Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

“Skills for the real world”: Clemson MBA student Arx Gabrenas accepts CIO role before graduation


Tackling the next step in his career before finishing his MBA in business analytics, Arx Gabrenas feels Clemson University prepared him “better than anyone else could” for his new challenging role as CIO.

By: Drew Henry

It’s not often students are considered for chief information roles before graduating with their degrees, and Clemson MBA in business analytics student Arx Gabrenas recognizes his fortunate, unique and challenging position.

After his boss and mentor resigned as CIO at Elevate Textiles, a global $1.4 billion textile development company, Gabrenas was selected to fill the position before finishing his degree.

Arx Gabrenas

“I never expected to move into a role like this so quickly,” Gabrenas said. “Luck and timing played into things, but my company also recognized I was learning skills for the real world at Clemson and the value I could bring to the job.”

Gabrenas didn’t expect to become CIO at this stage, but he had been planning his next career move carefully. As director of business intelligence and data architecture, he recognized a CIO role was the logical next step in his career.

“My mentor explained there’s a certain level of luck to getting a CIO position,” Gabrenas said. “But you have to be ready for when the opportunity presents itself.”

Getting his MBA was the best way to prepare.

“As a data guy, I carefully evaluated MBA programs based on value, flexibility and coursework,” Gabrenas explained. “Clemson’s program stood out to me because it’s highly ranked, could be completed remotely and had the data-analytics concentration. Not many MBA programs have the data piece that’s so relevant to my career.”

Flexibility became crucial when Gabrenas’s work week went from 60 hours as a director to 80 hours as CIO.

“You have to have energy for this,” Gabrenas exclaimed. “The Clemson MBA program is not easy, but it offers a great balance between remote and in-person classes. Most instructors understand that we have full-time jobs and are flexible when the unexpected happens. At the same time, the academic expectations of learning and growing your knowledge through the content, material and instruction are challenging.”

Gabrenas knew he would learn a lot during his MBA studies, but he didn’t expect to apply his new skills so quickly to his daily work life.

“The biggest surprise to me was realizing the material taught is absolutely applicable to the ‘real world’ of work,” he said. “I have found most classes have had a direct positive impact on my particular situation. I am better at my job because of what I’ve learned in the MBA program. Clemson is giving me the knowledge and skills I need to succeed in my new CIO position.”

While Gabrenas is applying skills from class, he recognizes he still has a lot to learn in his new role.

“Accepting this CIO position while still in school is like drinking from a firehose,” he added. “I think Clemson has prepared me better than anyone else could for this new role. I still have a lot to learn, but I am up for the challenge.”

Learn more about Clemson’s MBA in Business Analytics.

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