Alumna Lori Bremer (MBA ’07), Director of Sales at 5G Consulting Inc. in Bentonville, AR, speaks with Alumni Council member Kate Calder (MBA ’18). Lori shares how she learned from rejection and benefitted from the influence of educators.
KATE: I noticed your Army experience from your LinkedIn profile. You are the first paratrooper I’ve met, and I’m proud you are a female to have had that position. I expect paratroopers are primarily male, but is that only my assumption? What can you tell me about your experience as a female paratrooper?
LORI: Yes, during my time in the Army it was male dominated. I was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, and my Company had about 100 soldiers with four platoons. My roommate and I were the only women. The failure rate at Airborne was high and not easy for men or women. There were the same physical fitness requirements for women as for men.
KATE: It looks like you enlisted out of high school? What contributed to that decision?
LORI: I went to college for a couple years, but then found myself in a financial bind. I happened to have to renew my driver’s license and went to the Armory to do so. It was there that I saw an advertisement poster for the Army and decided the opportunity to have a job and go to school was for me. I enlisted, went to boot camp, Airborne School, and was subsequently stationed at Fort Bragg after several other duty stations.
I had a factory job in the Army with daily production quotas. After reporting to formation by 6:00 a.m. daily, I would finish my job, go back to the barracks to study in the afternoons, and go to school at night. I committed to this rigorous routine for two years and graduated cum laude with a double major at the same time I finished my Army Active Duty requirement.
KATE: After the Army and graduating college with honors, you transitioned into medical sales. Can you describe your support network during your transition?
LORI: I didn’t have much of a support network because there were not a lot of people who had done what I did [in going into the Army and school at the same time]. I figured out on my own how to navigate my civilian career.
One of my undergraduate professors suggested I would be good at sales, otherwise I never would have given it any thought. I researched and did some interviews to figure out more about a sales career. With zero experience, I was faced with rejection. I finally asked one of the interviewers, who was the company’s district manager, what I needed to do to prove myself and get a job. That interviewer told me to get any sales job I could for one year to prove I could be successful. So I got a copier sales job with straight commission and a cold calling approach and finished that grueling year as one of the top salespeople.
KATE: After about seven years of working, you started the MBA program at Wake Forest. What made you decide on business school after considering law school, and what piqued your interest about Wake Forest?
LORI: I was fascinated with business when I took that first sales job and was curious to learn more about why companies launched products in one area versus another. I wanted to get higher level knowledge of decision making and how all aspects fit together.
I considered various programs and decided on Wake Forest so that I could remain in the South at a full-time, on campus program. I liked how Wake Forest had a low student to professor ratio and was eager to have the complete on campus experience that I missed as an undergrad. I loved my time at Wake Forest!
KATE: What are some words of wisdom you have for current female Wake Forest business students?
LORI: Don’t ever cut yourself out. Don’t feel you need to meet every qualification of a job posting. If you’re concerned about qualifications, it could be that they’re overstated. Don’t count yourself out before even giving yourself a chance. Take every opportunity you’re given. Don’t be afraid to try.
KATE: Who is a woman mentor or leader of yours and how has she influenced you?
LORI: I had a female professor, Anne Brumbaugh, at Wake Forest who coached our Marketing Summit team. She had an effervescent personality and gave great interviewing tips and life advice. She made me feel like I could do things! This was especially important since I didn’t have a traditional background like some of the other students. I was the only student in my MBA cohort from a strictly sales background and had to learn how to adapt. She provided that much needed guidance.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) is an aspirational leader. I love RBG because it’s nearly unmatched in our time what she did for women. It’s crazy to think about in [my] lifetime women not being able to own their own property and have credit cards. RBG helped transform women’s rights.
KATE: I see you’ve also been involved with the Junior League of Bentonville for the last 15 years, an organization committed to helping women and children, as well as focusing on domestic violence. What impact has volunteerism had on your professional life and vice versa?
LORI: Volunteering has always been important to me, from the start of my being a member of the 4-H non-profit organization during my youth. Contributing through volunteering helps me realize there’s something bigger that I can do for my community. It’s too easy to get caught up in capitalism with work and sales goals. The Junior League makes me feel like I am contributing at a higher level to society.
KATE: In thinking about the past 10+ years in your professional career, as a woman, what is something you are particularly optimistic about in how the landscape has changed for the better for women? What would you like to see progressed even more in the next 10+ years?
LORI: We’ve made huge strides. One of the negatives of COVID-19 is the huge impact on women. I hope what’s brought to light by this difficult time is the responsibility women carry on their shoulders. For example, women are over-indexed in service jobs, which have experienced a huge negative impact during the pandemic. Other women have had to quit their jobs to home school their kids. As a result of women having to leave the workforce during the pandemic, we’ve realized what high producers women are in our society. Many studies have shown when they invest in financial relief, women invest back into more communal activities such as education or volunteering, and this greatly benefits our society.