Name: Kevin Terwilliger
Program: Texas Evening MBA
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University
What were you doing professionally before coming to McCombs, and what made you decide to pursue your MBA?
Before joining the McCombs program, I was an Industrial Designer in the Dell Experience Design Group. My focus was on creating best-in-class customer experiences for Enterprise server products by developing innovative product design strategies and working directly with marketing and engineering teams on implementation. I joined the McCombs MBA program because I wanted to expand my sphere of influence from product features to more strategic portfolio-level decision. In order to do this, I needed to create a strong foundation of skills outside of the training I received in my Industrial Design undergraduate studies.
What led you to choose the Texas MBA?
Choosing McCombs was very easy for me. The evening program made it convenient for me to continue to work here in Austin while attending class, and after attending an info session and seeing the caliber of other potential classmates, I was sold on McCombs.
What has been your favorite part of the Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business?
The camaraderie is by far my favorite part of the McCombs program. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed all the classes and professors, always looked forward to the Austin Intensives, and I particularly enjoyed our global trip to South Africa, but the reason I enjoyed all of these parts of the program was because of the lasting relationships that I was able to develop with other classmates.
What other activities have you been able to participate in because of your affiliation with McCombs?
There were multiple activities that I participated in during the MBA program that helped to shape me and expand my career opportunities. The first organization that I joined was the McCombs Entrepreneurship Society, and it was through this organization that I won the 2012 Pitch Competition. I pitched an idea I developed for advertising on the side of in-transit tractor trailers, which I called TEN4 Ads. Winning this competition gave me the confidence I needed for my wife and I to start this company. The venture has now been in operation for a little over a year, serving clients such as Mighty Fine Hamburgers, Capital Metro, and MyPlates.com, among others.
The second activity that I participated in was the MBA+ Program. During the summer of my first year in the program, a group of my classmates and I formed a team to complete a strategic marketing project for a local technology company. At the end of project, we had the opportunity to present our findings to most of the C-suite and we received great feedback. This really opened my eyes to the passion that I have for strategic marketing. Although I did not know it at the time, this project also helped to pave the way for me to make a transition into marketing at Dell.
Any particular memories that stand out?
The memory that really stands out for me was the Global Trip my class took to South Africa. We had the opportunity to visit a diverse set of companies and experience the local culture over the course of a one week trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town. After we completed the required portion of the trip, many of us remained in the country for a few days. It was then that I had the opportunity to go shark diving with my fellow classmates off the coast of Cape Town – certainly a stand out memory. The day after, we took a surfing lesson, which was also a lot of fun. But if I were to do it again, I would probably choose to do the surfing lesson first, before the shark diving experience, because, at that point, we were all a little concerned after seeing an 18′ shark in the exact same water the previous day.
What about a favorite professor?
This is a really hard question to answer. Thinking back through all the classes, there were multiple professors who broadened my understanding and influenced the way I thought about different disciplines. Professor Adams made me think differently about the way I validate a market opportunity, Professor Meakin changed my understanding of the legal environment of business, Professor Dierking added significantly to my tool set as far as leading people and negotiating, and Professor Williams broadened my skill-set in strategic marketing. With that said, I think my favorite was Professor Bentzin because I really had to stretch to understand how to utilize analytical tools to drive marketing decisions. In his class we were challenged to really dive deep into marketing case studies to understand the driving forces behind decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. This class in particular really framed my understanding of marketing and positioned me for success as I transition into marketing at Dell.
Any words of wisdom for incoming students?
Take advantage of every opportunity to stretch yourself. My favorite quote is “a boat in the harbor is safe – but that is not why a boat is built”. There are so many areas within the MBA program to get involved and challenge yourself to learn something new from the Entrepreneurship Society, Consulting Club, Entrepreneur-in-Residence speaking series, MBA+ projects, and the list goes on and on. The time flies by and you only have the opportunity to get involved in these different groups while you are enrolled. Be proactive and find the time to get involved outside of just attending class. You will get so much more out of your experience.
How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced your approach to your career?
My undergraduate degree was specialized in product development and I wanted to be able to move beyond that toward general management long term. The MBA program gave me exposure to all the different disciplines within business that work together to drive success. While attending MBA classes, I could immediately see a change in my confidence when it came to having conversations with decision makers in other disciplines. It provided a foundation of understanding across the whole business which I will build upon for the rest of my career. I think most importantly, the focused intensity of the program accelerated my career over the last 3 years and now I feel like I am on the right path, heading toward my goals of general management.
What’s next for you?
I recently transitioned into the Global Marketing Rotation Program at Dell. I will complete three, one-year rotations in different areas of marketing to understand how all the different teams work together to deliver products to our customers. I will use my first rotation to get as close as possible to our sales force. I will be mapping out the customer journey to understand how we can make our sales touch-points more efficient. As I mentioned, my initial goal when I started the MBA program at McCombs was to expand my sphere of influence to be more portfolio focused, and I will be able to do just that with my first role.
Join us in congratulating Kevin and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA.