How It Started vs. How It's Going: Brandi Martin, MBA '23

How It Started vs. How It's Going: Brandi Martin, MBA '23

How it started: Leading Operations & Strategy at a Management Consulting Firm.

How it’s going: President and CEO of InstaFab, a company providing quality fabrication and installation in the PNW.

Brandi Martin always assumed she would go for a second-in-command position. She felt equipped to play a supporting role for a lead executive, but feared the pressure of shouldering the burden that CEOs have to carry. That changed after she began University of Oregon’s executive MBA program.

Before entering the Portland-based program, Martin worked at the private investment firm F-L Management, where she oversaw the company’s assets as director of strategy and operations. She enjoyed early career success—also serving as president for Portland’s chapter of the American Marketing Association—but a restlessness to grow and expand her skills motivated her to pursue a business degree.

Martin hoped that UO’s program would broaden her awareness of the skills and opportunities that could help accelerate her career. Perhaps she’d be able to leverage the cachet that comes with an MBA degree later on in her career. What she ended up gaining was a belief in her capacity for executive leadership.

“The program gave me tremendous confidence,” Martin said. “The first term, we had some courses that were pretty inspiring and helped you realize your potential and that you can do this.”

One of those courses, Global Business Environment, required students to pitch a new business venture in another country. The timeline initially seemed infeasible to Martin, but seeing her team foster a simple idea into a sophisticated plan over the course of two weeks opened her eyes to what she’s capable of accomplishing.

She also gained the decision-making skills and the poise it takes to lead a company. Breaking down case studies with faculty members and peers in courses helped her develop a more analytical approach to dealing with moments of crisis. As the new CEO for InstaFab, a steel fabrication and installation company, Martin’s practice with case studies was immediately put to the test in what she calls a make-it-or-break-it moment for the company within her first two weeks on the job.

“I was on stage, everyone was looking at me—very public forum—about how to respond. Had I not already been through some of this first-year training where I actually had a case study that was so relatable, I wouldn’t have known how to analyze this from many different angles and conduct myself appropriately,” Martin said. “Maybe I would’ve responded emotionally, maybe I would’ve taken a different approach that wouldn’t have been in the best interest of the company, because I didn’t slow down.”

Martin started her role as InstaFab’s CEO this May, when she was nearing the end of her first year at the executive MBA program. As the company’s CEO, she ensures there’s a unified culture, develops short and long-term plans, and fosters healthy lines of communication. She said that UO’s program instilled in her the importance of interacting with employees as whole persons–understanding their motivations, strengths, and flaws—a philosophy that has informed her approach as a lead executive.

Photo credit: Nick Mendez

This article originally appeared in Willamette Week in September 2022. Since then, Portland Business Journal has honored Martin as a Forty under 40 honoree for 2023 and recognized InstaFab in its inaugural Best Places to Work list in August 2023.