When it comes to naming her favorite colors, Kelly Barrett is divided. On weekends – especially during football season – she favors Georgia Tech's white and gold. But during the week, orange is her color of choice.
"Orange is the color of money!" she says, laughing.
A 1986 industrial management graduate of Georgia Tech, Barrett is vice president of internal audit and corporate compliance for The Home Depot at its Atlanta headquarters.
She ensures that the home-improvement retailer's operational processes are efficient and effective and that the financial controls conform to proper accounting and financial practices. She also makes certain The Home Depot adheres to a host of regulatory and legal requirements, as well as company's own business code of conduct.
"It's about making sure that people are doing the right thing," she said.
In addition, Barrett supervises The Home Depot's Leadership Program. The two-year development program is "designed to bring young talent into the company and teach them about every aspect of the business," she continues. "A lot of the young people I work with in the program went to Tech either as undergraduates in engineering and business or they are graduates of the MBA program."
Barrett also comes into contact with alumni and students through her involvement with the Scheller College. A longtime contributor to the College (having endowed the Kelly H. and Rick Barrett Dean's Scholarship), she speaks to business classes frequently and serves on the Advisory Board.
"Georgia Tech has played a large part in my success, and that's why I'm so active back on campus and have stayed close to the school," explained Barrett, a member of the College's Academy of Distinguished Young Alumni.
She is delighted with the changes that have taken place at the Scheller College since her undergraduate days, when it was known as the College of Management.
"There's so much positive momentum going on right now, and we as alumni need to play a role in keeping that momentum up," she says.
Growing up in Atlanta, Barrett originally thought she might want to become a teacher, like her parents. She was also attracted to the business world, and in high school took an accounting class where she discovered her aptitude for the subject.
Attraction to Tech
With a new career path in mind, going to Tech made sense because there she could earn a business degree with a concentration in accounting. "After the first few accounting classes, I just fell completely in love with it," she recalls.
While Barrett credits much of her career success to the outstanding professors she had at Tech, one in particular stands out: Debbie Turner.
"She is a very genuine person who knows how to connect with students because she truly cares about them," Barrett says. "She has a passion for accounting that she brings to her teaching, and it makes her students love accounting too. Debbie’s influence had a lot to do with me going into public accounting."
After graduating from Tech, Barrett (whose husband, Rick, is a 1985 Tech grad in industrial engineering), spent more than a decade with Cousins Properties, rising to the position of chief financial officer. Then one afternoon in 2002, she received an unexpected call from an executive recruiter who was searching for candidates for the vice president and controller post at The Home Depot.
"I was happy where I was, but thought I should at least listen to the opportunity," she recalls. The interview clinched the deal for Barrett, noting that Georgia Tech and The Home Depot share many outstanding qualities.
"Both have high standards. They're both high-energy, competitive environments, and they're great organizations with great people."