Join us for more sessions with executives in Spring 2019.
Suzi Sosa, CEO and Co-Founder of Verb, Inc.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Jones Global Events Center from 6:30–7:30 p.m.
Heather Brunner, CEO of WP Engine
Tuesday, April 23, in Jones Global Events Center from 6:30–7:30 p.m.
Students at St. Edward’s University are tapping into Austin’s diverse business environment with internships at Fortune 500 companies and government entities, as well as volunteer experiences at nonprofit and social-justice organizations. But how do they gain the insight that can only come from years in a top role?
The Bill Munday School of Business is creating experiences on campus that provide students with access to prominent executives in the community. This fall, the school hosted Gerry Smith, the CEO of Office Depot, and Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of Products and Operations at Dell, Inc., for fireside chats in the Jones Global Events Center.
“Fireside chats provide students with an intimate view into the motivations and challenges of business leaders at the highest level of their fields —and the opportunity to engage with them directly,” says David Altounian, interim dean and MBA director for The Bill Munday School of Business.
The format is informal, with Altounian asking the executive questions about his or her leadership style, career trajectory, industry trends and advice for new graduates. Students and alumni also ask the questions they would like answered.
Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot, and David Altounian, interim dean of The Bill Munday School of Business
Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of Products and Operations, at Dell, Inc., and David Altounian
On Sept. 20, 2018, Gerry Smith visited campus and addressed his vision for Office Depot’s future. He discussed the company’s services-oriented approach, met with students in Assistant Professor of Management Mary Dunn’s Organizational Behavior class and Assistant Professor of Management Bill Martello’s Strategic Management class, and spoke one-on-one with graduate student leaders. During the fireside chat, Smith also answered a student’s question about how to start the journey of becoming a CEO.
“I think it’s very important that as a future CEO, you know who you are, know what your strengths are, build your team around that and have a strategy coming in,” Smith says. “To be an effective CEO long-term, you need to have a broad discipline base. Be a learner — whether it’s continuing education from an MBA or further and get that mentorship/feedback. And lastly, go global. Always stretch yourself with new opportunities and new disciplines.”
On Nov. 27, 2018, Jeff Clarke answered questions about Dell’s evolution over the last 30 years (he joined in 1987) and discussed his role. As vice chairman, Clarke is responsible for Dell’s global supply chain. He oversees global manufacturing and procurement and leads the engineering, design and development of servers, storage and networking products. He encouraged students to cultivate a strong work/life balance, seek challenges head-on and never underestimate the value of a strong team. “It really gets down to the people,” he says. “There’s no possible way an individual can lead a vast array.”
Clarke also shared advice for young people entering the workforce. “The biggest attribute of courage is to speak your mind — in your own way — and work for a place that allows you to learn and doesn’t put guardrails on what you want to learn,” he says.
Altounian believes it is important to equip students with a holistic understanding of business and leadership. “Our hope is that students from all majors have the opportunity to hear directly from executives and learn more about their industries, as well as their career journeys,” he says. “From these types of events, students can glean insight on skills they should develop or highlight, and maybe most importantly, the inspiration to take calculated risk and follow their passions.”
Story by Samuel Griffith ’19, photos by Patricia Valle ’19