Destination Southwest – A Talk with Mike Van de Ven

Written by Zoya Saxena

UT graduate and alum Mike Van de Ven returned to the classroom, this time sitting on the other side of the lecture hall. Van de Ven, Chief Operating Officer of Southwest Airlines, visited the sophomore Business Honors Lyceum to share advice with the students and talk to them about his time in college and career at Southwest. 

Ever since he watched UT play A&M during the Thanksgiving football game, Van de Ven  knew he wanted to come to UT. When applying to college, Van de Ven was also searching for the best school to complete his degree in Accounting.

 “UT has a great return on investment. I am proud of the quality of education which you can receive here in such a cost effective manner. That’s why I love this school,” said Van de Ven. 

Van de Ven said that he feels reenergized when he returns to campus and that his passion for education and development of young professionals is what keeps him coming back. 

“A while ago, my wife and I sat down and asked ourselves what we truly care about. I thought I would have a long list, but we were only able to come up with a few things: young people, education, and bringing that (talent) into our company,” Van de Ven said. 

Many students were curious about Van de Ven’s time at Southwest and what made him make the switch from accounting to the airline industry. Van de Ven explained that his job in accounting allowed him to identify problems or issues, but that he wanted to make a larger impact and be part of resolutions.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the job. The best part about Southwest is that if you enjoy what you are doing, there is no limit to the work they allow you to do,” Van de Ven said.

Van de Ven also stressed the value of people, relationships, and the community. He said that anyone in the workplace needs to pass what Van de Ven has coined ‘the lunch test’. Van de Ven believes this mantra is a reason why Southwest is a successful people-focused and community-driven company.

He said, “You should be able to go to lunch every single day with the people you work with. It’s not necessarily the smartest person in the room, but it’s someone you can have a dialog with, and someone who brings an interesting perspective.”

At the end of the discussion, Van de Ven left the students with three key pieces of advice:

  1. “Stay connected to the people around you.”
  2. “Be yourself out there.”
  3. “If you are not having fun, don’t do it.”

Discovering Retail: Martin Otto’s path to H-E-B

Written by Zoya Saxena

A few weeks ago the Canfield BHP class of 2022 had the opportunity to meet the Chief Operating Officer of H-E-B, Martin Otto, during its Honors Business Lyceum. Students had the chance to ask questions and listen to Otto speak on a variety of topics such as his career path, time at H-E-B, and the company culture Otto is proud to be a part of. 

Otto began by detailing his career path, highlighting his time beginning in accounting and then moving to real estate. It was not until Otto was in the process of completing his MBA at Harvard when he took his first retail class. “I loved it,” he said.

Since then, Otto has been with H-E-B for a little over 28 years. When asked about what kept him at the company for so long, he expanded on H-E-B’s inclusive and people-centric company culture.  

“The company is truly focused on serving customers and the community,” Otto said. “H-E-B is a wonderful place to be.”

Over the course of the seminar, Otto also took the time to articulate why he wanted to come speak to Canfield BHP students. He said he wants to encourage students to really “figure out what (they) want to do” and help those students who may not want to “follow the traditional path.” Otto went on to say that if he was not thinking deeply about his career, he may not have ended up with a fulfilling job at such a great company. 

Otto recognized the caliber of the students and the quality of education in the Canfield BHP program. “Y’all have a great school and great students,” said Otto.  He went on to state that if he had to do it all over again, he would choose Canfield BHP. 

Otto encouraged students to make full use of the resources available to them at UT and be proud of the program in which they have been admitted. Furthermore, Otto emphasized the importance of curiosity and hard work. 

He said, “Smart people are not a dime a dozen, but there are a lot of smart people in this world. There are not enough people in the world who work hard enough, to be curious enough to ask the 100th question to be excellent.” 

Otto’s advice revolved primarily on putting thought into the career process. He said students should work to understand their passions so that they’re working on something they love once they enter the workplace.

“My advice to you is to figure out what you want to do. I could have shortened that process (of finding my career path of choice) had I known retail was out there.” Otto said.

Lyceum Recap: Flying Through Boeing with Paul Kinscherff

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.”

A Return to Lyceum: The Homecoming of Phil Canfield

Written by Christopher Hotchkiss

Between detailing his choice to attend UT as an undergraduate to giving financial advice to students, Mr. Canfield used his return to the classroom as an opportunity to inspire the students who are currently benefiting from his recent gift to the Canfield Business Honors Program.

Mr. Canfield started by explaining the impact that BHP had on him as a student. As an undergraduate in the honors program, he made lasting friendships and found a community that helped him during his early years in banking. He also described his perspective as a parent and the visit that motivated him to donate so generously to the program. 

Mr. Canfield believed that the BHP lacked the prestige other business schools heralded. He said prospective students often don’t realize the prestige of the program until attending an event or meeting the students, staff, and faculty who make the program so great. 

As the parent of a prospective student, Mr. Canfield attended Discover BHP, our annual welcome weekend event for admitted students. “Discover BHP blew me away,” he said. But he also felt that the reputation of BHP was not where it should be. This realization coupled with his own positive experiences in the program led him to make his naming gift. “If I want to do something for UT, I wanted to do it with BHP,” he said.

In addition to detailing his love for UT, Mr. Canfield took time to describe his career and the different aspects of it. Failure was something he made a point of highlighting because he believes failure is integral to every person’s development. “Successes don’t teach you anything, but failures teach you everything,” he shared. Furthermore, he said that the worst thing that can happen to a person is for them to only experience success over their first five years of working, as that period is a prime time for failures (and ultimately learning) to occur.

Finally, Mr. Canfield used this conversation as an opportunity to give advice to current students interested in finance and private equity. He took the time to answer questions about his rise to leadership within GTCR. With regards to stepping into a managerial role he shared, “You need to do what needs to be done when it is time to get it done.” Although he was speaking specifically about the working world and his experience, these were wise words to conclude his visit and encourage the next generation of Canfield Business Honors students.


A Peek into Lyceum: Our Chat with Niloufar Molavi of PwC

This Wednesday, the sophomore Canfield BHP class had the pleasure of hosting Niloufar Molavi, the Global and US Energy leader at PwC, for the fifth time in five years. 

In a conversation that covered topics ranging from Molavi’s decision to attend UT as an accounting major to an overview of her future career goals, Molavi once again proved herself as an immeasurable resource for the McCombs community. 

When asked why she comes back to speak to students year over year, Molavi said she aims to pay it forward, whether it be through speaking to students or in other capacities. While at McCombs, Molavi said she was an active member of AKPsi and made an effort to make friends outside the business school as well. She advises current students to take advantage of UT’s breadth and learn both inside and outside the classroom. 

“I’m happy to share what I learned and explain why it’s important to take advantage of all the resources students have available while here (at UT Austin) and the importance of (being) involved and engaged,” Molavi said. “It’s not just about showing up, going to class and going home and having a great time on the weekends.”

Molavi has worked at PwC for 28 years and said the extracurriculars she participated in at UT prepared her for success in the workplace. The leadership opportunities she had taught her to be confident outside her comfort zone.

“UT taught me how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s a safe environment to learn and make mistakes,” Molavi said. “When I entered the real world it was amazing how many of the experiences that I had while at UT replicated themselves; it was just a very different environment.” 

While Molavi praised UT resources and organizations, she also commended the McCombs accounting program and the students and faculty who make it up. She said the program gave her a basis for success and has maintained its reputation since she graduated. 

“(The accounting program) continues to be number one and was number one when I was here (at McCombs),” Molavi said. “And of course there’s a reason for that. I think it’s attributable to the strong curriculum, the faculty, and the students who are attracted to it.”