Brian Birdwell

Thanks for checking out my bio page!

I’ve been helping people like you achieve their career and MBA dreams for over 17 years! I love hearing their stories and their goals, and I love helping them get a little further along in their quests.

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Brian Birdwell

Thanks for checking out my bio page!

I’ve been helping people like you achieve their career and MBA dreams for over 17 years! I love hearing their stories and their goals, and I love helping them get a little further along in their quests.

Play Video

Here’s a question we love around here that I’ll start with: What’s my dream job?

When I was young, I wanted more than anything to be a wizard. What could be more awesome than being a wizard?

  • They’re wise, magical, adventurous, and unpredictable.
  • They’re mentors, teachers, pranksters, and travelers.
  • They speak ancient languages, communicate with plants and animals, and tell amazing stories.

Wizards are interesting people… because they are interested people — they observe, ask questions, and participate in creatively shaping reality. They are neither bored nor boring.

It’s been three decades since I first read The Hobbit, and truth be told I still want to be a wizard when I grow up. While most people wouldn’t describe what I do at Career Protocol as “wizarding,” I love this job because it’s all about helping people tell their own amazing stories while creatively shaping their realities, and more often than not, making a little magic happen along the way.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Brian never gave up on me. He showed me what I needed to do and never laughed at my goals. I truly could not have done this without him and it truly makes me sad that this is over. I feel like we have more work to do! So much more we can accomplish! Words can’t express what it means to have a guide like Brian through this trying process and I will be forever quoting his words of wisdom and humor for years to come!”

– Wharton Class of 2022

So you’re saying you’re basically a trained wizard?

Well, I looked for, but never found, a proper wizard’s curriculum, so I’ve done my best to write my own, mostly by trying as many things as possible.

In high school, I tried football (terribly), tennis, basketball, and cross-country. I competed in the academic decathlon, one-act play, and mental math competitions. I played two horns in the band and guitar and piano at home.

At the liberal arts college I attended, I tried to major in minors. Afterward, I made documentary films and lived in a house with twenty-five other musicians. I hitchhiked across Mexico and spent a summer in Thailand playing jazz standards and Jack Johnson covers at bars and restaurants. I studied Vipassana meditation, rock climbing, and beekeeping. I finished a massage therapy program at the Pacific Center for Awareness and Bodywork in Hawaii, got a master’s degree in Liberation Acupuncture, and completed a “bootcamp” school for software developers.

That’s a lotta learning!! Ever had a job, tho?

Oh my yes!! An interesting bit of trivia is that I’ve filed an income tax return (i.e., been employed) every year of my life since I was 8 years old! I’ve worked for small companies, in schools, on farms, at universities, for non-profits, and for myself. Among other things, I’ve worked as a wood-turner, a tractor mechanic, an English teacher, a designer, a software engineer, a radio DJ, and a warehouse manager. One summer I sold 10 million dollars’ worth of watermelons! Seriously!

Applying this principle of “being interested” has taken me to incredible places, introduced me to amazing people, and infused me with diverse ideas. I feel at home in just about any conversation, and I tend to see connections where others see unrelated concepts.

It’s especially rewarding to bring all my diverse experiences to bear to help my clients figure out their unique passions. If there’s something you’d like to do, chances are I’ve got some relevant tools in my wizard kit to help you succeed!

Watch this Client Testimonial

So why Career Coaching?

The one constant through all of these explorations is that I’ve been helping people like you achieve their Career and MBA dreams for over 17 years! Like all great discoveries, it started as an accident. At the time, I was living the merry (though not very lucrative) life of a singer-songwriter, and in my search for employment options that could complement that lifestyle, a friend suggested test-prep. I took the GMAT, LSAT, and GRE in hot succession, scored in the 99th percentile on each of them, and began teaching classes and tutoring.

I’ve worked with thousands of students from all over the world, co-written books, created products, trained teachers, and even trained teacher-trainers!  And while that’s cool and all, you must be wondering how I could POSSIBLY teach these boring tests for almost 20 years?!

The answer is simple, really: relationships. I love meeting smart, ambitious people. I love hearing their stories and their goals, and I love helping them get a little further along in their quests.

Helping you land a dream job or complete your applications was just a logical extension of that passion!! As you know, those tests are important for MBA admissions, but over time, I found the magic was happening in the moments in between data sufficiency problems when we would talk about their passions, their stories, their work challenges, their lives. I was far more interested in the personal challenges students were experiencing in regard to the journey as a whole than in their challenges memorizing the Pythagorean triples.

So, moving to Career Protocol to help clients on the whole journey was a no-brainer. I was already doing it anyway, and now we get to dive right into the good stuff– telling stories and shaping reality.

What else do you like about this work?

In Joseph Campbell’s description of the hero’s journey, the hero inevitably receives “supernatural aid,” often in the form of — you guessed it — a wizard! The helper’s role is to remind the hero that the path is fraught with danger and doubt because it must be. The mentor reassures the hero that she can rely on her own inner resources to walk the path, and that by doing so she will emerge transformed. The helper is a mirror, reflecting the hero back to herself and nudging her onward.

Playing helper to the hero is its own reward, and it is awesome. It also happens to be fun.

“Brian was an invaluable piece of my MBA application journey and a true pleasure to work with! His guidance directly led to 4 interviews, 3 admission decisions and ultimately my enrollment at a top-5 program.”

– Wharton Class of 2024

OK, I get it, you think you’re a wizard. Who else thinks so?

My wife and daughters definitely. Ha!!! But also, many of the folks I’ve worked with. For example…

I’ve been hired to deliver training wizardry at these awesome places:

Harvard, MIT, Duke, Brown, University of Texas, Colorado University, Google, McKinsey, BCG, Deloitte

And working with me has enabled my students to get into these awesome business schools:

Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, MIT, Columbia, Darden, Fuqua, Tuck, Ross, McCombs, Anderson, INSEAD, Tepper, and more.

What can I expect if I work with you?

I aim to be your cheerful, calm, experienced companion on a memorable journey together. We’ll prepare for the road by getting to know each other and inventorying our supplies and resources. Then we’ll head out into the wilderness of job opportunities or MBA applications side-by-side. Once we’re deep into the woods, we’ll get our hands dirty, we’ll learn, and we’ll laugh – a lot. I’m prepared for anything!

Then we’ll come out on the other side, having grown and learned a lot together and with an awesome new job, career step, or MBA admissions letter in hand!

My clients love that I really understand the logistical and emotional challenges of applying to competitive positions and top MBA programs. These are ambitious goals! There is a lot to do and not enough time! Doubts emerge, poor GMAT performances happen, family drama happens, work challenges happen… And all the while you’re trying to be a particularly amazing employee, maintain your close relationships, and maybe even have some you-time every once in a while!

With so much coming at you from all sides, and so much seemingly at stake, my clients are very often surprised at how much fun we have together. My goal is for our interactions to be sources of inspiration, information, and reassurance – with the occasional necessary moment of reckoning or tough love.

That brings me to honesty. While I’m patient and empathetic, I’m also direct. Pragmatic optimism will be an operative theme for us, as sugar-coating and fantasy will not be useful. I’ll definitely be your cheerleader when you need one, but I won’t let you off the hook if your job materials or essays aren’t achieving greatness. We’ll keep our eyes on the prize and our feet on the ground, taking practical step by practical step toward the goal.

“Brian’s teaching approach is phenomenal. He gave me the necessary tools to see things in a new light and attuned my mindset to what I needed to focus on to succeed. He helped me grow my confidence tremendously. Brian was extremely organized and very helpful with any follow-up questions I had. Furthermore, Brian was such a chill dude. It made our sessions more enjoyable when we could connect a little bit before diving into the nitty gritty.”

– Tuck Class of 2022

And when you’re not wizarding?

I spend a lot of time with my amazing wife raising our two wild daughters, who are my greatest teachers yet, in so many ways. I play guitar and bass in a funky band or two. And I spend as much time as possible looking for magic here in the mountains of Montana, skiing, hiking, climbing, mountain-biking, rafting, and trying new things.

If you like the outdoors or music, we’re gonna have a lot to talk about!

Your MBTI type?



  1. Ideation
  2. Input
  3. Strategic
  4. Learner
  5. Intellection

Social media?


If you could be an animal, what would you be?

Victor Wooten is my spirit animal.

Wanna know if working with Brian or one of our other awesome coaches could be the right move for your career or MBA application?

Wanna know if working with Brian could be the right move for your career or MBA application?