Faculty Spotlight: Trent Thurman – MAN 336H

Written by Callie Blumenfeld

Trent Thurman, Director, Master of Science in Technology Commercialization, poses for portraits outside the McCombs School of Business on November 8, 2016. Photo by Lauren Gerson.

Professor Trent Thurman teaches MAN 336H, Organizational Behavior, in the BHP. He is also the director of the UT Master of Science in Technology Commercialization (MSTC) program, and teaches a global studies class called technology transfer in the global economy. This  class, culminates with a trip South Africa to  teach the students about taking a technology idea to market.

While he’s definitely involved on campus, Professor Thurman particularly likes teaching a BHP class because of the engagement of the students. Thurman elaborated, “for one, it keeps me on my toes because everyone is prepared, bringing in current events and experiences from internships.” He enjoys teaching his students to take the theoretical concepts from class and find practical applications. “The fact that the majority of you guys have that real world experience allows us to talk about things in the practical application setting,” he explained with enthusiasm.

Professor Thurman spends most of his time in the classroom engaging his undergraduate and graduate level students, rather than doing research. However, his background is one filled with diverse experiences. After completing his undergraduate studies at the “other UT” (the University of Tennessee), Professor Thurman spent years in D.C. working on Capitol Hill for Senator Gore. Although the years on the hill were filled with memories, “I knew that I was going to go back to grad school of some type,” Thurman shared. While in D.C., Professor Thurman met his wife, who was originally from Austin, and she is a large part of the reason that he is here sharing his wisdom with us today.

Thurman completed his MBA here, at the real UT, and then went on to a job in commercial and corporate real estate for 10 years. He couldn’t fight the draw back to higher education though. “I realized that real estate wasn’t really my passion, and came to the realization that education was. My dad was my high school principal, my mom and wife are teachers, so I came back to McCombs initially just to launch the weekend MBA program in Houston.” After some more academic success, Professor Thurman ultimately began leading the portfolio of professional MBA programs, before leaving back to the University of Tennessee to teach for about two years. He found his way back to us in the end, and joined the faculty once again last fall to take over the MSTC program and to teach.

Professor Thurman is filled with life experiences, knowledge, and an abundance of care and goodwill towards his students. When you stop by his office hours, be sure to ask him a couple of questions that are sure to start some interesting conversations. He’d be delighted to talk about music festivals, all the cool places he’s run marathons (he runs about 50 miles a week!), his senate private office, the one time he threw out the first pitch at a baseball game, and of course, his two twin sons. Professor Thurman can be found on Tuesdays from 10:30-11:30 AM at Café Medici on the Drag, Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30 PM in his office (GSB 5.126J), and by email or phone appointment (he will gladly run with any willing student!). Be sure to stop by and share in the knowledge, smiles, and genuine good energy of this incredible BHP Professor.

Alumni Spotlight – Jennie Baik, CEO and Co-founder of Orchard Mile

Jennie Baik

Featured: Retail Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Big Data, E-commerce

Jennie Baik, BHP 2001, is CEO and Co-founder of Orchard Mile, an online marketplace for collections from top designers. She previously held positions in strategy for Omnicom and Burberry.  We recently had the chance to visit with Jennie to learn more about Orchard Mile.

You weren’t always in retail. You started out in consulting, and then at Omnicom. Why did you make the transition to retail?

It’s funny – my career is a bit of a surprise to me – but I wouldn’t have changed a thing thus far.

After graduating from UT, I attended Harvard Business School to earn my MBA. Post graduation, many of my classmates went into traditional business jobs with banking and consulting, but I was intrigued by digital, which is why I took a different path and took a position at Omnicom. While I was there, I started in marketing, branding and traditional advertising, and then progressed into a company within Omnicom focused on digital data analytics related to marketing. Around that time, the head of HR at Burberry reached out to me. I hadn’t planned on working in fashion, but Burberry was so persistent that I went and met with them. I fell in love with the team and could tell that their leadership, under Angela Ahrendts (who is now SVP of Retail for Apple), was so strong that I felt compelled to go there. I ran their Americas strategy team for two years which was incredibly interesting and rewarding. In that position, I focused on the strategy, research and digital models, and I became really interested in the idea of digital market places, which is what led me to Orchard Mile.

While my career has focused on different areas, all the roles that I’ve held to date have helped me in thinking about and working to solve problems.  Whether it was a firm understanding of how financial statements work at an investment bank, or how brands are approaching digital marketing in advertising or at a luxury brand, all of these experiences in problem-solving and strategic thinking have helped in having a holistic view of how to build a great product and company at Orchard Mile.

How did the idea for Orchard Mile come about?

What is surprising about entrepreneurship is no one really has a completely original idea. There are always multiple people thinking about how to solve a problem. It was very serendipitous when I met my co-founders – all of us had an interest in e-commerce, thought about the future of e-commerce in different ways, and brought unique skill sets to the table.

One important note to keep in mind when launching a company is that co-founders should not all look like each other. Rather, you should compliment each other with different skill sets. My career has been somewhat random, but all of the skill sets I honed in those roles have been useful to me in this role. I use my financial modeling, digital marketing, brand client management, structured thinking and problem solving skills every day here. I also learned at Harvard how to get your point across in 90 seconds, which has certainly been helpful.

With all of the online shopping options out there, what is it about Orchard Mile that is unique and attractive to shoppers?

We approach e-commerce differently. I don’t think e-commerce shopping is easy – it takes a lot of time to filter preferences. In market places, one of the most difficult issues to solve is the paradox of choice. You have an endless aisle online, which makes it difficult to find the right one for you. The idea of creating a platform that was an endless aisle, but could pivot to your personal preferences, was something I was obsessed with it. Essentially, if you were able to build a shopping street just for you, what would that look like? The idea of a site knowing you well enough so that you wouldn’t have to filter ever again is the holy grail of what Orchard Mile is trying to deliver.

Tell me more about My Mile and how that will change the shopping experience.

We launched My Mile two months ago, which creates a customized shopping experience with our customers. The feature allows our customers to pick their favorite designers, but also their favorite categories within those designers. Consumers can input these preferences on a brand-by-brand basis and it will remember their size. It is a constantly updated stream of your personal preferences, and those preferences are saved, which is something that others aren’t doing.

With My Mile we had a hunch that this could solve the paradox of choice, but we didn’t know how consumers would react to it. It wasn’t until we put it out to consumers that we really knew we had a sticky product. The conversion on people who use My Mile is 5x what the regular Orchard Mile customer conversion is, and time on site is about 10x for My Mile. It also crosses the language borders, and we are seeing high adoption in other countries.

What roadblocks did you face starting the company?

With any company, you need to be more committed and brave than you have ever been in the past. In the beginning, it is very hard to convince anyone to invest in you. All of the people on Orchard Mile’s team pursued us. They chased us until we found a position for them. We hire passionate people. What is unusual about our technology is that we are able to clone the brand sites and bring them onto our platform, so it feels a lot like a digital shopping spree. The site is constantly updating in real time, and is all synthesized in one place. The platform took us a year to make, which involved raising money from what was basically just a slide deck in the beginning. While we were building that platform, we were also pounding the pavement, trying to get the top brands to sign on. It is hard for the brands to take a chance on a platform with no digital footprint and no traffic. It was a difficult process, but eventually we got 30 of the best-in-class brands signed on for our launch. Attracting consumers is also hard. You have to raise a lot of money to do consumer marketing in the right way. Our platform is aimed at a cart size of more than $300, so that requires some sophisticated marketing. Site traffic is now growing 20% month over month and 20% of our traffic comes from international countries, even though we don’t do any marketing there. The blogging community has taken to Orchard Mile, and there are lots of powerful foreign bloggers that have written about us, which has really spread our brand.

What about being an entrepreneur has been unexpected for you, and what have you felt completely prepared for in the process of starting and growing a company?

At an early-stage startup, every day has highs and lows, and it can be really exhausting. There is a lot going on at every moment. It is important to communicate to your team that we all need to be at our best every day. Motivation comes from setting an example, and Angela Ahrendts was a big inspiration to me because of her work ethic. Millennials want to see someone who is doing what they say they should do. It is about learning from action and not words. Values, while they seem soft, are more important than most startup founders think. To set those values and live by those is one of the biggest challenges. You need to create a culture which is respectful, and in which people can grow. In terms of performance reviews here, 80% of someone’s evaluation is how great they are at their function, but 20% is about how much they are helping others on their team, and on other teams. We work cross-functionally here, which builds empathy and respect. I believe this is one of the reasons we have built such a strong culture. One of the things we also do is try to lead with women of color in our campaigns. If we are given a set of photographs from a brand, we try to choose the more diverse models to highlight on our site and in our social media.

Looking back at your time in BHP, is there anything you wish you had known, or wish you had done differently?

There are so many opportunities and resources at UT. I wish I had taken some other types of classes. I also lost touch with many of my classmates, and I wish I had kept in touch better with them. BHP was an incredible baseline of knowledge. The students are top students, and I probably could have learned even more from my peers.

BHP Faculty Spotlight: Gretchen Charrier – Accounting

Written by Madison Mohns

If you hear music playing from a classroom at 9:30 in the morning, odds are it’s Professor Charrier getting her students hyped up for the day’s lecture in Accounting 311H. Her quirky presence keeps students entertained and engaged with their learning. She has had the pleasure of working with important professionals in the field of Accounting in diverse areas of expertise. Over the course of her career here at UT Austin, she has taught upwards of 10 different classes, but ultimately she keeps coming back to teaching the fundamentals class.

“It’s fun to see it click for people. I love how the questions are so varied. It is interesting to be able to see what is running through my students’ heads.” Her classes are discussion-based rather than structured lectures, to allow students to take advantage of the intimate community that BHP provides. “I never give the same lecture,” she says, “I think it’s best to learn from others, so discussions allow students to learn from their peers; teaching someone else is the most valuable way of learning.”

What intrigues Professor Charrier about BHP students is not their ability to perform well in school, as she says she can find that anywhere. “You all have a sense of humor. I see an appreciation for personality,” she says. Professor Charrier capitalizes on the individual differences of her students and promotes curiosity. When teaching a lecture she never “know[s] what the questions are going to be. It keeps me on my feet.” This more tailored approach to learning, paired with the intimate environment of BHP allows her to focus more on concepts rather than just bookkeeping.

She also notices and appreciates the close bonds formed in BHP. “Your class is such a tight knit group,” she says. “I can see the friendships there, and that is really important. It’s the people that you meet here that are going to be your life-long friends.”

Outside of the class she loves meeting with her students and getting to know them on a personal level. Her office hours are in GSB 5.126D on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00pm – 4pm, on “Fun Fridays” at various times, or by appointment.

Not sure what to talk about? Here are some great questions to help you get a great conversation going.

  • Tell me about your white elephant gift exchange experience.
  • How did you get into accounting?
  • Tell me about your kids.
  • How was your experience in Barcelona this past summer with the MPA program?

Student Spotlight: Mason Lee Lynaugh

Mason Lee Lynaugh strolls into the McCombs atrium and takes a seat at one of the many tables scattered around the room. He raises his left arm onto the armrest of the chair, revealing a tattoo of an Eames chair on the inside of his forearm.

“When (the Eames chair) came out, it was so ergonomically well-designed,” Lynaugh said. “It was art. I was raised by designers — my parents were graphic designers, so they had these chairs in the house. I like having it on me because it’s just kind of the way I look at the world. I want to look at the world, like, ‘Let’s solve problems, and let’s make things practically beautiful — the way it’s supposed to be.’ Plus, it reminds me of my childhood.”

Lynaugh is quite comfortable in his own skin. The senior transferred into BHP as a sophomore but decided to take a gap year in 2016 to dedicate himself to his deepest passion: music. Lynaugh’s choice of stepping away from the comfort of being a college student was simple — he couldn’t deny his ardor for his craft.

“I’m pretty determined about things when I choose to do something,” Lynaugh said. “Over winter break (of sophomore year), I made my first actual good song, and I was like, ‘This is awesome. This is what I want to do.’ A lot of people in McCombs are happy, but they always have something under their skin that they really want, and I was like, ‘Why not just actually do it?’ … I was super confident, and it didn’t even seem like a decision — it seemed like just what was going to happen.”

Along with his new lifestyle, Lynaugh also adopted a new name — he released a hip-hop EP titled, “The Last of the Natives,” under the stage name “Mace Lee” on Spotify in early 2017. Aside from being classically trained, Lynaugh taught himself how to make hip-hop music and learned audio engineering on his own. The avid Kanye West fan also attributed his musical skills to studying the practices of his favorite hip-hop artists.

However, Lynaugh didn’t completely put his business mind to rest. Even before releasing his record on Spotify, he realized the importance of marketing himself in order make his music accessible to as many people as possible. In addition to promoting his music on social media, Lynaugh hosted an event on campus last fall to physically launch a mixtape he recorded in 2016. He also performed live shows featuring his own music to further establish himself in the local hip-hop scene.

With a hip-hop record and social media marketing experience under his belt, Lynaugh is now ready to begin his senior year in BHP. After spending a year away from McCombs, he is much more appreciative of the program’s value and of his network of peers.

“When you step out and leave UT, and you get a little slice of life, and that slice of life is cold and has been sitting out in the room for about a day, and you don’t have a microwave — you get to see a very different side of the world and really appreciate things that you didn’t appreciate before,” Lynaugh said. “I came back and realized every class matters. Everything I do here matters … I took for granted the environment and being able to be surrounded by people with similar ambitions.”

Moving forward, Lynaugh plans to channel his colorful palette of skills into a career in consulting. He’s confident that he will find success as a consultant because he appreciates the versatility that is unique to the consulting role.

Out of all the experiences he’s had since arriving on the 40 Acres, Lynaugh believes following his passions has been his biggest takeaway.

“Don’t forget your dreams from high school,” Lynaugh said. “No matter how weird they are, just keep them in mind … At the end of the day, you’re going to need a job, and you might as well find something that’s interesting to you because a lot of times, those dreams can translate.”

2017 BHP Leadership Kickoff – Explained from A to Z

Written by Katelyn Barclay – BHP Leadership Kickoff Co-Chair

Whenever I talk to someone about the Business Honors Program, I can’t just discuss the incredible professors or the amazing academic and professional opportunities. There’s an intangible that every single BHP student has experienced since Day 1: the tight-knit community. And when I say Day 1, I mean it; it’s the first weekend after classes begin at Leadership Kickoff that the foundations for such a strong community are built over the course of a jam-packed, 2-day retreat at Newcombe Tennis Ranch – and this year was no exception!

This past weekend, BHP’s 107 newest members had the opportunity to participate in countless bonding and leadership activities to prepare them for their next 4 years on the 40 Acres. Here are the highlights from A to Z:

Alumni shared their passion for the BHP and advice from their time on the 40 Acres in the Alumni Video shown at the end of the Convocation Ceremony

BHPlayoffs brought out the competitive side of the BHPhreshmen as Peer Mentor groups competed in various games to be crowned the winners and take home highly coveted BHP mugs

Convocation Ceremony allowed everyone to trade in their athletic wear for business casual and acted as the Class of 2021’s official entrance into the Business Honors Program

Dr. Prentice joined everyone on Day 2 to help welcome the freshmen into the BHP at the beginning of Convocation

Ethics Board gave an incredible speech during the Convocation Ceremony to highlight the importance of ethics in business as the freshmen begin their time in McCombs

Fireside Chats with Peer Mentor groups allowed the freshmen to bond with their new classmates after a long day on the ropes courses

Great Company all-around made this weekend unforgettable

HBA Exec greatly assisted with every aspect of the weekend, from low ropes to meal groups and everything in between

Ice Cream cooled everyone down after a long first day in the Texas heat

Jokes and memories were formed this weekend amongst the freshmen class, just ask them about the Blind Maze!

Karaoke let everyone break out of their shells, including a group of guys who chose to sing and dance to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies

Letters from Older Members were given to each freshmen to allow them to have an unofficial mentor to assist them with their transition to college in any way possible

Meal Groups brought together freshmen from different Peer Mentor groups for two meals over the course of the weekend to help them get to know their new classmates better

Newcombe Tennis Ranch was the perfect setting for the weekend and helped accommodate us in every way possible over the course of the weekend; we couldn’t be more grateful for them!

Opportunities were shared with the freshmen so they could begin getting involved in all that BHP, McCombs and UT have to offer the moment they returned to campus

Peer Mentors were a tremendous help over the course of the weekend for both myself and my co-chair Suchin, as well as each of their 9 new mentees

Quick is how anyone who attended Kickoff would describe it; the weekend went by in a blur

Ropes Courses, both high and low, truly allowed each Peer Mentor group to bond by facing their fear of heights and working together to navigate mazes and solve puzzles

Speed Dating helped freshmen to get to know each other on the hour-long bus ride to Kickoff by answering questions about their favorite movies or hidden talents

Tisha’s BHP Remix of Despacito brought the entire audience to their feet with her amazing voice and clever lyrics

Uniting the 107 newest members of the BHP in 30 short hours was not an easy feat, but we hope that they feel prepared to tackle college with their new BHPhamily

Views from the top of the high ropes course were so worth it, just ask any freshman

Welcoming the Class of 2021 to the Business Honors Program is hands down one of the most fulfilling roles that Suchin and I have had the honor of holding; we can’t wait to see what incredible things they go on to achieve!

Xcitement could be felt all around the Hall of Honors as freshmen checked in on Day 1 and waited to board the buses for an incredible retreat ahead

thank You to Tisha, Paul, Greta, Dr. Prentice, Shelley, Lynn and all of the amazing Student Leaders for helping to make this past weekend as incredible as it was; we could not have done it without you

Zzz’s are what everyone needed after such a busy weekend full of community and leadership building

While Leadership Kickoff 2017 may have ended, this is just the beginning for the Class of 2021. We can’t wait to see how you each change the world, in true longhorn fashion!