Ann Rhoads ’85 says she considers herself lucky because she has always known her career path: Banking. She told a group of Business Honors students she worked as a teller in the summers during school, then after graduating with a finance degree she started with a training class of 12. Only three or four of them are still bankers, but she said it was valuable training that introduced her to a broad spectrum of business fields. Rhoads said her first motivation for working was to have financial security and to give back. “Now what drives me is the enjoyment of what I do and getting to do it with people I like,” she added. Throughout her career, Rhoads said, she has been fortunate to learn various skills and work with great bosses. “I look at what has happened in my 30 years and look ahead to what’s going to happen in the next 30 years, and it is exciting,” she said.
Keep an open mind on your career journey. That’s just one piece of advice Frito-Lay’s Laura Maxwell offered Business Honors students. She serves as the senior vice president of the Transformation Integration Office at Frito-Lay, and executive sponsor of their Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN). After Maxwell recently took time away from her busy schedule to visit with students at Mays Business School, they said they appreciated her candor and thoughts on preparing for a career after business school. Angela Lowak ’16, a junior Business Honors major, said Maxwell’s talk was the best professional development event she has attended. Lowak said it helped her make some decisions about her own career path. “I have been debating between finance and supply chain, and after listening to her I concluded supply chain was the best route for me,” she said. “Most importantly, I learned that if I make the wrong decision, it isn't the end of the world. I just need to be adaptive and eager. I also learned the importance of evaluating each year individually. In fact, I need to do a better job of focusing on the short-term goals rather than basing everything off of the long term.” Maxwell’s background includes engineering and supply chain, and now, she has transitioned into more of a business management role. Her current responsibilities include the development and leadership of all business transformation activities and she works closely with external partners to develop new strategies and manage business implementations. Maxwell’s career with parent company PepsiCo has spanned 25 years so far. Most recently she led the Supply Chain Growth and Commercialization team, where she was responsible for Product Supply, Service to Sales, Asset Strategy, Economic Development and Supply Chain capability to support Customer Growth. She began her PepsiCo career as an Operations Resource and spent 17 years in field manufacturing roles prior to coming to Frito-Lay’s headquarters in Plano. Her previous roles include Director of Manufacturing, Senior Director Supply Chain and VP Marketing Services. Her connection to WIN as the executive sponsor is a welcome activity she says illustrates the company’s culture. “It is a great company and a fun company,” Maxwell explains. “We make Mountain Dew and Doritos – products people know and love.” She advised the students to find an activity or area of their jobs that they enjoy and are passionate about. Maxwell lives in Plano with her husband, Marty, and two daughters, Maddy (19) and Molly (16). She has relocated several times for her work, and encouraged the students to think about whether relocation is an option in advance of being asked to move. “When considering a job, consider whether or not you are willing to move for that company,” she said. “Have that conversation before it becomes a hard conversation.” She also advised asking questions during the interview such as, “Hypothetically, where could I be in four years?” and to understand the company’s culture as deeply as possible. Sarah Solcher ’15, a senior Business Honors and management major, said she considered Maxwell informative, candid and insightful. “She had great wisdom about navigating corporate life with personality, professionalism and passion,” she said. “She encouraged success in the traditional workforce, but also challenged us in that success may be found in taking a road less traveled.” Michael Formella ’18, a freshman Business Honors major, called Maxwell “an impressive, distinguished executive who was very professional yet casual and down-to-earth all the same.” “Her easy-going speaking style and simple presentation were straightforward and easy to obtain valuable information from, and not only just advice for business, but also for life,” he said. “In fact, Ms. Maxwell gave advice to ‘not worry so much about your first job,’ as she had a degree in engineering before joining Frito-Lay and working her way up.” He cited three pieces of advice Maxwell offered:
- Choose one thing besides school or work that you enjoy doing and, do it;
- Surround yourself with positive people;
- Know that there will probably be a curveball. Plan for it.
Courtney Bosquez, March 23rd, 2015
[cycloneslider id="zale-lecture-series"] From the stockroom to the boardroom, Blake Nordstrom has spent nearly his entire life devoted to the success of his family’s 115-year-old, Seattle-based business. On March 11, the first-time visitor to Aggieland presented the 2015 keynote at the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, honoring innovation and the advancement of retail in the name of the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation and hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS). Venkatesh Shankar, the CRS’ research director, led a question-and-answer session in which Nordstrom detailed the company’s keys to success, promise and outlook for growth, and career advice for a full house in Mays Business School’s Ray Auditorium. Since 1901, the Fortune 500 Company has set its sights on being a forward-thinking retail business and has received numerous awards and recognition for its contributions to the industry. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Nordstrom, Inc. expanded beyond shoe sales and began the fast track toward its current position as a leader in fashionable apparel. In 2014, Nordstrom named Texas A&M University a core partner school for recruitment in stores, headquarters roles and increasingly tech-savvy hires. Nordstrom said he was attracted to visit Texas A&M by its sense of community, reputation and “the key ingredient for our business [of] people – talent.” When he spoke, Nordstrom quickly dove into sharing the company’s business strategy by emphasizing the importance of paying attention to customers. “We live in an age where we have immediate access to things, especially at our fingertips, concerning fashion, product, price and availability,” he said. Four-legged chair Nordstrom provided an illustration of a four-legged chair to explain the company’s composition, which has created a launch pad for success and growth. He identified:
- 1. Full-line Nordstrom stores: Posting $7.7 billion in sales, Nordstrom’s brick-and-mortar sites make up 60 percent of the business. Although there is a large investment nationwide, the company has experienced multiple challenges from housing their stores in mall-based environments.
- eCommerce and online sales: This is the fastest-growing area of business for the company.
- Nordstrom Rack stores: Attracting the younger, aspirational generation, the Rack is an expanding channel for Nordstrom. The off-price model targets an entirely new demographic and method to gaining new customers and paving way for new merchandising in full-line stores.
- On-line off-price: As Nordstrom said, it’s all about acquisition “in the name of speed.” By acquiring flash sale site HauteLook in 2011, the company can compete with Amazon, offering dynamic price strategy online, increasing momentum and sales, something that cannot be done quickly in-store.
Mark Alfieri’s early roots as a bar owner taught him about more than how to keep the inventory stocked. Serving a varied audience and having a flat management style based on transparency are habits that have served him well. He bought a bar on Harvey Road in College Station after his sophomore year at Texas A&M University when he was 19 and the drinking age was 18. “I hired a lot of students and the bar was highly successful,” he said. “It was the bar, and it was fun, but I had no business owning my own company. I was too young and inexperienced. It taught me a lot – including the fact that I didn’t want to do that for a career.” Alfieri, a 1983 marketing graduate from Texas A&M, recounted his career to a group of Mays Business Honors students recently. “You’ve got to set your goals and make your plan, then follow that plan all the way through,” he advised them. “You need hard work, patience and most importantly, dedication.” Alfieri started working for ALMI, a Dallas-based company that bought and sold upscale apartment complexes. That move set the tone for more than 20 years in the apartment industry, including eight years of building his company since its inception. Prior to joining Behringer as chief operating officer, Alfieri operated as senior VP for AMLI Residential from 1998 to May 2006. During that time he served on the board of directors for the National Multi Housing Council and was recognized as “Executive of the Year” in the 2011 edition of Multifamily Executive magazine. In 2014, Behringer Harvard Residential became Monogram Residential Trust, and Alfieri was appointed CEO and a member of the Board of Directors. The company is a $4 billion Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange this year after being a publicly registered non-traded REIT for most of its life cycle. He described to the students some of the advantages of taking a company public, such as creating access to capital and liquidity for the company’s 49,000 shareholders. “Stock is a currency that can be used to acquire other companies,” he said. “And when you’re a public company, everything is public. You tell people what your strategy is, what your plan is and become fully transparent for the benefit of shareholders.” Alfieri became animated as he described the “road show” he went on to tell potential investors about his company. “It was a wild and woolly two weeks, and an experience I’ll never forget,” he said. He then recalled getting to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on his company’s listing date - what he called “the epitome of capitalism” and “the coolest thing ever.” Alfieri is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Texas and served on the board of directors of the National Multi Housing Council from 2002 to 2015. In 2011, he was honored as Executive of the Year by Multifamily Executive magazine. The students who met with Alfieri said they learned a lot from him. “Having the opportunity to meet and interact with Mr. Alfieri was incredible,” said Nicholas Davis, a business honors and finance major. “He was extremely personable and made it into a relaxed environment. It is not every day to be able to listen firsthand how a CEO processes different events and executes taking a company public.” Business Honors sophomore Margaret Hartman said she enjoyed hearing about Alfieri’s career path. “His success story of how he set the goal for himself to run a publicly traded company and achieved that goal is inspiring,” she said. ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
David Perryman, December 11th, 2014
In a series of presentations to Mays undergraduate and graduate students on Nov. 24, General Josue “Joe” Robles captivated his audiences by advising them to “never graduate.” Robles elaborated on this message by emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning in building a successful career and cultivating an engaged workforce. As president and CEO of USAA and a retired U.S. Army officer who served on numerous active duty posts as well as director of the Army budget and commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One), Robles knows a thing or two about professional development and leadership. He shared a number of insights gleaned from his 28-year military career and his experience leading one of the world’s most successful diversified financial services firms. In an intimate roundtable discussion over lunch, Robles offered advice to Business Honors students as they prepare to graduate, apply for jobs and begin their professional careers. “You need to know yourself, your preferences and tendencies,” he said. “How are you different from other job candidates? What do you bring to the table that is truly unique?” Robles also stressed to the students the importance of following their passion, citing the example of one of his sons, who has recently embarked upon a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences in hopes of discovering a natural, non-chemical cure for cancer. He noted that internships provide students with a great opportunity to “test the waters” to see if the organization—namely its mission and core values—along with the work itself will hold their interest over the long haul. Even as students graduate and begin a new chapter in their lives, Robles stated that “never graduating” is the most important factor in building a successful career. “You have to be committed to learning new skills and acquiring more knowledge throughout your life,” he said. “That will be the key to enjoying a satisfying career and continuously delivering value to your employer.” When asked about the differences between leading in the military and leading in the civilian world, Robles commented on some of the changing generational attitudes today. “When I was coming up through the military ranks, leaders gave orders and expected them to be followed,” he said. Commanders, he noted, didn’t have to focus as much on their “softer” communications skills or provide explanations about why an order was being given. “The workplace today has become more collaborative and more team-oriented. The younger employees want to know the ‘why’ behind leaders’ decisions. So to cultivate an engaged workforce—where employees understand, accept and embody your mission and core values through their customer interactions—leaders must commit much more of their time to communicating with employees.” Robles delved into his leadership philosophy during his afternoon presentation to a group of Full-Time MBA students. As a backdrop for this discussion, he noted the three mandates given to him by the USAA Board of Directors when he took over as president and CEO of the company in December 2007. “The great recession had just begun,” he said, “so the Board made it clear that I could not let the company sink like so many other companies in the U.S. and abroad. But just as important, they wanted me to improve the morale of the troops and reconnect the company with the communities in which we operated.” One of his first initiatives was to implement a formal leadership development program ultimately focused on improving overall employee engagement. “I knew from experience that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of you,” he said. USAA’s enviable 16-percent attrition rate for its contact center employees (compared to an industry average of about 35 percent) speaks to the success of the company’s efforts in this area. Robles also knew he needed to create a safe and open environment in which employees felt comfortable sharing bad news as well as good news with their managers and the USAA leadership team. To engender that kind of trust, he increased his communications with employees through casual “walk around” conversations as well as small group meetings. Robles also noted that most big mistakes in companies are the result of breakdowns in character, so he redoubled USAA’s efforts to inculcate its core values in all employees. “We emphasized that taking care of our members (USAA’s customers) was more important than focusing on our profitability,” he said. “Acting in the best interest of our members has always served as a guiding principle for everything we do.” When asked by a student about the greatest hurdle facing USAA and other companies in the coming years, Robles stated unequivocally that leaders’ ability to manage the people equation represents the biggest challenge. “In a global marketplace where your workforce is becoming increasingly diverse along gender, racial, cultural and generational lines, the ability to attract, train and retain talent will spell the difference between success and failure,” he said. “General Robles stated that in order to build a successful company or become a successful leader in the business world, you must have strong core values and professional ethics,” said Business Honors student Michael Formella ’18. “But even after you attain success, he made it clear that you must never be satisfied. The company, along with its leaders, must always challenge themselves and their employees to learn more every day.” ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
Kelli Levey, November 21st, 2014
Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President Robert Jordan went straight for the heart when he revealed the story behind the company’s brand refresh. He showed a video of employees sharing stories about how they had accommodated and interacted with their customers, from saving a lost teddy bear to keeping a military family together as long as possible before the husband/father was deployed. “Our employees’ mission every day transcends their daily duties,” said Jordan, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, overseeing marketing, advertising, network planning, revenue management, and the call centers. “It’s about creating moments that are important to our customers: $20 too high or 20 minutes too late and that opportunity is gone. What is really wonderful about Southwest is that the caring is real. It’s inculcated in our employees.” Jordan is also president of AirTran Airways, which Southwest acquired in May 2011. The AirTran acquisition added about 20 percent to the size of the company, and the integration will be fully complete this December. Jordan said that despite being the largest domestic carrier in terms of passengers boarded, and the second-largest in the world, having a large and loyal fan base, and having unique customer-friendly policies like no bag fees and no change fees, there had been worry that the brand had lost a bit of its edge as a maverick, and that the visual identity had not kept pace as the brand had evolved. “Compared to just five years ago, Southwest now offers international service, onboard satellite-based wifi, free live TV, and free streaming music in partnership with Beats Music.” As part of the refresh, the company decided to emphasize the core values that have made it so successful since it started in 1971, the unique connection their employees have with their customers. The new tagline, “without a Heart, it’s just a machine,” does just that. The centerpiece of the visual campaign, a tricolored heart with silver accents, is on the belly and at the door of every plane. Jordan said the airlines’ brand refresh was meant to build on the company’s proud history, not run from it. “The new branding is loyal to our past, but expresses the company we have become, and our future.” While at Mays, Jordan spoke with groups of Business Honors undergraduates and MBA students. His presentation to the MBA students was informational, but all the students enjoyed the informal setting of the roundtable discussions. Jordan boasted about the students’ accomplishments already – getting into Texas A&M University and Mays. “This is a very elite group of people,” he said. “It’s fun to see what a great group of leaders we have coming up.” He told the students to always remember someone might be watching how they work. He said he has not applied for any job promotions. Instead, he was approached about every one of them. He shared some pointers with the students:
- Work hard and be ready for whatever comes up.
- Try to work with a company that is great to work with, and where you enjoy working.
- Realize there is a lot more to life than work. Have balance.
Lauren Ragsdale '11, November 13th, 2014
An idea to preserve fresh food propelled a team of five freshmen from Startup Aggieland's Startup Living Learning Community to be named one of 21 finalists for the inaugural Food Challenge Prize. The competition was sponsored by the Food Lab at the University of Texas. Team members from Mays include Berryman Tolder, Hunter Pearson, Price Burnett and Felipe Estrada. More than 120 registrants of all experience levels and from a wide range of backgrounds entered the competition, which encourages innovations of all types in the global food system. Judges from the Food Lab's advisory committee selected the finalists, who will continue to work with industry mentors for around 13 weeks before the Food Challenge Showcase in February 14, 2015. Over $30,000 will be awarded in prize money. Animal science major McCalley Cunninham described the team's idea, "Go Fresh!" products, which seeks to preserve food during transport in order to reduce food waste. "Go Fresh!"" products contain an OYA gene that absorbs ethanol to prevent deterioration of produce, she said. We are losing $165 billion a year by throwing away wasted food. If we can resolve this issue, then we can help with the challenge of feeding the world in the next 50 years." The "Go Fresh" team is doing a patent search and, if the idea is not patented already, will go forward with provisional patent preparation. For more information on the competition, visit http://utfoodlab.com/2014-ut-food-lab-challenge/. ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL Texas A&M University's Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master's and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
Lauren Ragsdale '11, November 11th, 2014
Litigation is constant in today's business environment. The question seems to be not whether a company will be sued, but when. However, Blaine Edwards '83 told Business Honors students that companies are often able to avoid the hassle and costs of lawsuits. "You can deal with issues and problems before they turn into litigation," he said. "I try to spot issues and help the company up front." Edwards is assistant general counsel for global litigation at Houston-based Superior Energy Services, Inc., an international oil and gas company. In this role, he is responsible for supervising the group of attorneys and paralegals at Superior Energy that handles major job problems, accident investigations and litigation in the United States and around the world. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance from Texas A&M University and a J.D. from St. Mary's University School of Law. Prior to joining Superior Energy, Edwards served as associate general counsel at BJ Services Company. He also has more than 17 years of experience as a trial lawyer and three years of experience as a bank officer. Edwards described himself as a "fixer," saying he spends most of his time advising company leaders how to identify what is happening in the business and what they need to do to avoid problems and litigation. "You don't want to be in the litigation business," he said. "It's expensive, time-consuming and risky." He described three major types of risks facing companies, all of which can lead to class action lawsuits: policy, procedure and people risks. To prevent lawsuits from arising from workplace accidents, Edwards said companies must make sure their employees are fit for duty. "What employees do can affect you, your company and the company's stock price," he said. A major part of Edwards' job is working to prevent future incidents. "It's important for me to take the lessons learned and be fervent in educating people about accidents to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said. Even when a company does cause an accident, Edwards said an apology can often go a long way. ""I'm sorry" are often the two best words you can say," he said. "Take responsibility by saying you're sorry and putting it right." Taking the initiative to resolve problems quickly and personally often allows companies to meet the needs of those affected by accidents without ever going to court. Edwards left the students with three pieces of advice for their professional careers:
- Learn how to spot issues in your area
- Come up with solutions to these issues
- Look for risks for what you do and try to find a way to minimize them
Lauren Ragsdale '11, November 6th, 2014
Throughout his 20 years of experience in the energy industry, Michael Garberding '91 has witnessed both the growth and decline of major energy companies. We are in the midst of what he calls an "energy renaissance," and he spoke with a group of Business Honors students about implications for companies in this industry. Garberding is executive vice president and chief financial officer of EnLink Midstream, an integrated midstream company formed in 2014 by combining the midstream assets of Devon Energy and Crosstex Energy. Before joining Crosstex in 2008, Garberding held positions at TXU, Enron and Arthur Andersen LLP. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Texas A&M and an MBA from the University of Michigan. During his time at TXU, he helped navigate the business after it became deregulated and subsequently underwent a major restructuring. After joining Crosstex, he saw the business face challenges associated with two hurricanes and the collapse of the financial market. According to Garberding, successful companies are able to survive these types of challenges by managing three things: company culture, risk and the balance sheet. Unfortunately, many companies, such as Enron, have failed because of their inability to manage these aspects of the business. "The opportunity to interact with a C-Level executive for a major oil company was incredible," said Nicholas Davis '16. "Mr. Garberding was very open to any questions, and his experience at Enron before its collapse was particularly interesting to me." Garberding focused especially on the importance of creating a positive and supportive company culture. He emphasized the need for employees to be able to work together to get things done, noting that he works with other people at least 50 percent of the time. "The people and culture you see in your career is so important," said Garberding. "If you have a bad culture, you lose." "Mr. Garberding was a very interesting speaker," said Ian Wood '17. "He stressed that business culture is key and that people are the most important aspect in every company." Garberding said he has been able to use his personal connections to find new career opportunities, even when the market was performing poorly. "All my jobs have come through relationships," he said. He described EnLink's five relationship principles:
- Care: Showing appreciation for others and caring about their success
- Know: Spending time with others and understanding their needs
- Communicate: Taking advantage of every opportunity to interact with others
- Plan: Have a purpose for every interaction. Every interaction is an opportunity.
- Deliver: Doing what you say you will do, going the extra mile and fixing your mistakes