After enduring scores of stitches, several broken bones, and reconstructive knee surgery during his five-year hockey career, Benoit Cotnoir knew his mind and body demanded a change of pace.
Recognizing that an MBA would help him "speed" skate from the hockey rink into a corporate career, Cotnoir enrolled at the College of Management in fall 2004. "As a career changer, this program was a perfect fit," says Cotnoir, who played as a defenseman for the Mobile Mystics in Alabama and Basingstoke Bisons in England after graduating with All-American honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1999.
"The lifestyle behind minor-league sports gets old pretty quickly, with cheap hotels, cheap meals, and long bus rides," says Cotnoir, who earned a bachelor's degree in economics. "I wanted more out of life, and the business school at Georgia Tech offered me that. It was always my dream to get my MBA."
Thanks to his education, his professional dreams are starting to come true. He recently accepted an offer from Lafarge North America, the largest diversified construction-materials company in the United States and Canada, to become a marketing manager in Kansas City after graduation in May. "I will use many skills and concepts learned at Georgia Tech, such as Six Sigma, operations, service operations, and customer segmentation."
Cotnoir says he felt drawn to choose an operations-management focus for his MBA studies because he'd already learned a lot about logistics and distribution from his father, a trucking-company owner, while growing up in the small town of Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec, Canada.
Cotnoir's fluent English belies the fact this thirty-year-old French Canadian didn't begin learning the language in earnest until a year before enrolling at the University of Notre Dame when he was twenty. After high school, he'd played in a junior hockey league in Canada's Saskatchewan province for a year before Notre Dame recruited him.
"Hockey has opened a lot of doors for me," says Cotnoir, who's maintained involvement with the sport by serving as an assistant coach to Georgia Tech's club team and a volunteer with community clinics sponsored by the Atlanta Thrashers.
He hopes his French language fluency opens doors to future international-business opportunities. Working for Lafarge North America should help, since the company's parent, the Lafarge Group, is based in France and operates in seventy-five countries, employing more than 75,000 people.
Cotnoir's penchant for leadership should also take him far. He's moved from hockey-team captain to president of Tech's Graduate Students in Management during the 2005-06 academic year. "It's been a great experience for me, helping me grow as a manager and leader," says Cotnoir, whose duties include representing students' interests to school administrators, working with the career-development office, and organizing town-hall meetings, community-service projects, social events, and networking opportunities.
He's particularly enjoyed helping build relationships between students and young alumni at periodic dinner events. "It's good to see what people can do with their degrees one to three years out of school," says Cotnoir, who married his wife, Brandi, last spring.
"For me, this business school has been great," he says. "The program's small size meant that I wasn't just a number here, and that was very important to me."