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The Richmond MBA News & Notes

March 2018

MBA Community:


The Richmond MBA is known for being responsive to student and industry needs, and this month’s feature stories demonstrate that commitment. Students frequently ask for opportunities to network and connect with other people in their industries, particularly women in the MBA program. In response, we partnered with the Virginia Council of CEOs to offer “Future-Proofing Your Career,” an event specifically for women professionals in RVA. Lyn McDermid, GB’00, CIO for the Federal Reserve System, offered a keynote address which led into roundtable discussions that explored the topic.

We also added two new options to our curriculum.  This semester, we offered an early-morning section of the core MBA marketing course, from 7 – 8:15 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays with Bill Bergman, lecturer in marketing. It has been a hit among our students—make sure to read about their early morning experiences!  This summer we are introducing a new Data Analytics track, as part of our commitment to ensure our students are prepared to make data-driven decisions in the workplace.

Finally, I hope you will read about the latest team from The Richmond MBA to win the ACG Cup competition. In February Amber Answine, GB’18, Chris Dennis, GB’19, and Blake Turner, GB’19, became the third Richmond MBA team to take home the cup in the competition’s 7-year history. You can read about their “killer team” in the story below.

Thank you for following along with The Richmond MBA, as we continue our commitment to enabling student success.

Randy Raggio
Associate Dean
Robins School of Business

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Career Corner with Tom Kemp, Executive in Residence

Accelerating Your Career Trajectory

MBA students often ask me, “How can I best prepare and position myself for a senior level or executive role in the next couple of years?”

This is, for me at least, what I consider to be one of those proverbial “$64,000 questions.” If there was a definitive answer, shortcut, or a one-size-fits-all answer, you could easily find it on Google.  Admittedly, my first executive leadership opportunity came about at the relatively young age of 31, but I had the good fortune to have served in sales, sales management, marketing, and operations roles at that point in my career.

In advising MBA students, I have the opportunity to offer my perspective on a variety of career and leadership topics rooted in my experiences in leadership roles.  When it became my responsibility to identify senior leaders and build executive teams, I typically selected from talent that existed within my organizations.  I was (and remain!) an advocate for developing internal talent whenever possible.

I believe experience is the teacher of all things. Rarely is there a shortcut to an executive role or the C-suite. Reflecting back upon my own career journey, I have listed below, in no particular order, advice that may accelerate your career trajectory:

  • While you may feel busy keeping up with your current work, raise your hand to take on projects.  Identify challenges that your boss, team, or company is facing and offer to help.
  • Look beyond the walls of your functional area and explore other roles that may add to your competencies and qualifications.
  • Listen and observe, particularly to individuals in roles you may want.  Take time to learn their story and how they advanced to their role. Rest assured, they will enjoy telling you their story!
  • Create value that can be defined.  You should be able to describe the unique value you bring to the organization.
  • See something, say something.  Don’t wait to be called on if you see an opportunity for a process or practice that can be improved.
  • Find a mentor and advocate (often it is not your direct manager, although it can be).
  • Always grow your network.  We get settled into our work bubble, and do not take time to grow and maintain our network both inside and outside of our organization.
  • Remain cognizant of your reputation, as it will become your brand wherever you travel.
  • Finally, help others.  Nothing enhances your reputation more than when you offer to help your peers.  Caution: Make sure that your help is desired and not unwanted or unwarranted!

The path to a senior leadership role is a journey, not a sprint.  Your skill set and credibility are the result of actions, behaviors, and accomplishments over a period of years.  As stated earlier, I was fortunate to have been exposed to a variety of functional areas early in my career, and while I was expert at only a few, I gained a level of competency and working knowledge of most aspects of the business that prepared me for leadership roles.

Your MBA coursework is exposing you to the broad landscape of business and allowing you to learn about functional areas to which you may not have been exposed until now.  At work, I suggest you do the same by exploring and involving yourself beyond the scope of your current role.  You control your future!

For related reading on this topic, take a look at The CEO Next Door, by Kimberly Powell.

Tom Kemp is the MBA Executive in Residence, and is available to work with you on your career aspirations and journey.  To contact Tom, visit him in the Robins School of Business, in office #122. His office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. You can also reach him by email at ​ 

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