MBA alumna and author Nilofer Merchant demonstrates that perspective matters when it comes to leadership and strategic thinking....
MBA 2010: Associate, The Angels Forum
Andy Bartley MBA '10 found his graduate coursework enriched by the vast network he developed at Santa Clara....
MBA 2000: Author, Management Consultant
“Kindness” is not usually first on a list of what creates excellence in a business leader, but it’s up there for Nilofer Merchant, CEO and founder of Rubicon Consulting, an influential Silicon Valley firm specializing in high technology business.
“Kindness disarms people,” said Merchant (MBA ‘00), “Rubicon does strategy at the highest level for multi-billion dollar companies (Adobe, Apple, HP, Symantec and Nokia are a few). These are companies that have to decide who they are today and where they want to go. They never call us because things are going great. You get called because something is broken.
“Now, you could see these people as screw-ups, or you can see them as people who’ve done the best they can with what they have. I think that compassion and courage are rare in business. I’m the first person to say what the elephant in the room is, but I say it kindly. If you don’t have kindness in your heart, how many people are going to want to tell you what’s going on in the company?”
On the other hand, Merchant also has coined the phrase “murder boarding” for her process of promoting good ideas and killing bad ones. She has a pitch-perfect ear for the catchy phrase, exemplified by a talk she gave called “Even Steinways Get Out of Tune.” The talk, later turned into a company White Paper, was about spirituality in business – a topic that first piqued her interest when a classmate (who later became her husband) suggested she take Andre Delbecq’s course, “Spirituality for Business Leaders.”
“You had to study a tree and write a journal entry about it,” she recalled. “I remember thinking it was the silliest exercise ever.” But as she thought more about the assignment, and about the capstone project was she was working on, she realized that the tree was a powerful analogy for business. She saw core strengths and experiences as the roots and the fruits of labor up in the branches. The class also inspired her to explore her personal values and goals.
“What kind of person do I want to be? What feeds me at a personal level?” she asked herself. She says that people who don’t ask those questions often never learn what their answers are.
Merchant admitted that although she learned much at Santa Clara, she wasn’t a stellar student. It took her seven years to finish her degree, which was interrupted by leaves of absence as she was promoted into new positions.
“When I started the program, I wasn’t even a first-level manager,” she said. “By the time I left, I’d been a vice president at a start-up and an executive at a Fortune 500 company.”
“What was nice about the program was that everyone was in the same spot,” she added. “Everyone was in ties and suits and working really hard. Going to SCU added tremendous value to my career. I’d go to class Tuesday and then apply what I learned on the job, and then come back to class Thursday with a different take on the issue.”
Her MBA program gives her access to SCU’s network of alums populating businesses throughout Silicon Valley. Merchant also keeps in touch by frequently serving as a guest speaker to Leavey classes.
“Santa Clara is justly known for serving the working executives of this area,” she said. “If you want to continue working and building your career, it’s really the only choice.”
Merchant took what she learned and tested in the marketplace and turned in into The New How, a book about strategic leadership and the perspectives needed to make it work. The book was released by O'Reilly Media in late 2009.
MBA 2010: Associate, The Angels Forum
Santa Clara's Evening MBA program has "opened my eyes" to the world of business.
The dynamic and diverse character of the Silicon Valley is reflected in the student body. From launching a telecom business in Bangalore, to going through the process of an IPO, or learning how to manage change after an acquisition, the many perspectives that my peers bring to class have helped me better understand the real challenges facing business leaders today.
I have also had the opportunity to experience international business firsthand through one of Santa Clara?s Global Perspectives course. I spent 10 days in London and Geneva studying at the London School of Economics and visiting some of the top financial institution in the world.
Through all of these experiences I have developed lasting friendships that will continue long past graduation. I am taking with me the skills, confidence, and network I need to create a business, not just be a part of one.
Executive MBA 2009: Director, Business Services, Amgen
The Santa Clara EMBA program integrated an innovative program design with a carefully selected cohort which incorporated a diverse set of industries, experiences and backgrounds (some people were from Marketing, Operations, Engineering, Supply Chain, etc.).
The result for me was an accelerated learning environment that gave me both the tools and confidence I needed to start integrating some of the leading concepts in my company early in the program. The immersion aspect of the program which united us not only with up and coming Chinese companies but also with domestic Cisco executives and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors was transformational for me. The experience opened my eyes to gain real world experience and expertise in several industries.
Towards the end of the program I was promoted from directing a modest group of project management professionals to the role of Director of Business Services responsible not only for the Project Management Office but also Supply Chain, Information Services, Operational Excellence and Risk Management – an organization 8x the size of the group I had when I started the program which will allows me to utilize many of the aspects of the program.
Executive MBA 2005: Director of Business Development
PARC, A Xerox Company
Jennifer Ernst knew when she started the Executive MBA program at Santa Clara that having the degree would give her more career options, but it was even clearer when she graduated with honors in 2005.
“A decision to get an MBA, especially an executive MBA with its accelerated program, is a strong declaration you’re serious about business,” she recalled during an interview at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), where she has been director of business development for the Xerox-owned company since 2006.
Her job includes leading business-to-business sales in the United States and Europe, expanding PARC business in Asia, and responsibility for all phases of business development, resulting in multiple $1 million-plus deals with companies throughout the world.
Ernst, who has an undergraduate degree in radio and television from San Francisco State University, spent her early career in communications. She’d started as a project manager in the creative services group at PARC, working up to communications manager from 1998 through 2006.
“Before I got to SCU, I had been doing marketing,” said Ernst. “I didn’t know what else was out there so I really didn’t know what I’d be good at. The MBA program helped expose me to a lot of varied opportunities.”
Continuing to work fulltime through the SCU program made her classroom work more relevant because she could immediately apply what she learned, as well as benefit from the experience of her classmates.
“When I interviewed people from SCU, I found a sense of groundedness, of no arrogance,” she said. “Within the EMBA cohort, we had diverse people. Our skills complemented each other. I brought an understanding of research innovation and functional experience from marketing and communications. Others helped me learn leadership, finance, and handling change.”
Ernst said she probably would not have been considered for her current job if she hadn’t had the MBA.
“I had a richer tool set having done the EMBA,” she said. “I went from being a communications person, to being a business person with a communications background. I went from reporting the news to making it.”
Associate Professor of OMIS, OMIS Department Chair, Executive MBA Theme Coordinator
“There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt.” Audre Lorde, poet
Professor Andy Tsay’s take on Lorde is that the single-minded pursuit of the breakthrough idea may be futile, or at least misguided.
“Novelty is invariably less important than implementation,” he says. “Grand visions are easy, yet most don’t lead to much. But if you take a decent idea and execute the heck out of it, you can have major impact.”
Tsay says this form of competitive advantage is difficult to imitate, as much of the knowledge is unspoken or subtle. That’s why teaching operations management is so important, he says, noting the field’s distinct role in cultivating respect for details and execution.
But successful implementation also requires tremendous creativity, especially in problem solving, Tsay says. For him, this means continuously scanning the world beyond his specialty, taking ideas from one place and using them in another, and fusing existing ideas into new combinations. He’s inspired by the lives of persistently creative people in various pursuits, and has a pet interest in the “one-hit-wonder” phenomenon in popular music.
He views his role as being a ‘portal’ for students into a vast and shifting body of knowledge. “A key part of my job is the management of intellectual property—collecting, organizing, recombining, and retrieving knowledge assets from a myriad of sources,” says Tsay, who is convinced that his systematic procedures for doing this play a major role in his teaching success.
Tsay has taught at the Leavey School since 1995, and is a five-time recipient of the Extraordinary Faculty Award for Teaching, Research and Service, and two-time winner of the Breetwor Fellowship. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematical and computational science, his master’s in engineering and his Ph.D. in business, all at Stanford University.
Founder, Business Manager
Clearstreme LLC, Executive MBA '05
Although Kevin Haley MBA ‘05 anticipated changing direction after completing the MBA, he never expected that as a result of a class project, he would become founder of a new company whose product may revolutionize fossil fuel emission control when it comes to market later in 2011.
He began the Executive MBA program because he “didn’t want to be just another engineer” when he left a 20-year career at Intel. During his program at Santa Clara, he and his classmates developed a creditable business plan for a new “clean-tech” product that would virtually eliminate soot from diesel engine emissions. It wasn’t until the project was completed that Haley revealed he was an expert in thermal technologies and knew that the product also was scientifically viable.
“I said, I know what this is and it’ll work. We’ve got to make a company out of this,” recalls Haley, a former engineering manager who holds 19 patents. When he retired from Intel in 2010 , he launched Clearstreme LLC to market the product. He expects that by year’s end, the product will be on the market after being approved by the regulatory agencies that monitor emissions-cleaning laws and compliance.
Haley, who received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, said earning his MBA gave him the confidence and training he needed to become an entrepreneur.
“A lot of what I learned confirmed what I’d been doing at Intel, but it also exposed me to different aspects of business,” he said. “I’d had no familiarity with accounting, international business or money policy. When Clearstreme becomes successful, it will be because of Santa Clara.”
Executive MBA 2009: Principal, International Institutional Asset Management Marketing Head, Vanguard,
I recently accepted a new position with Vanguard as Principal, Head of International Marketing. This is an exciting development in my career as I join one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world.
I truly believe the Santa Clara Executive MBA made a huge difference in preparing me for my new role. I am proud to tell others I earned my MBA from the Leavey School of Business. For this alumnus, the investment is truly paying off!
Accelerated MBA Student
The Accelerated MBA at SCU has provided me with an intense, immersive, and experiential education that has unmasked the complex intricacies -- subtle and obvious, technical and human -- of creating, growing and leading as successful organization.
Today’s rapidly-evolving world economy requires more than great business skills, it requires leaders with confident, ethical integrity. The Accelerated MBA has given me the tools and frameworks for problem-solving, adaptability, innovation and creativity that will be assets throughout my career. It has done so with a model of leadership development that affects learning and change through collaborative interaction amongst a mature, diverse, and select peer group, by relevant academic instruction from a highly qualified and experienced faculty, and with direct industry involvement for an irreplaceable and practical real-world grounding.
Strategic Marketing and Business Development Manager, National Semiconductor
Accelerated MBA Student
I am truly impressed with the program’s comprehensive curriculum which integrates classroom learning and real-world experience into a structured 21-month program. The Leavey School of Business also features several organizations that give participating students the opportunity to network with other current students and an expansive pool of SCU alumni with similar interests.
By serving as the Vice President of Partnerships for the Entrepreneurial Connection, one such MBA organization, I am able to broaden my professional network to include local entrepreneurs and venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley.
I believe an MBA from Santa Clara is not only a degree, but a life-long experience filled with world-class resources and access to networks that I can utilize throughout my personal and professional career.
Associate Professor, Management
Tammy L. Madsen, Ph.D., had just joined the faculty at Santa Clara when she was tapped in 2000 to be part of the committee helping to plan the new building for the Leavey School of Business.
“Many of us had strong opinions based on our experiences at other universities” she says. “But, ultimately, the challenge was figuring out what we would need 10 to 20 years out.”
Since then, she’s advanced along with the new Lucas Hall, becoming chair of the Management Department in the school in 2007. Madsen, who grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area, was attracted to Santa Clara because she wanted a place that valued research and teaching.
She teaches the required capstone strategy course in the MBA program; the course introduces various strategic analysis frameworks and covers a range of topics such as industry analysis, strategic positioning, alliances, outsourcing, mergers and acquisitions, and global strategy.
Students engage in an intensive research project where they apply various strategic analysis frameworks and the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout the MBA program to analyze a firm undergoing strategic change. Madsen uses in-depth case analysis and various experiential exercises in her classes. One of her goals is to ensure that students can use class content at their companies.
“Basically, it’s about putting knowledge into action,” says Madsen, who started her career working for a small defense company to analyze F-14 aircraft. She moved on to packaging design and program management for commercial vehicles at Delco Electronics in Santa Barbara, but realized she wanted a different kind of career.
“My exposure to various divisions within General Motors motivated me to pursue a doctorate in strategy and organization,” she says of her move into academics. “I couldn’t help but think that there has to be a better way to run an organization."
"I love my job. I enjoy doing empirical research – exploring questions, collecting data, conducting analysis, and disclosing counterintuitive findings," recounts Madsen. "Many of us are faculty because we enjoy continuously learning and building knowledge.”
Sanjiv Das left positions teaching finance at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and the University of California at Berkeley when Santa Clara University offered him academic freedom in 2000.
“They said that as long as I did research, they didn’t care if it was in computer science or finance,” he explains. “at Berkeley, it would have had to be one or the other.”
One of the fruits of the professor’s approach is an elective called Quantitative Business Models that makes extensive use of mathematical software – a first of its kind for a business school.
“I don’t think there’s a course like this at any other campus,” he says. “It aims to remedy the incorrect believe that quantitative models aren’t feasible for students who don’t have engineering backgrounds. I don’t think the QBM course would have been approved at some other places. I would have been accused of encroaching on computer science or the marketing field.”
He has brought that same kind of innovation to Santa Clara, putting together a distinguished group of faculty and advisors to launch the Santa Clara Initiative for Financial Innovation and Risk Management (SCIFIRM). The group, which includes SCU finance faculty George Chacko, Hersh Shefrin, Meir Statman, held its first conference, “The Value of Values” in Spring 2010, and brought together international leaders in the study of socially responsible investing.
“A thought process knows no boundaries,” adds Das, who earned his doctorate in finance from New York University, a master’s degree in computer science from Berkeley, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management. It’s hands-on learning, and brings the satisfaction of learning by doing; in my case, learning by teaching.”
MBA 2009: Director, SCU Office of Sustainability
Constructing eco-friendly buildings is only half the battle of going green, according to Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner, director of the SCU Office of Sustainability and MBA alumna (‘09).
“Santa Clara’s main goal is to develop a culture of sustainability within the campus faculty, students and staff,” said Cromwell Kalkbrenner, who also was instrumental in the “Greening of Lucas Hall” team. She explained that her job involves three main goals:
• Stewardship -- promoting recycling, energy conservation and other efforts to reduce the University’s ecological footprint
• Education – integrating sustainability into academics as well as campus events
• Outreach – taking lessons learned to other institutions and the wider community
Cromwell Kalkbrenner is somewhat unique in the world of sustainability coordinators. The job at other institutions is usually tied solely to facilities departments. At Santa Clara, the facilities and operations staffs have been working on greening projects for years. Cromwell Kalkbrenner said her office takes that movement to the next step – building the bridge between academics, operations and campus culture.
“It just makes financial sense to reduce energy consumption,” she said. “Because we’re a Jesuit institution, we have a moral imperative to create a better place for future generations.”
After earning a biology degree at SCU, Cromwell Kalkbrenner admits she didn’t really know what she wanted to do. She taught at a marine mammal facility in her native Hawaii until returning to California in 2006 to start the sustainability position at SCU.
“This job has opened up a whole new field for me,” she said. “My family didn’t recycle when I was growing up. I lived in a rural area and we had to take our trash to the dump. But I learned a lot about conservation at my first job out of college and started changing my habits.”
Although she tries to be as eco-friendly as possible, she admits that she occasionally forgets to take her reusable coffee mug to Mission Bakery and ends up with a disposable container. Still, she can check off most of the boxes on the University’s Sustainability Pledge “Beyond Green” part of a campaign her office spearheads on campus.
She decided to take up graduate business studies because she felt the program was the most likely to give her the flexibility to go in different directions.
“My job is all about communicating, negotiating, leading, and networking—definitely easy to apply my newly-acquired business skills.”
Terri Griffith, professor of management in the Leavey School of Business since 2001, virtually immerses herself in research to learn how companies can best function with modifications to the traditional work environment.
Santa Clara’s location in the center of the technological world benefits her, since her research “is focused on the implications and effective use of technologies in organizations.” Griffith, who has served on advisory boards and has won numerous grants, has been looking at virtual work environments since 1984. Today’s business climate and technological advances allow and typically encourage formerly nontraditional communication methods.
“Most organizations are hybrids,” Griffith says. “They do some of their work face-to-face; use teleconferencing; instant messaging, e-mail. My colleagues and I study how that kind of work environment affects the rate of innovation.”
She has learned that “while communication is always easier face-to-face, the actual work outcome can be better in a virtual setting. A project team can pick the best people around the world and perform better.”
Griffith has been a visiting professor at various universities, and has served as senior editor of Organization Science, a research journal.
Through a National Science Foundation grant, Griffith is collaborating with John Sawyer of the University of Delaware to research “knowledge, innovation, and virtual work” in science and engineering organizations.
“We’ve finished collecting data with a Fortune 100 science and technology company,” Griffith says. “We’ll be able to track how and which teams are more innovative” because of their virtual work environments.
Students in Griffith’s organizational design course at SCU average three to five years of professional experience and most plan to move into management positions at their companies.
“Each individual comes in with their own intuition and experience,” says Griffith, who won the Leavey School of Business Research Award in 2004. “If they are able to hear how others have handled situations, they can understand how to apply their knowledge. They can go back to their organization and apply what you just talked about. Since they have a fair amount of experience, we find a way to organize the knowledge they have.”
Vice President and Director, Cadexterity
Accelerated MBA Student
I needed the speed of a two-year MBA to catalyze my career change, but also wanted the flexibility to continue working on side projects. The Accelerated MBA program offered both and was a perfect fit for my ambitions. The program also offered a cohort experience similar to traditional MBA programs, facilitating close relationships with my classmates.
The Accelerated MBA program has been an enriching experience. Spending an entire year with my cohort not only made classes more enjoyable, but also provided valuable perspectives on group dynamics that have already helped me develop my management approach.
The experience has helped our cohort develop a class identity and a deep camaraderie that is unique among part-time MBA programs.
Santa Clara University and the Leavey Business School are well known both inside and outside of the Valley. This extensive network of relationships SCU has with its alumni and business leaders in the region has provided valuable experiences inside and outside of class, and will be an important resource in the future.
Professor of Leadership, Management Department
Barry Posner is Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University (located in the heart of Silicon Valley), where he served for 12 years as Dean of the School.
Barry, along with his co-author Jim Kouzes, received the American Society for Training and Development’s highest award for their Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance. He has been recognized by The International Management Council as one of the nation's top management and leadership educators, listed among the Top 50 Leadership Coaches in America, and recently honored as one of the top dozen “most influential international thinkers in HR.”
He is the co-author of the award-winning and best-selling leadership book The Leadership Challenge. Described as a groundbreaking research study, this book combines keen insights with practical applications and captures both why and how leadership is everyone's business. With over 1.8 million copies in print, this book has been named one of The Top 100 Business Books of All Time, book-of-the-year by the American Council of Health Care Executives, received the Critic's Choice Award from book review editors, and been translated into 20 foreign languages.
The Leadership Practices Inventory has been called "the most reliable, up-to-date leadership instrument available today," and the online version has been completed by over 1.3 million people around the globe over the past four years. Barry has also co-authored several other award-winning, inspiring and practical books on leadership: The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know; Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It; Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Recognizing and Rewarding Others; The Academic Administrator’s Guide to Exemplary Leadership; and A Leader’s Legacy.
Barry is an international renowned scholar who has published more than 90 research and practitioner-oriented articles, in such journals as the: Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Human Relations, Personnel Psychology, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, and the like. He is currently on the editorial review boards of the International Journal of Servant-Leadership, Leadership and Organizational Development, and Leadership Review. Barry serves on the Board of Directors for EMQ Family First.
Barry received an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a master's degree from the Ohio State University in public administration, and his Ph.D. in organizational behavior and administrative theory from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At Santa Clara he has received the President's Distinguished Faculty Award, the School’s Extraordinary Faculty Award, and several other outstanding teaching and leadership honors. Described as a warm, engaging and pragmatic conference speaker and dynamic workshop facilitator, Barry has worked with such organizations as: Alcoa, Applied Materials, Australian Institute of Management, Charles Schwab, Conference Board of Canada, Hewlett-Packard, Kaiser Permanente Health Care, L.L. Bean, Levi Strauss, Merck, Motorola, NetApp, Trader Joe's, Roche, among others, and been involved with leadership development efforts at more than 35 college campuses. He has made presentations and conducted workshops across the U.S., and around the globe, from Canada, Mexico and Europe to the Far East, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.