Browsed by
Category: Alumni Stories

Executives on Campus: Doug Lattner, Former Deloitte CEO

Executives on Campus: Doug Lattner, Former Deloitte CEO

University of Dallas students often hear about the importance of critical thinking. At a meeting on March 28, Doug Lattner (MBA ’73), former CEO of consulting firm Deloitte, told the university’s Accounting and Finance Society how to leverage a those critical thinking skills into a career as a consultant.

“What consultants do is help businesses solve complex challenges,” he said. “But good ideas aren’t enough. Those ideas have to executable.” That’s where critical thinking comes in. According to Lattner, consultants work with clients to drive positive change within the client’s organization by assisting with things like financial strategy or mergers and acquisitions. Consultants transfer their knowledge to their clients, and businesses value the objectivity that consultants bring to the table.

According to Lattner, consulting companies like Deloitte have changed their hiring process over the years. “When I started out,” he said. “I went straight from undergrad to graduate school and then was hired by a consulting firm.” Now, according to Lattner, consulting firms would prefer that an undergraduate gain work experience before pursuing an MBA. “This way, you can draw on your experience during your MBA program to give more relevance to what you’re learning,” he said.

When hiring entry-level consultants, Lattner said that firms like Deloitte are looking for a number of things: strong academic performance, the ability to think critically about a problem, and a combination of qualitative and quantitative skills. “If you’ve focused mostly on accounting, take a business strategy class. If you have been focusing on strategy, make sure to include technology classes as well,” he said. As far as personality traits, Lattner said that once a consultant gets that entry-level position, the firm will be looking to promote those who are hardworking and diligent. “They want someone who is always driving the ball,” he said. “That’s how you’ll get noticed.”

Lattner explained that as consultants move up the ranks at Deloitte, they gain experience in various practice fields that might interest them, in the same way a college freshman might experiment with different classes to settle on a major. “In the beginning, you may dabble in technology, energy, telecom or healthcare,” he said. “It’s important to find an area that interests you and in which you can share your skill set.” But as consultants move into management roles, they become subject-matter experts in their practice areas. For example, Lattner said that Deloitte has nurses and physicians consulting in their healthcare practice segment. “Imagine the credibility they could bring to a healthcare client,” he said.

Lattner went on to describe a consultant’s typical work week. “Consultants spend four days per week at the client’s site, then come back to the office on the fifth day,” he said. But Lattner emphasized that a consultant’s number one job is to meet the expectations of the client. “That means consulting is not an 8 to 5 job.”

But although consulting can be a demanding career, Lattner has found it to be rewarding as well. “If you want to be in a cube all day, don’t be a consultant,” he said. “But if you want to travel and gain experience across a variety of cultures, consulting can give you that.”

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information, click here.

Executives on Campus: Julie Weber, Vice President for People, Southwest Airlines

Executives on Campus: Julie Weber, Vice President for People, Southwest Airlines

It’s no accident that Southwest Airlines has been profitable for 43 consecutive years. And it’s not a fluke that Southwest has also been named one of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies for 21 years in a row. According to Julie Weber (BA, ‘91), Vice President for People at Southwest Airlines, it’s because of people. “One hundred percent of our success is because of the people we hire,” she told students in Dr. Richard Peregory’s class on March 2 at the University of Dallas’ Satish & Yasmin Gupta School of Business.

Weber explained Southwest’s philosophy that happy employees make happy customers who, in turn, make happy shareholders. The cornerstone of this philosophy is that employees come first. Weber sited a few statistics to demonstrate the effectiveness of this policy: “We’ve never had layoffs, even after September 11. We are lowest in customer complaints according to the Department of Transportation, and in 2014, Southwest was the number one performing stock on the S&P 500.”

According to Weber, the key to maintaining an engaged and motivated workforce is to hire the right people for the right job. “The first step is you have to know what you’re about,” she said. And what Southwest Airlines is about centers around core values like having a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart, and a fun-loving attitude. “Every single employee understands what it means to live and work the Southwest way. So these core values are part of every job description, from ramp agents to executives.”

Weber’s experienced recruiters take special care to determine whether an applicant exhibits these core values. During interviews, recruiters ask candidates a series of open-ended, behavior-based questions designed to gather examples of how they have responded in a variety of situations. “We’re looking for examples of how you went above and beyond for your customers or your fellow employees,” Weber said.

These behavior-based questions aren’t for front-line employees only. Weber personally interviews every candidate for directors’ positions. “A leader’s job is to serve the team, so it’s especially important that those in leadership positions have a servant’s heart,” she said. “So I might ask a candidate about their team. Do they know what’s really important to the members of their team?”

Southwest’s policy of hiring for attitude and training for skill can result in situations where highly-qualified candidates are passed over because they do not exemplify the company’s core values. “This is a very tight labor market,” Weber said. “But Southwest has decided that we won’t compromise on our hiring practices. It takes a lot of courage, but we stand by what we will believe makes us successful. We’re not going to sacrifice hiring for attitude.” In a recent survey, 76% of Southwest employees said they felt that their job was a calling. “This level of engagement is no accident,” Weber said. “We hire people who will view their jobs that way.”

In 2015, Southwest Airlines received 300,000 job applications. Only 2.2% of those applicants were hired. But those 6,600 people who did make the cut now get to work for a company that truly “luvs” their employees.

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.

Executives on Campus: Steve Springer, Regional Director for Sales and Marketing, Verizon

Executives on Campus: Steve Springer, Regional Director for Sales and Marketing, Verizon

Advertisements—we see them everywhere. Whether it’s television commercials, pop-up ads, billboards or direct mailers, we are surrounded by marketers determined to grab our attention and spur us to action in some way. And while some of these tactics may seem scattershot, much of this advertising is targeted to you specifically. Steve Springer (MBA, ’04), Regional Director for Sales and Marketing at Verizon, spoke to Dr. Laura Munoz’s class on February 23 about how the multi-billion dollar company determines exactly how and to whom their marketing messages will be delivered.

Springer began by explaining that his division is responsible for marketing Fios, Verizon’s fiber optic cable network that provides internet, television, and voice services to homes and businesses in areas of Texas. But because the service is not available to every household in the DFW area (only in those areas where the actual fiber optic cable has been installed), Springer and his team must make marketing decisions based on detailed reports in order to most efficiently target their current and potential customers.

“Television and radio ads don’t work for us,” Springer told the group. “Not only are they expensive, but they generate calls to my call center from areas where I can’t provide service. So that kind of marketing is not an efficient use of our resources.” Instead of blanketing the entire DFW metroplex with mass-marketing advertising, Springer and his team analyze various data points to determine where their greatest potential for growth lies. “We focus on three specific areas,” he said. “Acquisition, retention, and upsell.”

Because Fios enjoys a hefty market share and good customer satisfaction ratings in areas where their service is available, Springer explained that the company puts a greater emphasis on retention in communities where their market share is already high. “There will always be some customers who shop on price. And everyone below you wants a piece of your business, so we focus on retaining customers in areas where we have high market penetration,” he said. “We want to show our customers that we care about them and will not always be trying to sell them something.”

To retain customers, Springer and his marketing team craft messages specific to their target market. For instance, he spends a good portion of his marketing budget to sponsor community events. “High school football is huge in Texas,” he said. “And it’s something that communities rally around, so we want to be a part of that.” In addition, Verizon has sponsored other events such as video game tournaments and robotics competitions to reach IT-savvy customers.

Springer further discussed how Verizon’s marketing messages change depending on the demographics of a community. Denton, Texas–home to two universities–has a very large rental community in proportion to other real estate, which affects the types of products his team promotes. “Renters are usually more interested in data alone and less in cable and voice,” he said. “So we don’t usually offer higher-priced bundles to those customers.”

Springer underscored the importance of making marketing decisions based on hard data. Verizon’s data comes from a variety of sources, including in-house customer information and from 3rd party research firms that report on market share relative to competitors. “The bottom line,” Springer said, “Is that you have a limited marketing budget, so you must have the data to support any marketing decision you make.”

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.

Executives on Campus: Jennifer Proctor, American Airlines

Executives on Campus: Jennifer Proctor, American Airlines

You’ve probably been on a plane before, maybe lots of times. But what you may not realize is the amount of decision-making and strategic planning that goes into the entire experience—everything from booking your flight to landing safely at your destination. Jennifer Proctor, (BA ’87, Finance) Managing Director of Customer Experience Planning for American Airlines, spoke on February 17 to Dr. Michael Stodnick’s Senior Seminar about the challenges the airline faces in creating the best customer experience possible. “As of 2013, American Airlines is the world’s largest airline,” Proctor said, “and now we want to be the best.”

Proctor said that after emerging from bankruptcy in 2013 and beginning the merger process with US Airways, American began focusing five strategic areas—“have-to-do’s” that will help American Airlines regain its top-tier image. “We have to focus on our customer needs and wants, become an industry leader in reliability, engage our team members, create return for our investors, and look to the future,” she said.

Although several departments within American Airlines are eager to test new products and services, Proctor said company must maintain its focus. “We have to be strategic about these potential projects,” she said. “Each department within the company must answer myriad questions to determine the feasibility of any new service. What is the revenue impact? What is the cost impact? What is the project timeline? How does the project affect our competitive situation? Does this project deliver the American Airlines vision?”
2015 was the most profitable year in the history of American Airlines, but Proctor knows that the company must continue to innovate in all areas to maintain those record profits. “We know that happy employees equals happy customers, and happy customers equals happy shareholders,” she said. With that in mind, American is working on improving employee engagement and satisfaction.

So the next time you board an American Airlines flight, remember that everything from your free soda to the power outlet under your seat was considered and reconsidered in order to give you the best experience possible. And then silently thank UD alumna Jennifer Proctor that your phone won’t die mid-flight.

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.

Jesse Orsini: Former CEO, Carborundum

Jesse Orsini: Former CEO, Carborundum

The oil and gas business isn’t just about the stuff that runs our cars and heats our homes. There are countless processes and components involved with the extraction of the products so vital to our everyday lives. Some of the more esoteric of these components are proppants, and Jesse Orsini built a multi-million-dollar business on this highly specialized product.

Speaking to Dr. Laura Munoz’s Global Entrepreneurship class on February 10, Orsini detailed the history of his former company, Carborundum. Founded in 1890, Carborundum was originally a manufacturer of ceramics used in grinding operations. In the 1970s, the company began producing ceramic beads, called proppants, for use as an efficient substitute for the sand then used by drillers in the hydraulic fracking process.

“The product sold very well, and when the time came to expand,” Orsini said, “we knew we would need an aggressive marketing plan to really make a dent in the sand market.” With the help of a petroleum engineer named Steve Cobb, Carborundum not only developed ways to demonstrate the effectiveness of ceramic proppants using actual raw materials, but they also created software programs that could simulate the specific conditions of individual wells. “We couldn’t just sell on the science behind the product,” Orsini said. “We had to show our customers the actually monetary benefits.”

Over the years, as the market for ceramic proppants grew, Carborundum remained profitable, and was part of several buyouts. But as the 17-year patent coverage for the product and manufacturing process drew to a close, Orsini recognized that the time was right to retire from the business.

The market for ceramic proppants has since declined because of lagging oil prices and slowing demand. “I still believe that there is a long term benefit to ceramic proppants,” Orsini said. “But it’s hard to argue with a company that can barely keep its doors open. Sand is cheaper in the short run.” Orsini said the future of companies like Carborundum lies in the recovery of oil markets and in finding new industrial applications for the ceramic beads that make up proppants. And although we can’t always predict the future of markets, we can be sure that the creative engineers and savvy entrepreneurs, like those in University of Dallas classrooms right now, will continue to develop and market products that we never even knew we needed.

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.

Current and Former Military Officers Emphasize Service Over Self at Leadership Dinner

Current and Former Military Officers Emphasize Service Over Self at Leadership Dinner

When Terry O’Halloran came home from Vietnam, he was advised not to wear his Marine uniform in the airport. But he did, and protesters of the unpopular war threw trash at him. “Although 1966 wasn’t a good time to be in the military, not a day goes by that I don’t remember the lessons I learned in the Marines,” he said.

O’Halloran, a U.S. Marine veteran and a University of Dallas alumnus, along with four other current and former military service men and women, spoke on October 22, 2015, to a group of University of Dallas students about the importance of service over self, whether that service be in the armed forces or in one’s community.

O’Halloran, Vice President and General Manager at Johnson Controls, went on to say that his Marine experience helped him weather the changes that come with the many mergers and acquisitions that characterize the corporate world.

Patrick Law, Senior Vice President of U.S. Bank and the Chief Operating Officer of Elan Bank and UD alumnus, said that his military experience taught him to take initiative. “The world needs people who can look at a situation and take action,” said Law, a U.S. Army veteran of the first Gulf War.

Esther Gomez, a Marine reservist and Catholic Youth Minister agreed. “Preparing to be an officer taught me to handle pressure. I can look at problem, quickly make a decision, and get results,” she said. Gomez is a graduate student working on a master’s degree in pastoral ministry at UD.

“One of the most important things I took away from the Marines was a respect for diversity,” said Michael Hilden, a Principal Engineer at Verizon, a former U.S. Marine, and a University of Dallas alumnus. “In the Marines, I learned to respect and understand other cultures and other people’s ideas. This gave me a global mindset and helped me keep an open mind and listen to others’ ideas,” he said.

Bo Glavan, Chief Staff Officer of the Navy Fleet Logistics Support Wing in Fort Worth, said that his 10 moves in 19 years taught him to adapt to new situations. “My family and I have a process,” he said. “We move to a new place, I learn my new job, we get situated as a family, and then we look for ways to give back.”

Members of the panel emphasized humility as one of the characteristics crucial to career and life success. “You have to find ways to challenge yourself,” said Law. “By learning from everyone you meet, you can stretch yourself, stretch your boundaries, and do things you didn’t think you were capable of.”

Hilden agreed. “People respect leaders who are transparent—the ones who are on the front lines with them and supporting them.”

When the panelists were asked what characteristic they would look for in potential employees, authenticity was at the top of the list. “Everyone needs a mentor,” said Glavan, “but you have to make sure you are being authentic to who you actually are. Communicate what you are passionate about and that will come across as authenticity.”

The take-home message of the evening was that service lies at the heart of a successful career and a fulfilling personal life. “Find a grass roots, pure of heart organization that you are passionate about,” said Glavan, “and give them your time and treasure.”

Terry Halloran couldn’t agree more. Perhaps because he remembers what it felt like to be persecuted because of his uniform, he volunteers for the USO at DFW Airport, welcoming soldiers on the way home for leave. “Sometimes we play cards, sometimes they just want to talk,” he said. “We just want to be there for them.” In or out of uniform, that’s honorable service—and another one he can be proud of.

For more information on events sponsored by the University of Dallas Office of Personal Career Development, click here.

Physicists address students as part of Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Program

Physicists address students as part of Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Program

“Get your hands dirty.” That’s the advice Dr. Stephanie Wissel, Assistant Professor of Physics at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo and a University of Dallas alumna, gave to students during her visit to UD on September 3, 2015. Wissel and her husband, Dr. Nathan Keim, were here as part of the Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Series, sponsored by the Physics Department.

“You have to try out what interests you,” Wissel continued. “If you don’t like it, try something else. Find someone who does research in an area you’re interested in and try to work with them. It’s a lot better than doing a Google search.” Wissel’s remarks came during a breakfast in which she and Keim answered students’ questions about everything from working for NASA to getting into graduate school.

Keim, Assistant Professor of Physics at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, agreed with Wissel’s remarks and added, “Your work has to be something that excites you, especially if you are going for a Ph.D. It’s a long journey so you have to be doing something you love.”

Keim’s talk, titled “Memory in Cyclically Driven Systems,” focused on behavior of particles in soft condensed matter and their ability to retain memory of previous states. Although his experiments were successful, he faced many challenges at the outset of his research. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no background in chemistry and I made a big mess. I also had to make a perfect apparatus with which to test my materials,” Keim said.

Keim’s research has far reaching implications for materials science. It can help engineers understand the causes of metal fatigue and predict how specific materials will behave under the pressures of temperature fluctuations. It could potentially help scientists understand how memories are formed in our own neural networks.

Wissel’s talk, titled “Searching for the Highest Energy Cosmic Particles at the Ends of the Earth,” focused on her research on detecting the highest energy particles in the universe using detectors in Polar Regions such as Antarctica and Greenland.

While at the University of Dallas, Wissel was awarded the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship as well as the Cardinal Spellman Award and Montosorri Award for Outstanding Physics Student. The Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship program, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, provides scholarships for female students at the University of Dallas majoring in Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, or Engineering. In addition to the scholarships, the University sponsors the Clare Boothe Luce Speaker Series, one of several initiatives designed to attract women into physical science, engineering, and mathematical areas and to support them once there. For more information on events sponsored by the University of Dallas’ Office of Personal Career Development, click here.

Honing Leadership Skills: Joe Blute

Honing Leadership Skills: Joe Blute

joe_bluteJoe Blute, a 2012 graduate of the University of Dallas with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, credits the University of Dallas’ Office of Personal Career Development with helping him build the relationships necessary to secure a permanent position after graduation. “Working with the OPCD helped me get the internship which led to my career with GE Capital,” said Blute, who is now part of GE Capital’s highly- selective leadership training cohort, Financial Management Program. As part of this program, Joe has rotated through several positions around the country, learning the ins-and-outs of the company’s internal operations. Blute says that his Chemistry degree from UD, though not typical for a finance professional, helped him develop the critical and analytical mindset that has helped in excel in the business world. “I honed leadership skills at UD as well,” Blute said. “I mentored younger students while I was in the Chemistry department, a practice which I have carried on by mentoring the newer analysts at GE Capital.”

For more information about career choices, visit the University of Dallas Office of Personal Career Development.

Gaining Experience: Mary McKenzie (’14)

Gaining Experience: Mary McKenzie (’14)

mary_mackenzie

Mary McKenzie, a 2014 graduate of the University of Dallas, says that getting involved with a variety of activities during her time at the UD helped her gain the experience that led to her permanent position as the Internship Program Coordinator at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. While at UD McKenzie worked as the Director in Charge of Student Programming. She says that potential employers looked favorably on her ability to hold leadership positions while maintaining a full academic load. “And I didn’t do just one internship,” McKenzie said. “I did several. I gained on-the-job, down to earth experience that helped me get a position right after graduation.” She says that these internships, along with her volunteer positions, gave her a wealth of experiences and situations upon which to draw when talking to an employer or in an interview situation.

For More information of the value of internships, visit the University of Dallas’ Office of Personal Career Development.

A World Away: Kaylee Gund in Guinea

A World Away: Kaylee Gund in Guinea

After living for fourteen months in a hut three meters in diameter with no electricity or running water, Kaylee Gund (Biochemistry ’13) realized she could handle just about anything. A volunteer for the Peace Corps in Guinea, Gund taught middle and high school students in a rural village until she was evacuated as a result of the West-African country’s Ebola outbreak. I spoke with her in October 2014 about her experience there.

Before beginning the Peace Corps application process her senior year, Gund considered several graduate schools but none seemed a good fit. “The ideas of service, travel and cultural exchange that are part of the Peace Corps experience really appealed to me,” she said. “And I felt I had been given so much that I wanted to give back where it was most needed.”

Her major in Biochemistry and concentration in French made Gund an ideal candidate for her post as a chemistry teacher in French-speaking Guinea. She lived with a host family during her three-month training but had her own hut among a circle of others within the village during her teaching assignment. Gund said she “adopted” a family living within the circle, sharing meals with them and going to them for advice. “Some aid organizations come in and out of the country without making a connection,” Gund said, “but the Peace Corps is different. By having an extended stay, I became part of the community. They were very generous and happy I was there.” A poignant story on Gund’s blog illustrates her point. Seeing her grief over the death of her great-uncle, the local villagers presented her with a small sum of money, a Guinean tradition for the family of the deceased. She writes: “The sum would have been nothing in US dollars, but it was more than money–it was a gift of tradition, a gift of their love and appreciation of me.”

Gund is quick to point out that the experience was hard, and that it was a culture shock. But she credits her Rome semester as helping to prepare her for this international experience. “Rome can help you adjust to life in another country if you can take the time to explore,” she said. She also turned to her faith to help her through difficult times. “Guinea is primarily a Muslim country. There was no Church in my village so I had to take a bush taxi to the city to attend mass. My faith gave me something to hold on to in the midst of everything new and strange and different,” she said.

Gund’s time in Guinea was cut short because of the much-publicized Ebola outbreak affecting the country. Although no cases were reported in her village, the Peace Corps determined that the Guinean health infrastructure was too hard-pressed to provide adequate support for volunteers in case of any other type of medical emergency. Hoping to continue her international travels, Gund now plans to attend graduate school in Europe. After her Peace Corps experience, she should have no problem handling that. “I’m more flexible now,” she said. “I can adjust to any environment.”

Kaylee Gund graduated from the University of Dallas in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biohemistry and a concentration in French.