Sky’s the limit for Sophie Parker EMBA ’22

The former rocket launcher, military professional, and project manager turned to Brown’s Executive MBA program to help propel her dream of successful—and responsible—leadership.

Protecting the President of the United States. Sitting in a NASA Control Center to launch a rocket. Project managing for a Fortune 100Sophie Parker EMBA'22 corporation. While seemingly disparate, this broad experience base was something Sophie Parker EMBA ’22 pursued with intention. With the goal of improving organizations from within, Parker has long sought out diverse corporate cultures in order to build a versatile skill set and strengthen her business acumen.

“What has made me the most successful is the ability to identify and understand the commonalities that exist in the various fields in which I’ve worked and use adaptable skills to drive consensus and impact,” says Parker. “Leaders need to rapidly assess and understand complex environments.”

Challenge Accepted

Parker has always enjoyed a challenge. She began her career as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Europe, shortly after 9/11. Following several assignments, she worked as a special agent in the National Capital Region, where one of her duties was supporting the Presidential Protection Detail. From there, she moved on to the corporate world, working for Caterpillar, Inc., and then for NASA, where she led a key mission assurance project. There, she assessed programmatic and operational risks, recommended mitigation actions, and advised senior leaders on compliance issues.

While earning her Master’s Certificate in Global Sustainability and a Master’s in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech, Parker became inspired by her travels to South Africa, where she studied the urban farms of Cape Town. In 2018, as a natural progression upon graduation, she accepted her current role as a deputy director of the quality assurance and compliance division at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For some, reaching this pivotal position would define the ultimate achievement. For Parker, success is measured by the difference she makes. “Purpose and impact motivate my work. I’m goal-oriented, so I’m always curious how my team and I can make things better.”

“ The program’s traditional business classes were complemented by courses focused on the impact business can have on people. This combination produces well-rounded, responsible leaders that are able to understand strategic impacts for their company and society... We’ve seen businesses expand their strategies and redefine the nature of the effect they have on people and the environment. ”

SOPHIE PARKER EMBA’22

Seeking ways to further her social impact

It was that curiosity that led Parker to wonder: how can I learn more about the effects a business has on people? How can we assess those impacts on society at large? She decided these questions could best be explored in an MBA, and she felt Brown’s joint program with IE Business School stood out from the rest. Parker was drawn to the program’s global focus — both the joint alliance with an international business school, as well as the diversity of the global cohort. She valued the unique curriculum, which focused on business and social impact. 

“The program’s traditional business classes were complemented by courses focused on the impact business can have on people (environment, equity, socioeconomic status, health, etc.). This combination produces well-rounded, responsible leaders that are able to understand strategic impacts for their company and society,” notes Parker, “It dispels the myth that profit and responsible business are mutually exclusive. Over the past decade, we’ve seen businesses expand their strategies and redefine the nature of the effect they have on people and the environment. This shift resonates with society – people want to do business with responsible companies.”

Preparing for what’s next

Parker’s biggest takeaway from the IE Brown Executive MBA program? Confidence. “This experience was empowering. Any time you set and achieve a challenging goal, you build confidence. It teaches you to push your limits.”

This approach, complemented by the skills and knowledge gained throughout her career, is helping Parker increase her impact on the world: “As a leader, you pull this approach into your teams. Purposeful teams are passionate about their work and don’t balk when faced with complex challenges.”