfeit drugs with track and trace technologies. But Ozkaya didn’t fall into his consulting career easily. During his last year at Georgia Tech, he forgot to register for an internship course that put him just short of the full-time requirement for his international student visa. He lost his right to work on campus and in one day, lost his three part-time jobs. “That was probably the worst day of my life at the time, but unbeknownst to me, it created an opportunity,” he says. He studied for consulting interviews every day that month while his visa was reinstated. “I ended up getting multiple offers from top consulting firms and accepted an offer from McKinsey & Company in Atlanta, which forever changed my life and propelled me much faster in my career.”
Fun fact: He considers time his most valuable asset, so he tracks every hour of his time 24/7 to learn how to improve his time management.
Content provided by the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.