Written by Christopher Hotchkiss
Paul Kinscherff, the former CFO of International Finance at Boeing and a current executive in residence at UT, took time out of his day recently to discuss his career and past with Canfield Business Honors students during Lyceum this week. Students asked about international experiences, mentorship, and current events.
Kinscherff began by discussing the decisions that led him towards business and away from a role in government. He discussed his undergraduate degree in public administration and how his arrival at UT prompted him to consider other a dual degree option with the LBJ School of Public Affairs and McCombs School of Business. Kinscherff also explained how the advice of his father proved beneficial in helping him make career decisions.
Kinscherff said that he was, “Initially accepted by the LBJ school and (in the) first semester, someone walked up and asked, ’Why are you here?’” Kinscherff said this was, “Absolutely a wake-up call.” He also said that his father told him, “If (he) really wanted to have an impact, (to) go spend some years in the private sector and then come back to government.” Now, Kinscherff said he thoroughly enjoys giving back to the University of Texas.
In addition, Kinscherff discussed his time working internationally. He detailed the different experiences that he had as well as some of the nuances associated with working overseas. Kinscherff also commented on the value international experience brings when applying to companies. He said adapting to cultures and learning to live in unfamiliar environments is one of the most important skills a student can have.
“I was stationed in Alaska, Indonesia and Colombia back at a time when South Colombia was a mess,” Kinscherff said. “It is harder to come home… you adjust to the culture, you learn to operate in that culture and then come back and have to readjust to working at home many people that don’t have your new perspectives. (Having) the international experience is important. The spreadsheets are the easy part.”
Mentors served as another key aspect of Kinsherff’s career. He used the opportunities mentors provided to him and used his experiences to offer advice to the Lyceum students. Kinsherff said being thoughtful while finding mentors is the best way to approach it.
“You have to be intentional about maintaining contact with people,” he said. “The best way to build good mentors… is to just do great work.”
While discussing his own career path, Kinscherff discussed Boeing and the recent controversy involving malfunctions in the Boeing 737 MAX. He spoke about the recent controversy and how a company such as Boeing has to address the issue when it arises.
“Externally, If you are not telling your story, someone else is… you have to keep the media and airlines informed in particular,” Kinscherff said. “Internally, you also need to review and return your internal culture. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an unwanted event to refocus an organization after things have gone well for a long time.”