BHP Students Part of Winning PwC Case Competition Team

A team consisting of three BHP students took first place against 17 other teams in the university-wide PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Extreme Accounting Case Competition, held in late-October. The team was composed of five members: Ka-Wai To (BBA ’13), Tina Dai (BHP ’14), Matt Pojman (BHP/MPA ’15), Ayushi Agarwala (BHP ’15), Klevrin Sitohang (BBA ’15).

The case, which had to do with a company acquisition, posed some unique challenges. The team was able to stand apart from their competitors by focusing on the management aspect of the acquisition.

“The management was flawed, so we decided to standardize processes and restructure the organizational chart. We wanted to focus on reducing the turnover of the employees within the acquired company,” said Dai. “It was definitely an honoring experience to be recognized against such admirable competition. We were really fortunate to have had such a great team dynamic that allowed us to have fun while challenging each other throughout the whole process.”

The national committee overseeing case competitions for PwC is currently reviewing proposals from all participating nationwide campuses. If chosen as one of five finalists, the team will be flown out to New York City to represent The University of Texas and present their case again in the national finals. If chosen, the team will also receive a check for $10,000 to split between the five team members.


Alumni Spotlight: Angie Lee – Marketing and Communications Director at General Assembly

Marketing guru, Angie Lee, BHP ’99, has led marketing strategy for some very different types of organizations from Teach for America, to HarperCollins, IDEO, and now General Lee recently sat down with us to talk about her career path. She emphasized the importance of relationships, hard work, and how a willingness to be open to new opportunities has led her to some really interesting roles over the years.

You have worked for a variety of companies and organizations. What are the challenges and rewards of always jumping out of your comfort zone?

For me what is most rewarding is being able to be constantly challenged. By moving, I can focus on my core skill set and my flexibility of being able to put these skills to use in any role. Coming into a new role, I bring a fresh perspective while keeping a sense of what skills I bring to the table. I know that what you experience when you are on the inside working for a company is different than preconceived notions. If I let my perceptions cloud my perspective, I wouldn’t be able to do what I need to do. It is very important to listen and balance the needs of the organization with the skills that you bring. There is never a one size fits all solution, so you have to try things tailored to the organization.

These different opportunities were a result of my willingness to be open to new opportunities. They didn’t come from me seeking them out. They were a result of relationships I had formed in other working partnerships. I stayed open to new opportunities and always focused on doing my best work.

What is General and what drew you to this new role?

It is a global network of campuses for technology, business and design. We help individuals who want to round out a skill set, learn new skills, and learn from the best instructors. The company was started a year and a half ago and we are in 6 cities right now. We have ambitious plans to be in 10 markets by end of this year. I learned about it at IDEO and was impressed by them, then they approached me and originally I had different plans in mind, but decided to take this opportunity.

What were the other plans you had in mind?

I was strongly considering starting a business of my own, but I realized I could learn what it takes to build a business and to rapidly scale it at General I also realized these were really smart people and that I would really enjoy working for them. My coworkers are some of the most talented people I have worked with. I love their curiosity in the world around them. I really appreciate how everyone I work with approaches a problem with a solution in mind, instead of finding a reason why it can’t be done. It is very refreshing.

What are you doing for the company and what do you love about your job?

I am working with a team to lead the charge on marketing and communications strategy. In my role, I am working on brand alignment, awareness of General, and growing the brand globally. When you rapidly scale a business, you need to align messaging, so I am helping them do that.

What did you find most interesting in working for IDEO, a company which is all about innovation and human-centered design.

My role was to grow business in the New York studio. I was tasked with finding ways of telling our story to new audiences. For the first time I was working in B2B. It was challenging because it required a different mindset. Conversion was different in working B2B rather than B2C. I had to market a service instead of content, which was what I had been doing at Harper Collins. The biggest thing I learned in my role with IDEO was the importance of relationships and networking. Aligning yourself with the right brands and organizations can help you relay your message in a better way, and partnering with the right people allows you spread your message more efficiently.

You have on your LinkedIn profile that you “helped Harper Collins spread ideas,” tell me more about what you mean by that.

In book publishing, you aren’t selling books, you are convincing consumers to latch onto a story, which is very different from selling an actual product. We looked at emotional connections of consumers. I worked in fiction and non-fiction and helped authors from Sarah Palin and Gretchen Ruben to Michael Crichton. In all instances, what compelled consumers to make their purchases were their beliefs and ideas, not the books themselves.

What should someone wanting a career in marketing keep in mind?

Be open to experimentation. There are so many new technologies that come your way that you have to be open to experimentation and failure. When you do fail, think of it as an opportunity for learning. It helps you get deeper perspective as to what might work. Also remember that the power of relationships is important. Always play fair and keep your integrity. You never know when a relationship will come back to hurt or help you.

What stuck with you from your time in BHP?

I didn’t realize at the time the quality of the BHP students. I took for granted how professional, smart and polished the other students were. When I went into the working world, I realized how lucky I was to have been part of that and grow with such talented people. I look at what my classmates have gone on to do and it is amazing all the different directions they have gone in and passions they pursued, it is really inspiring.

What advice do you have for current BHP students?

If I were to do my undergrad over again, I would allow myself to be curious and broader in bigger ways. I thought of myself as defined as a business student. I was interested in graphic design too, and I would have been more open to exploring this as well. In order to be successful you need to have curiosity and interest in other area. That is what differentiates you from other business grads in interviews. Allow yourself to be all of those things and make room to grow. Some of the most successful people I know took non-sequential career paths because they followed their curiosity. It is about enjoying your every day. Now days you can really blend your passions to find a niche for yourself.

BHP Alumna and COO of Knoll, Inc. Shared Insight with Current Students

Lynn Utter, COO of Knoll, Inc. and Director of Wesco International, Inc. came last Wednesday to speak at the sophomore lyceum course. Through her back-and-forth banter with Dr. Prentice, the former ERB BHP alum enthralled students with humorous anecdotes and words of wisdom learned from her prolific business career.

Utter graduated from the Business Honors Program, and went on to earn her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She then worked in management consulting for five years. Utter said consulting provided a great opportunity to explore different career opportunities; however, “I’m a doer,” she affirmed. That drive to act, landed her in a VP slot for the Frito-Lay warehouse located in Denver.  Afterwards, she worked for Coors Brewing Company and soon became the company’s Chief Strategy Officer. She now works as President and COO of Knoll, Inc., a modern furnishings and design company, and serves as a director on the board for Wesco International.

Across her diverse career journey, Utter has learned many lessons. One she learned while overseeing warehouse workers for Frito-Lay, was to listen before speaking and be open-minded and fair. She said it is important to establish credibility and make some tough decisions. While working for Coors, she improved the firm’s all-important bottling and canning plants by setting up joint ventures with the best firms in the world in those industries. By bringing in the partners, she helped Coors grow tremendously. Then she went on to work with architects and designers as President and COO of Knoll, Inc., stating that it was a great opportunity to lead such a large company that had a great brand and valued people.

During the Q&A session with the students, Utter took different questions concerning leadership and her career. She believes everyone is born with a “leadership muscle,” but like any muscle, you have to exercise and develop it. One student brought up the subject of the glass ceiling and how it had affected Utter. Utter stated how it was difficult at times, mentioning she has worked with 50+ white males who said they never worked with a woman before. She overcame this by “establishing credibility and promoting change from within.” In one of her anecdotes about a leadership program she partook in while in school, she said the program asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” “Honest answer,” she affirmed, “I wanted to run my own company.”

In her closing remarks, and throughout the presentation too, Utter stated how the students should seek out “people you can confide in, and confide in them.” “I’m all about people,” she said. “The companies that motivate their people are the ones that win.” Utter further stressed to each of the students that they should use their networks and develop the relationships with the people sitting next to them in the room. “Ya’ll are part of BHP. That’s something to be proud of. Don’t turn that off. You guys are going to graduate. Don’t lose track of each other. Find your friends and colleagues to take that journey with you.”

One student asked what legacy she would hope to leave behind. Utter replied that she hopes to leave a legacy where [she and her company] gave back to the community. She challenged the students, “What legacy do you want to leave?”

Written by BHP Sophomore Dennis Phelan

Student Spotlight: Holland Finley

BHP junior Holland Finley loves sports. She is a world champion wakeboarder and has competed in pole-vaulting, cheerleading and diving as well. She attributes her competitiveness and perseverance to being raised around sports. She brings that same drive to her academics and leadership activities at UT. We sat down with Holland recently to find out more about her passion for wakeboarding and what she has been up to lately.

You are a world champion wakeboarder. Tell me more about that.

When I was 7, I started water skiing on a family vacation. Over the next couple of years my brother became interested in wakeboarding and encouraged me to try it when I was 12. I was a cheerleader and had learned tumbling moves growing up. My brother and his friends, recognizing the parallels between the sports, encouraged me to try some of my tumbling moves on the water. My first trick was called a “tantrum,” which is like a standing back flip from wake to wake. I had a lot of falls before I landed my first invert, but I was determined – you never land a new trick your first time. As my brother became more invested in the sport, he became sponsored and was asked to compete in the national tournament for wakeboarding. I was 13 at the time, and my dad encouraged me to compete in the national tournament as well. I ended up taking second place in the 13 and under girls’ division and from then on I was hooked. After that tournament I received product sponsorships from a couple different companies including Cobian Solewear, Angel Eyewear, and Gator Boards.

Growing up wakeboarding definitely had its challenges. I was really one of the only girls riding competitively in Texas. When I would practice, it would be me and 18 to 20 year-old guys. It was tough at first, but I got used to it and always had my older brother and family supporting me.  When I was 17, I was elected to the U.S. Wakeboard Team to compete in South Korea for the World Championship. I met so many riders from around the world and won a world title! That same year I was voted “Female Amateur Wakeboarder of the Year,” and was honored with a  write up in the US Waterskier Magazine.

What lessons do you think you learned from those experiences?

I learned perseverance, determination, and how to hold your own in a field full of guys. I had so many injuries that I had to work through. I have had a torn MCL, separated ribs and scars all over. It is crucial  to persevere and have a competitive streak. I think being in sports has helped me manage my time and set goals in the academic setting. Wakeboarding was also my first introduction to business. I dealt with sponsors and was a speaker at different boat shows. That influenced me to want to pursue business as a degree.

Are you still pursuing competitive wakeboarding?           

I am a member of the Texas Wake, the wakeboarding club team for UT. Additionally, I give lessons on the side on Lake Austin during the summer and warm months. School is ultimately the most important thing in my life, and has taken a primary role the last couple of years.

What else are you involved in on campus?

I am the tappee trainer for the Orange Jackets. I educate new Orange Jackets and assist them with executing their year-long service project. I am also associate director of philanthropy for student government, where I am heading up a new initiative called Orange Outreach, and am on the philanthropy committee for my sorority, Tri-Delt.

What is the new initiative you are working on, Orange Outreach?

I am working with a team of people from Student Government to connect people to large-scale projects and build a bridge to different non-profits in Austin. We are producing a newsletter and blog with different volunteer opportunities. At this age, everyone is keen to be a part of the community and this is a great way to introduce people who have never volunteered before to doing that. As a member of UT community, I have learned the power of the student body to affect positive change. I have had a passion for volunteering since high school. Through student government, I have a platform to help develop that passion in other students as well.

You grew up in Austin. Did you always know you would attend UT?

I have burnt orange blood. Everyone in my family went to UT. I actually thought I would go out of state, but after visiting some of those schools, I realized that I HAD to go to UT. The platforms available here for students to have their voices heard is unique and not paralleled. I love it here. I went to Discover BHP and was so impressed by the BHP students who spoke at that event. Business Honors has had an incredible impact on my life and I really value the mentorship program and the fact that I know my classmates.

Any plans yet for after graduation?

I am planning on going to law school. I am going to write my Plan II thesis on corporate social responsibility and its importance in today’s society. I think corporations have immense capacity to do good, while building their brand. I think that type of mentality needs to be more prominent. I am hoping to ultimately find a role at a corporate foundation or as a consultant for corporate social responsibility.

Do you have any advice for students just getting started at UT and in the BHP?

Explore what UT has to offer. Go to performances and sports games. Talk to your advisor. Tap into the UT support network. I just saw John Legend and that was amazing. My first couple years I would wait and see what my friends were going to, but I have started just going to things myself and making new friends, I think that is important. Embrace the resources UT has to help you change the world, and have as much fun as you can in your time here.

Jonathan Goldman, CEO of Genesis Capital, Visited with Students in Lyceum Course

Jonathan Goldman, Founder and CEO of Genesis Capital, an independent investment and merchant banking firm based in Atlanta, stopped by to speak to students in the BHP Lyceum course last week. Goldman started Genesis Capital in 2003 with a group of fellow investment bankers he had worked with at Robertson Stephens, where he served as a managing director, heading their Healthcare Group and working with leading technology solution and service providers.

Goldman hadn’t planned on starting his own company, but after working for multiple firms that went through a series of mergers, and getting lost in the shuffle, he decided it was time to start his own independent firm. He started signing clients and bringing on partners in the new endeavor, and Genesis Capital was born in record time. “Things happen for a reason. You just need to look,” he said. “I started my firm out of necessity, resourcefulness, and because I saw a pattern in the industry that wasn’t sustainable in the long-term.”

Goldman said he loves what he does because he has a passion for helping clients execute their strategies and encouraging them to pursue their visions for their own futures. He made some decisions early on to make his company a different kind of firm. Whereas most investment banking firms focus on one type of client, Genesis Capital works with a variety of clients, from family-owned businesses to public corporations. “We focus on need, not size,” he said. They also offer a variety of services. He thinks this strategy has been crucial to their growth and that being an independent firm has been a huge asset given the current financial issues facing many of the larger firms.

Creating their own path was important to Goldman and he cautioned the students not to let others put them in a box and to work hard for what they want. “Think about how you want to approach the marketplace and define your image. Give the best you have to everything you do and the best will come back to you.”

This is also a motto he adheres to in his personal life, demonstrated in his philanthropic commitments. Goldman serves as a director on several boards, including Children’s Healthcare, Children’s Healthcare Foundation, The Paradies Shops Inc., and the Atlanta Charity Clays. “Philanthropy is important to me,” he said. “The more you give, the more you get back. It also gives me perspective and fulfills my soul.”