Profile: Julie Harris '95
funny thing happened to Julie Harris '95 on the way to Kellogg
do improv comedy! Say something funny."
Harris '95, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, is often
confronted by that request once people learn about her improvisational
theater background. But she knows that success in comedy,
as in business, demands expert timing and an understanding
of the big picture.
people don't know this, but improv has rules and boundaries.
The magic comes in how you connect [to people]," she
says. "The whole is worth more than the sum of the parts.
The best teams I had at Kellogg were ones where people not
only brought their own experiences, but brought out the best
lesson still resonates with Harris in her current role working
with co-chief administrators to provide strategic counseling.
She and her team manage a portfolio of projects that spans
the organization, with the goal of breaking functional silos.
of the business strategies we employ globally, we have a mix
of 'growth' versus 'efficiency and effectiveness' projects.
That mix varies based on the economic environment, but the
work is always guaranteed to be interesting due to its cross-functional
nature," she says, adding that doing her job well means
that her network at the firm is always expanding. Harris credits
the collaborative environment at Kellogg — she initially
enrolled in the Part-Time MBA Program then transferred to
the full-time curriculum — as contributing to her success.
Kellogg students all have exceptional GMAT scores and great
credentials, the school is still a melting pot, its community
drawn from around the world. “The diversity at Kellogg was
a part of the challenge,” Harris says. “Learning how to work
with people from entirely different backgrounds, different
perspectives can be tough when you don’t speak a common language…figuratively
or literally,” Harris says. Similarly, the Player’s Workshop
program was diverse, with actors ranging in age from 22 to
63, but all were connected by a shared desire to create and
perform something new.
is a team sport; it's not stand-up," Harris says. "And
Kellogg is a team sport too."
later recognized that her improv techniques were transferrable
and unexpectedly complemented her Kellogg and professional
experience. "I realized that the concepts about 'teamwork'
applied to all," she says. Eventually she melded all
these talents by becoming the founder, marketing director
and a performer for the Chicago-based improvisational theater
group The 44th Floor. Formed with colleagues from her training
group, the group quickly became known for its unique and diverse
qualities. "We were out there having fun, depending on
each other, connecting in real time," Harris recalls.
like being confident, thinking on your feet and learning to
trust others were reinforced by both places. "You won't
learn if you don't try," she says. The school's teamwork
culture and experiential learning focus pushed her to experiment.
Harris jokes that her Kellogg education not only gave her
an MBA but a "PhD in group dynamics," a life skill
she considers valuable.
joining Accenture (formerly Arthur Andersen) in 1987 with
a computer science degree, Harris felt she lacked certain
business skills, which prompted her to pursue her MBA. "Business
school provides you with the toolkit and a chance to practice
in a safe environment," she says.
Harris, the Kellogg experience extended beyond the classroom
though. The school has also contributed to her personal relationships:
"Going in, you think it's about the education —
which of course it is — but it's also about the lifelong