An Entrepreneurial Perspective in Lyceum from Cindy Lo

For those taking on an entrepreneurial path, Canfield BHP alum Cindy Lo is a wonderful example. Upon graduation, Lo took on roles in technical sales and consulting before founding the company she continues to run now: Red Velvet Events. 

Amidst all the business of being the CEO and Founder of an international events agency, Lo still finds time to come back to McCombs and meet with the sophomore Lyceum class each year. She said Canfield BHP funded her tuition and gave her amazing opportunities, so she loves coming back to the program and the students in it.  

“Someone else again funded my school and I always wanted to be able to do that. I feel like I’m in a place and a time in my life where I can easily give back in various ways,” Lo said. 

Lo especially hopes to encourage entrepreneurship during her visits because of the unique, go-getter nature of Canfield Business Honors students. Even if students don’t become entrepreneurs right out of college, Lo hopes that students are empowered to do so at some point in their lives.

I encourage (entrepreneurship) because of all the people I met through the (Canfield) Business Honors program, 90% of them are self motivated,” Lo said. “I guarantee you that anyone, as long as they can handle the grind, can be an entrepreneur. I hope that when students in the program hear me talk about it they see that opportunity.”

For Lo, entrepreneurship wasn’t something she saw herself doing in college. After working at a startup for a few years, 9/11 happened and she realized that there were other paths out there for her. Lo ultimately decided to pursue her passion for events and start her own company. 

“When 9/11 happened, I was actually outside of New York City. It made me wake up and realize maybe that’s not what I necessarily want to do forever and ever and life is too short,” Lo said. “At that point, the market was changing too. (The startup) where I was working changed directions. It gave me some time to rethink my path and through the help of some friends, I was pointed in the direction of events, but because no one wanted to hire me, I started this company with the intention of only running it for about a year and now we’re 17 years in.”

Lo said Canfield BHP played a large part in her life. From learning through group projects to gaining a better understanding of problems through case studies, Canfield BHP proved integral to her success. 

“Definitely the one thing that I really underestimated at the time, but now looking back, I realized a lot of this had to do with again, how (Canfield) BHP is situated and how the program structures classes around team projects,” Lo said. “Everybody has to understand how to assess the team dynamics, how do we get (the project) done in the timeline, and how do we work with everyone’s schedule. That alone has allowed me to be as effective as possible of a leader.”

Even more important than the projects, however, were the people in Lo’s class. She said being surrounded by students who were leaders on campus and self-starters made her want to be a  better version of herself.

“I was surrounded by a lot of natural achievers, and I took this for granted. I’ve learned over the years that I want to continue to surround myself with people smarter than me, so I can keep learning,” Lo said. “Canfield Business Honors allowed me to do that.” 

Shopping for careers with Brandi Joplin: What made her buy into Sam’s?

Article written by Zoya Saxena

What really goes on in the Club? Brandi Joplin, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Sam’s Club, visited the Canfield BHP class of 2022 during Business Lyceum to answer this burning question and share some experiences from her career path and time at Walmart. 

Joplin started out as an industrial engineering major at the University of Arkansas, but eventually made the switch to Accounting and completed her CPA. While in college, Joplin was extremely involved on campus, which remains a large reason why she feels compelled to return and talk to students. 

“I have a passion for connecting back to something that was such an instrumental part of my education,” Joplin said. 

Joplin remains a believer in keeping in touch with “the younger generation of leaders.” She said she stays involved because she sees students as the budding professionals which will one day be the driving force of companies today.

When asked how she ended up at Walmart, Joplin explained how she found her first job there through a previous connection from the University of Alabama. She encouraged students to build a strong network organically as they go through their careers and schooling.

“Relationships matter,” Joplin said. “I am a relationship person. I like to build my network before I need them. You don’t want to be in a position of need when you start building your relationships.”

Joplin went on to talk about how her experience at Walmart has been extremely fruitful. She spent time elaborating on employee dedication and the lively company spirit. Joplin said she is proud and excited to be a part of a company that closely aligns with her values.

“You need to find a company that invests in you and has a culture where you believe in their purpose,” said Joplin. “When I came to Walmart, I believed in its purpose.”

Joplin also emphasized the importance of building one’s career on experience. She stressed the value of learning from a breadth of opportunities, some of which can be acquired through rotational programs or just by being open to trying new things.

“It is important to have that hands-on experience. You always need to be in learning mode. Be willing to get your hands dirty,” said Joplin. 

 

Veronica Stidvent brings a law and policy perspective to Lyceum

For students who strive to enter education, public policy, or non-profit spaces to make a positive impact, Veronica (Ronnye) Stidvent, former Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) and current President of Stidvent Partners, proves that it’s possible. 

After graduating from UT Austin and earning a law degree from Yale, Stidvent served at the White House under George W. Bush for five years. She then returned to UT as the Director for Politics and Governance for the LBJ School of Public Affairs where she spearheaded the development of the department of Business, Government, and Society and founded a Hispanic leadership initiative within McCombs, Subiendo. After her time at UT, Stidvent served as Chancellor of WGU Texas and now works as President of Stidvent Partners. 

Amidst all her work, Stidvent still finds time to come speak to Canfield Business Honors students in their Business Lyceum class on an annual basis. During her visit, Stidvent outlined her career path and answered questions from Canfield Business Honors students. She said her career played out quite differently than she imagined. While she had always seen herself practicing law, opportunities came her way and she took advantage of them.

“The shifts in my career were all serendipitous. My whole life I had really planned on being a litigator – that’s what I wanted to do, but opportunities came my way, the first one, of course, being the opportunity to go work in the White House,” Stidvent said. “Suddenly I was in the policy track and not so much into a purely legal track. I’m glad I took on (these opportunities), but I couldn’t have foreseen them.”

Stidvent said she enjoys coming back to UT because of the students she gets to interact with during her visits. As a guest speaker for Business Lyceum, she values the opportunity to both provide advice to future leaders and learn from the very students she advises. 

“I really enjoy (coming to speak). The students ask such great questions and it makes me think. I walk away for several days trying to come up with more in-depth answers in my head, so it’s been really fun (to visit)” Stidvent said. “I also just like the opportunity to come back to my alma mater. I love the opportunity to talk to really smart students who are enthusiastic and engaged and ready to change the world.”

Stidvent’s advice for students who want to enter into law or policy is to learn to understand and empathize with both sides of every issue. She said to practice this while engaging with the world, whether it be through newspapers, magazines, or social media. As a student, she involved herself in Texas Orange Jackets, The Liberal Arts Council, and The Daily Texan, all of which allowed her to practice her dual approach to decision-making and argumentation. 

“I urge all students to really learn to argue both sides of any issue,” Stidvent said. “Whether it’s a business decision, whether it’s a legal issue, or whether it’s a policy issue, understanding both sides will help you reframe your thinking. It will help you sharpen your own argument and it will help you understand the other side.” 

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.