Dean’s Blog

Red Winged Leadership Award 2013

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM PDT

The fourth annual Red Winged Leadership Award ceremony took place on May 9th.  The award recognizes individuals who have applied exceptional leadership skills and business acumen towards socially responsible goals in our community.  The event is organized by students in the Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization (GLFS).  

 

This year's finalists were Lynette Johnson (Soulumination), Paul Shoemaker (Social Venture Partners), and Molly Stearns (Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation). Molly Stearns received the Red Winged Leadership Award for 2013.  The award recognizes the great work she has done at the Seattle Foundation and Overlake Medical Center Foundation.  Although Molly received the award, all the finalists are winners!  

 

The Red Winged Leadership Award is becoming a singular event for Seattle University.  Inspired by Seattle University's experience as a host school for the Opus Award, it is taking on a life of its own because our students are doing such a great job with organizing the process.  Its alignment with the mission of Seattle University and the Albers School also make it very compelling.

 

This year's GLFS students did a phenomenal job of managing the award process and staging the event.  Each year, the students put their special stamp on the program.  This year, the students introduced a scholarship named for the winner that will be awarded to a Seattle University student.  That is a great idea!

 

Albers is very proud of the work our GLFS students do with Red Winged Leadership Award, under the guidance of Professor Jennifer Marrone.  Hats off to all the students and Professor Marrone for a job well done!

 

Spencer Rascoff

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 7, 2013 at 9:05 PM PDT

On April 30th, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, joined us as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Zillow is a web-based provider of information about the residential real estate market.  Anyone buying, renting, selling, and borrowing in this market probably knows about Zillow.

 

Rascoff helped found Zillow in 2005 and became CEO in 2010.  Zillow is expanding rapidly at the moment, hiring new employees not just in Seattle, but in California, as well.  Spencer noted several times that Zillow sees its role as empowering the consumer by unlocking information.  Zillow does not see itself as making the real estate broker obsolete, as there will always be a need for assistance with a complex and critical transaction such as buying or selling a house.  Zillow sees the role of the agent as having changed from "information gate keeper" to " transaction consultant."

 

Rascoff opened by discussing his early career in investment banking and private equity, which proved to be valuable training for his later exploits, but also was too transactional and not satisfying for him in the long run.  Ultimately, though, that experience set the stage for co-founding Hotwire and then Zillow.

 

In moving from Hotwire to Zillow, Rascoff said he grew weary of the travel industry and looked for another sector that could be impacted by the Internet.  Real estate seemed like another market where industry databases were locked away from the consumer.  Zillow set out to unlock that information and succeeded.

 

While starting out in the home sale vertical, Zillow has now moved to home lending, rentals, and, most recently, home improvements.  Rascoff said this was enough to keep them fully occupied at the moment, and they planned to focus on the domestic market.  In entering the global market they would start from scratch and bring little to the table.  In the mean time, strong competitors have already adopted the Zillow model and have a head start.  A rapidly growing segment of their business is on mobile phones, and they have found it easier to monetize mobile than the web.

 

In case you have not noticed, Zillow has done six acquisitions of late.  Rascoff said they have all been in "adjacent spaces" and they have worked hard to keep the existing management teams in place.  They have sold the acquisition by telling the target firm it can do what it does better with Zillow, where it will have access to more resources.  They have also used stock options to align the interests of management teams with shareholders.

 

When asked about his leadership style, Rascoff said he was there to serve his direct reports and help them be successful.  He sees himself as a "player coach," and noted the higher up in the organization you are, the less you are responsible for actually doing things!

 

When asked what advice he would give recent college graduates, he suggested students look at people who are 10 to 15 years into their career and ask if you want to live like they do!  Also, keep in mind that in a high growth company you are likely to have more opportunities for career development.  If a company is not growing, there are fewer opportunities and you tend to get pigeon-holed in a particular role.

 

If he had to do it over again, what is one thing he would have done differently at Zillow?  Communicate more with brokers.  Zillow was an outsider and the industry was suspicious of the company, giving the most negative interpretation of the moves it saw Zillow making.  Only later did Zillow figure out how its actions were being interpreted by agents.  Today, the lines of communication are much better and brokers are forthcoming with suggestions for improvements.

 

Spencer Rascoff gave a fascinating presentation on Zillow and his career leading up to its founding.  He also provided excellent career advice to the many students in the audience.  The final speaker for this year in the Albers Executive Speaker Series is SU alum Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of Intermedia Partners.  Hindery has a long career in the cable TV industry and is visiting from New York City on May 28th.  See you there!

Business Ethics Week

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 22, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT

Business Ethics Week took place in Albers April 15 to 19.  The purpose of Business Ethics Week is to underscore the importance of business ethics for our students.  During the week, 50 business professionals visited 84 classes to discuss an ethical challenge they had faced at some point in their career.  Giving students real world examples of the difficulties they will face, and letting them know that others have found themselves in that spot, will prove to be very valuable for our students.

 

Getting 50 people to campus to cover 84 classes is no easy task.  Many more people end up being asked than are able to visit.  I know that many potential speakers were out of town this week or their schedule was too busy to allow them to come to campus.  Nevertheless, we had some great volunteers coming to classes, including Robbie Bach, former President of Microsoft's Games and Devices division, Phyllis Campbell, Vice Chair of JPMorgan Chase Northwest, Brian Webster, CEO of Physio-Control, and Dan Wall, Senior VP at Expeditors International.

 

Other events during the week included a presentation on the sustainability practices of Costco Wholesale.  Nearly 200 people showed up to hear Sherry Flies, who leads Costco's sustainability efforts, explain Costco's pioneering sustainability practices. 

 

There was also a panel discussion around ethics and entrepreneurship with about 50 students and faculty attending.  If featured Albers alums Kent Johnson (MBA '71) and Meg McCarthy (BSBA '84) as well as Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO of INRIX.  Kent created the Lawrence K. Johnson Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at SU and spent many years as a venture capitalist, forming Alexander Hutton Associates.  He now does business resolutions with his new firm, Aebig and Johnson.  Meg is a serial entrepreneur having successfully started businesses such as Pharmacy Automation Consulting Technologies, LLC and Bizzults.

 

The final event of the week was a wrap up panel discussion on business ethics from the perspective of students, faculty, and professionals.  Panelists included Jeff Greenaway (CIO onDemand), Dr. Marinilka Kimbro (accounting faculty member), Eric Huang (graduate student), and Mark Pufpaff (undergraduate student). 

 

The Center for Business Ethics organized the event, which is only right, since it is the advisory board of the Center that came up with the idea of Business Ethics Week!!  Those who were instrumental in the orchestration of Business Ethics Week include the director of the center, Dr. John Dienhart, and his two graduate student assistants - JP McCarvel and Sherry Ren.  It was a job well done!

 

This was the second year of Business Ethics Week, although last year it was actually Business Ethics Day.  We intend to make this an annual event in the Albers School, continuing to make it more impactful each year!

 

 

Lend Your Leg

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 5, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT

On April 4th, Albers students organized Seattle University's participation in International Mine Action Day, which commemorated the 14th anniversary of the International Land Mine Treaty.  Since its initiation, 165 nations have signed the treaty and 36 have not, including the US.  The theme of the day was "Lend Your Leg for a Mine Free World."

The day included a gathering of over 150 students, faculty, and staff in the PACCAR Atrium for a picture of symbolic support for land mine victims - everyone rolling up their right pant leg to "Lend a Leg."  

This was followed by a showing of the film, "The Eyes of Thailand".  The film focuses on two elephant land mine survivors.

Our campus participation in International Mine Action Day was inspired by the visit of Tun Channareth to our campus nearly two years ago.  Channareth received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to ban landmines, and was here to receive an honorary degree from the university.

The students did a marvelous job of organizing the event.  Nine Albers student organizations collaborated with nine student organizations from other parts of campus.  In doing so, they showed that collaborating with others can lead to a more successful result!  Kudos to them!

 

 

Shanghai

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 28, 2013 at 10:03 PM PDT

The week of spring break, March 25 to 29, I made a trip to visit Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) in Shanghai.  For several years, we have had a 3+2 program with SISU in which their students do an undergraduate business program for three years at SISU and come to SU for two years to complete our Master of Professional Accounting (MPAC) degree.    The student ends up with an SISU undergraduate degree and SU's MPAC degree. 

 

Each year, we go to interview and meet with the interested SISU students.  Since SISU is focused on language training, we find the English language skills of the students to be very strong, but we still want to test that out by meeting with them.  This year there are four SISU students in our MPAC program.

 

SISU was founded in 1949 as the Shanghai Russian College!  It is one of the Chinese schools included in the government's Project 211, which means it is one of the more prestigious universities in China.  It has about 7000 undergraduate students, 3000 graduate students, and 4000 international students!    It has 37 different undergraduate programs, 33 master's programs, and 12 PhD. Programs.  There are actually two business schools, the College of International Finance and Commerce and the College of International Business.  We currently work with the former but would certainly be happy to collaborate with both!

 

For the past several years, Bruce Koch, chair of our Department of Accounting, has gone to Shanghai to do the interviews.  In the process, Bruce has become a rock star at SUSI, known for his enthusiasm, sense of humor, fondness for spicy food, and love of cold temperatures.  That is a tough act to follow.

 

SISU has two campuses, one in the city (HongKou) and one out in the suburbs (Songjiang).  In 2008, David Reid and I visited the HongKou campus and our visit led to the creation of the 3+2 program.  The undergraduate business program is at the Songjiang campus, so I had to travel out there to meet with the students, visiting that location for the first time.  The campuses are night and day.  The HongKou is small and contained like the SU campus, but the buildings are packed more tightly and generally taller.  The Sonqjiang campus is spread out with stately buildings and wide grassy lawns, what you would associate with a large Midwestern university campus!  The HongKou campus is in a noisy, traffic filled neighborhood.  Songiang is in a quiet district of wide boulevards and manicured landscaping.  It is about 60-90 minutes by car between the two campuses, depending on traffic.

 

First, I spoke to about 40 SISU students about the MPAC program and our new Bridge MBA program.  Some SISU students may be interested in the latter.  Then, I interviewed 16 students who were interested in the MPAC program to test their English skills and their interest in accounting.  Of course, it was very interesting to talk to these students and learn about their lives and aspirations as well as their interest in SU!  The interviews took place over two days, and in addition to our conversation I also gave them a short essay to write so we would know something about their writing skills.

 

After the interviews, in consultation with SISU staff, we ranked the students for purposes of awarding several partial scholarships we offer to SISU students.  It was a difficult process since there were so many talented students, but we finally came up with a list we were happy with.

 

Throughout the process, SISU was a very gracious host.  If the shoe were on the other foot, I doubt that we would do as good a job of hosting them to our campus!  In particular, Ms. Xiaolin Yan, who serves as Foreign Affairs Secretary for the college, was always there to get me where I needed to go, answer questions, and do anything else needed.  Thank you, Xiaolin!

 

During my visit to SISU, I also talked to several campus officials about strengthening the ties between SU and SISU, which they are anxious to see happen.  Suggestions include a student exchange program, hosting visiting faculty at the two institutions, and creating a 3+2 program around the Bridge MBA.

 

During the visit I also visited with our alum, Diane Jurgens, who earned her MBA at SU and serves as Managing Director for Shanghai OnStar, a joint venture between GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Company.  It was fascinating to meet her and learn about her accomplishments, as it goes without saying that she is one of the few American women leading an automotive business unit in China or elsewhere, for that matter.  I hope we will be able to get her to speak on campus over the next year or so!

 

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way back to Seattle.  I did not notice much different about Shanghai in 2013 compared to what I saw in 2008.  If you have been to Shanghai, you know it an impressive city with its miles and miles of high rise buildings and high rise freeways.  All this has been created in just a few decades.  It is interesting to see, but once you see it, it is not something you go out of your way to see again.  That means that both this trip and my next trip to Shanghai will be about visiting SISU, maybe to begin collaboration with their College of International Business! :}

 

March Madness

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 27, 2013 at 5:03 PM PDT

March Madness is upon us, and by that I mean the NCAA Division I basketball playoffs.  I travelled to Salt Lake City to watch men's second and third round action, which I try to do each year.  What can be better than watching six D1 games live over three days while spending the rest of the time watching games on TV??  Not all six games are exciting contests, but this year, four of the six were. 

That included Wichita State grinding out a win over Pitt, Southern nearly upsetting Gonzaga, Harvard upsetting New Mexico, and the Shockers of WSU bouncing Gonzaga in the third round.  Not a bad regional, and it far exceeded my expectations looking at the lineup going in.  That just shows you one more time that you never know with college hoops.

Salt Lake City was not the only place for upsets.  My alma mater, LaSalle, found a way to make it to the Sweet 16 as a play-in team, having not been to the tournament since 1992.  On the other hand, my other alma mater, Notre Dame, was upset in the first round.   And my team for 19 years, Creighton, won a close second round victory, only to fall to Duke in the third round.  Thus far, my affiliated institutions have a record of 4-2!  One of these days, maybe the SU men's team can make it to the dance.  The SU women nearly did this year, and they will be right in the thick of it next year, I am sure!

Speaking of women's hoops, they are in the middle of their tournament, as well.  Normally, it is equally exciting, but this year is there any chance that someone can beat Baylor?  It just does not seem likely, which makes it less intriguing.  That is the interesting thing about the men's side this year - it seems like so many teams have a legitimate shot at the title.

The Albers March Madness pool is back - I am so glad Madhu Rao has ramped it back up!  There is a lot of abuse unleashed every time the results are updated, and I get more than my fair share.  But that is OK, as it would be unseemly for the Dean to win.  It is important to have a respectable finish, however!  That Harvard win busted my bracket some, by the way!

I have been going to Regionals since 1998, when Creighton qualified for the Big Dance for the first time under Dana Altman, and played in Orlando.  It was there that Creighton upset Louisville in the first round.  A few changes I have noticed since then is that (1) TV coverage of games is so much more available,  (2) tickets are easier to get and there are more and more empty seats, and (3) the commemorative t-shirts are so much easier to buy - they always used to run out of  them.  (1) and (2)  are no doubt related.

There is one thing that sometimes becomes a problem, and that is fans (and announcers) sometimes forget how YOUNG these players are.  That goes a long way in explaining a missed layup or free throw at a critical point, losing one's temper and drawing a technical foul, or making a bad decision on an impossible angle shot or pass.  Then, sometimes an occasional fan will think it is humorous to get on a player like one would witness at a pro game - not very funny at all.  That is the advantage of working in higher education every day - you know how young the players are!

I know that there are many critics of March Madness, saying that it exploits the students and makes millions of dollars for others.  On the first point, a scholarship athlete is getting over $50k in benefits assuming he or she is making progress toward a degree, and that does not factor in what a degree will do for lifetime earnings (on average).  Plus, you know those students just love the experience of being in the tournament! 

On the second point, that is no doubt true, but schools are negotiating more favorable contracts with networks and more of that can be used to pay the costs of athletics (including the other sports for men and women!).  Plus, schools reap intangible benefits from the exposure in terms of alumni relations and boosting the brand of the school - just check with Florida Gulf Coast on that!

 

Gail Yates

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on February 26, 2013 at 8:02 AM PST

Gail Yates served as Senior Development Officer for the Albers School from 2004 until she retired in January.  To recognize Gail's excellent service to Albers and the university, we recently held a dinner in her honor.  Those in attendance spoke in glowing terms about Gail's work at SU.  In addition to being a consummate professional, Gail was a great teammate, always willing to pitch in and help out where needed, even when the activity did not relate to her role.  She never said, "That is not my problem."

 

During her time here, Gail probably had to deal with me more than she had to work with anyone else on campus.  That means she is a survivor - she put up with me all those years! :}   One thing that probably helped was our common enthusiasm for athletics, particularly college basketball.  Naturally, we were very supportive of Seattle U. returning to Division I athletics, and I don't have to ask her to know that she is VERY excited about the women's basketball team leading the WAC!

 

An important thing to be able to say when you leave is, "I left the place a much better place than I found it."  That is definitely the case for Gail.  One example would be our alumni relations and the Albers Alumni Board.  Under Gail's watch, the alumni relations of the school have definitely improved and the Alumni Board has strengthened.  Alumni events such as the Crab Feed and the Golf Tournament are much stronger today than they were.  In recent years, Gail has been working with Rob Bourke to make that happen, but she has definitely had an impact.

 

One of Gail's most important contributions was her work on the SU Capital Campaign - "For the Difference We Make" - which went from 2003 to 2009.  While the campaign was underway when Gail arrived, she definitely was instrumental in the success of the Albers School.  Our key projects were to create an endowment for graduate student scholarships, the Tinius Professorship in Accounting, and endowments for our entrepreneurship and business ethics centers.  The success of those projects is definitely paying off today, and is part of the legacy that Gail is leaving at SU.  The graduate scholarships have proven to be critical in the last few years as our graduate students have faced increasing financial pressure and declining employer support.  The Tinius Professorship has been instrumental in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty to our highly ranked accounting program.  The endowments for entrepreneurship and business ethics are providing significant levels of support to our widely admired Center for Business Ethics and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

 

Of course, Gail's success in garnering resources for the Albers School goes well beyond the capital campaign.  Other notable achievements include the PMI China Engagement Initiative, scholarships to fund student study abroad, and corporate support for the Summer Business Institute, not to mention my favorite, the Dean's Fund! :}

 

Attendees at the dinner remarked on Gail's passion - her passion for fund raising and her passion for the university (you can add women's basketball to that).  They also pointed to her generosity with her time, talent, and her own giving.  When people experienced an illness or some other setback, Gail was always there to support them.  One person remarked that Gail did it without giving it much thought, that it was simply the thing to do, not realizing what a positive impact it had and that it was not the way everyone responded.

 

Although Gail was in fundraising, which does not usually have much direct contact with students, Gail had a profound impact on a number of students during her time here.  She hired them as administrative assistants and trained and mentored them to do their work at the highest level.  This ended up being an important part of their education at SU, making Gail a professor with impact!

 

While Gail has retired, she really hasn't.  It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her that she is continuing to work part-time on special projects for Mary Kay McFadden, VP for University Advancement.  This includes leading the search process to find a new development officer for the College of Science and Engineering and helping to orient new University Advancement staff.

 

Gail Yates is leaving, but she will not be forgotten.  She will be remembered for her professionalism, for her willingness to pitch in and support her colleagues in Albers as well as University Advancement, and for her enthusiastic support of the mission of Albers and SU.  She will have the satisfaction of knowing she has left an impressive legacy at the Albers School.

 

 

John McAdam

Posted by Liz Wick on February 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM PST

John McAdam, President and CEO of F5 Networks, was featured in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on February 7th. F5 is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, an application delivery provider whose products most of us use but don't realize!

 

McAdam has served as President and CEO of F5 Networks since 2000. He took the company through the turbulent post-dot-com era, positioning it to grow from annual revenue of $108 million to more than $1.3 billion today. He has overseen numerous successful acquisitions, guiding F5 into new markets that enhance the company's Application Delivery Networking solution offerings. Under his leadership, F5 was added to the S&P 500, and Fortune Magazine named F5 to its 2011 and 2012 lists of 100 Fastest Growing Companies worldwide.

 

When McAdam took over F5, their main offering was around load balancing and most of their customers were dot-com companies. Starting in 2004, they were able to offer traffic management systems and successfully target Fortune 500 firms. Making that bet was one that worked for F5! Through the years they have been able to expand their services to other areas such as data security. The rise of mobile data and the movement to the cloud have expanded their market considerably.

 

In discussing the success of F5, McAdam emphasized the importance of culture, noting that employees need to be respected and respectful of one another. Other aspects of the F5 culture include innovation, integrity, metric-driven, and global mindset.

 

Regarding the latter, most of F5's business is outside the US, and customers are requiring the same product. There is little difference in what they sell across markets, but the size of transactions is much bigger in North America.

 

When it comes to his leadership style, McAdam said the most important thing is that people trust you. People at F5 clearly trust McAdam, and his humble persona definitely helps with that. Also critical, he said, is to surround yourself with good people - exactly what you would expect a leader with humility to say!

 

McAdam had other important insights to share with the audience. One was that he is a great believer in paranoia when it comes to business - "only the paranoid survive," he said! It's clear that he will never let F5 get complacent.

 

He also noted that a successful CEO must have a supportive board of directors. If he had not had that at F5, particularly when he first arrived, he would no doubt have left long ago.

 

Technology is changing our lives and our society in ways we don't yet fully understand. With the rise of mobile devices and the cloud, F5 is right in the middle of many of these changes. McAdam noted there are significant growth opportunities for F5, and growth is necessary for F5 to remain an independent company. His visit to campus was an excellent opportunity to hear about some of the key trends in the tech industry, but also about successful leadership in a rapidly changing environment.

The Cost of Higher Education

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on February 7, 2013 at 8:02 AM PST

Seattle University Magazine asked me to write an article on changes taking place in higher education.  It was published in the Winter, 2013 edition under the title, "The Cost of Higher Education."  If you have not read the magazine, the article is printed below.  I even received some nice emails from alumni on the article!

 

Compared to other sectors of our economy, higher education has not changed that much.  How we do things is not all that different now than it was thirty years ago when I started my career in higher education.  We have continuously refined and improved upon what we do, but the basic framework has persisted.  That seems like it is about to change. 

 

Two forces are coming together to force our hand.  One is the continuing improvement in technology that facilitates on-line instruction.  On-line instruction is not new.  It has been around for several decades, but what is different is that it is getting better.

 

The second force is the high cost of higher education, whether it is private or public.  Private universities have been consistently raising tuition faster than the rate of inflation.  That is not sustainable.  Public higher education, perhaps underpriced at one time, has increased sharply in cost due to financial pressures experienced by state governments.  This story is familiar to every family trying to send their children off to college.

 

Clayton Christensen, a management professor at Harvard, has made a name for himself with his research on "Disruptive Innovation," a model he uses to explain why companies at the top of many sectors have found themselves all the sudden struggling to survive.   Whether it is explaining the demise of Blockbuster, Kodak, Digital, or Borders, each was the victim of a disruptive innovation.  Sometimes it is the development of a new technology or process.  Sometimes it is the development of a new product that overtakes an existing product. 

 

Christensen has finally applied his insights to his own industry, higher education, which is presented in his co-authored book, The Innovative University.  Christensen argues that universities will need to re-engineer themselves to assure on-going relevance.

 

Across our programs in the Albers School, we expect these trends to appear in different ways.  Perhaps the slowest to be impacted is our undergraduate business degree, which by its nature has a strong formative character to it.  Where we think it is showing up first is in our MBA program.  Our program is strong and highly rated, but tuition and fees are high for the average student.  And while we have always prided ourselves on the flexibility of our program and the ability to accommodate working professionals, it still takes a lot of time and requires many visits to campus.  Overlaying all of that is a steady drumbeat of commentaries critical of the value of the MBA.  Of course, we don't agree with that, but that talk is on the street.

 

To keep our program relevant, we need to reign in the financial cost and increase accessibility.  That means identifying what is really needed in an MBA and delivering that in an even more convenient format.  We need to design different ways for students to complete prerequisites, cut some of the coursework, and move to "hybrid" models of teaching, where lectures seldom take place when classes meet.  Instead, lectures are reviewed by students outside of class and class time is used for higher order activities.  To the extent that students (and employers, perhaps) question the value of the MBA, they may have more interest in certificate programs.

 

There is no way to know for certain how "Disruptive Innovation" will impact higher education, but it would be foolish to assume it will not.  New developments are taking place very quickly and we must stay alert and ready to respond.

Steve Davis

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on January 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM PST

Steve Davis, CEO of PATH, was the latest speaker in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on January 15th.  The theme of his presentation was, "Innovation for Social Good," a topic he is well positioned to address.  His address explored the importance of cross-sector partnerships (business, non-profit, and government) in fostering innovation to solve societal problems.

 

Davis has taken an interesting path to get to PATH.  Most recently he was at McKinsey as global director of social innovation, focusing on cross-sector work in global health and development.  Prior to that he was CEO of Corbis, the digital media firm, and also served as interim CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute.  He has also served on the boards of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Global Partnerships, and the Council of Foreign Relations.

 

To illustrate his point about innovation and the importance of cross-sector partnerships, Davis gave the example of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, which PATH has been working on with the Gates Foundation, WHO, and others.  It began in 2001 and eventually achieved the breakthroughs needed to be at the point today where over 112 million people have been vaccinated.  One of the guiding principles of the project was that the price of a dose needed to be kept under 50 cents.

 

To achieve that price point required significant innovation.  Ultimately, it meant PATH was working with a Dutch technology firm, an Indian manufacturer, African political leaders, and many others.  Key lessons learned from this and other innovative ventures include:

 

1. You need to be clear about what you want to do.

2. Partnerships are critical to success.

3. You need to think of innovation globally.  It does not just happen in the US.

4. It takes leadership to make it happen and it is hard work.

 

Davis said there has been a notable shift in where innovation happens and where power sits in global health and development.  In-country capabilities have improved and countries are taking more ownership of the process.  In particular, the process has become much less patriarchal and much less dominated by global powers such as the US.

 

When asked what advice he would give to students wanting to work in the global development field, he said:

 

1. Trust your instincts.

2. Be comfortable taking risks.

3. Develop a specific skill.  Organizations do not hire many generalists.

 

As someone who has gone back and forth between the for-profit and non-profit organizations, Davis was asked to reflect on differences between the two sectors.  He noted they had more similarities than differences and we need to "bust some myths" that non-profits are inefficient and business is greedy.  Business can be inefficient and on-profits can be greedy.  He also thought that non-profits are harder to manage since there are fewer financial tools and metrics are harder to come by.

 

There was a large turnout for the event, with over 250 in attendance.  It was clear that students from across campus were present, not just business students.  It's an indication that Davis' message was well received and many are eager to learn more about the power of cross-sector collaboration.