The difference is you
Leveraging the power and potential of the alumni network
By Chris Serb '09
Shortly before enrolling at Kellogg, Yoshimi Inaba ’76 — then a junior executive at Toyota in Japan — took a vacation in Mexico. Amid his sightseeing, Inaba spotted a business opportunity: Mexico had a large population and a growing economy, but Toyota had no market presence there.
|Fernando Chico Pardo '76|
|Yoshimi Inaba '76|
Twenty-five years later, when Inaba became president of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., he set upon entering the Mexican market. To achieve that goal, Inaba reached out to some long-standing friends from his Kellogg days: Fernando Chico Pardo ’76 and Rodrigo De La Pena ’76.
“Neither one was in the auto business, but they were both very respected businessmen in Mexico,” Inaba says. “When you’re doing business in a new country, you need a network. I was fortunate that my network included some close friends who had many connections in the market that I wanted to enter.”
Chico Pardo and De La Pena didn’t just offer Inaba advice — they supported Inaba’s vision by opening their own Toyota dealerships in Mexico. Along with Adolfo Autrey ’70 and Miguel Ramirez Barber ’76, they also introduced Inaba to government officials and other key decision-makers. Toyota began selling cars in Mexico in 2002 and has passed several long-established rivals to become a respected competitor in just eight years.
“Toyota certainly could have done this by itself, but it’s much easier when you have friends, and Yoshi had friends in Mexico,” says Chico Pardo, CEO of airport holding company ASUR. “This was good for Toyota, but good for Mexico too.”
Toyota’s entry into Mexico is a classic illustration of the strength of the Kellogg network. More than a shared alma mater, the Kellogg School is a touchpoint for alums, a place where many first experienced the power of working together toward a common goal. It is a place where friendships took root and led to new ideas, opportunities and further connections. And it is a name that, when mentioned to other alums, opens doors everywhere.
“If you want to do business in, say, Singapore, your first step into the country should be to contact Kellogg alumni there,” says Chico Pardo. “They will lead you to people who want to help, do business with you and be your friend.”
In her first year as alumni relations director, Assistant Dean Janet Sanders has heard similar sentiments from scores of Kellogg graduates.
“We continuously hear from alumni how much they truly loved their experiences as students here,” says Sanders, who previously served as senior director of alumni marketing and communications at Harvard Business School. “That feedback is a real testament to the knowledge that our students gain here, but it also speaks volumes about the relationships that are unique to the Kellogg network.”
What makes the Kellogg network different from those of its peers? The advantages stem from the school’s dynamic culture and unique learning environment. Kellogg is focused on both the individual and the group, on building general management skills and fostering deep area expertise. The diversity of the Kellogg community — socially, professionally and demographically — fosters a sense of shared success and the awareness that the group’s achievements are part and parcel of one’s own.
That is reflected in a striking willingness among Kellogg alumni to assist one another, whether they are seeking fresh professional challenges, educating themselves about a new field or looking for partners for a new venture.
Lending a hand
Vassilissa Kozoulina ’08 experienced the power of that thinking firsthand while on a post-graduation trip to South Africa. While there, she decided to investigate the MBA job market.
“A backpack and some souvenirs were the only things I had with me,” Kozoulina says, “except for a few contacts from my Global Initiatives in Management project in 2007 and access to the Kellogg network.”
|Leigh Anne Albert '98|
|Rick Waddell '79|
Kozoulina used the alumni directory to cold-call Kellogg graduates in Cape Town, and each talked gladly with her and shared contacts. One alum, Leigh Anne Albert ’98, went so far as to help Kozoulina find a job as an account manager with Frost & Sullivan — and to offer her a spare bedroom until she could get settled.
“I felt like I was taken in and made part of the family, for which I’m forever grateful,” Kozoulina says.
Megan Byrne Krueger ’90 says Kozoulina’s experience isn’t surprising, given the Kellogg propensity to lend a hand.
“In a more cutthroat environment, students might not share their ‘good stuff’ with others because they’re afraid someone else might get ahead,” says Krueger, assistant dean and director of student affairs for the Part-Time MBA Program. “At Kellogg, people are more willing to work with each other, without worrying that it will take anything away from them. It’s a commitment to one another’s success, and it continues long after you graduate.”
‘We like to win as a team’
Frederick H. “Rick” Waddell ’79 has seen the value of that approach play out time and again over his 35-year career.
As a young trainee at Chicago’s Northern Trust Corporation in the mid-1970s, Waddell chose to attend Kellogg because of the school’s collaborative approach. As a Part-Time MBA student, he found his experiences in the classroom and workplace closely linked. “There was always something in my Kellogg courses that I could literally apply the next day in my job,” Waddell says.
Now Northern Trust’s chairman and CEO, Waddell finds similarities between the environments at Kellogg and the bank. That’s no accident; more than 100 Kellogg graduates currently work at Northern Trust.
“Our service models are built around teams, because no one person can manage the multimillion- or even multibillion-dollar needs of our private and institutional clients,” Waddell says. “That’s the business reality that endorses Kellogg’s approach to leadership and management: In a complex world, you need the skills to work together as a team to meet your particular business, client or customer needs.”
Waddell cites two other critical traits that Kellogg alums bring to the table: strong communication skills and the ability to serve in and lead those teams.
“The culture at Northern Trust is very similar to the culture and values you see at Kellogg,” Waddell says. “I think that’s why we’re attracted to Kellogg alums, and why Kellogg alums are attracted to Northern.”
Other organizations with a strong Kellogg contingent report a similar dynamic. At E & J Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif., Kellogg graduates make up nearly 20 percent of the marketing department. Kellogg alumni at the firm gather for monthly lunches, and several even carpool to work together.
|Stephanie Gallo '99|
|Andrew Youn '06|
“At our company, it’s critical that employees have the ability to work collaboratively and cross-functionally, and to sell their ideas throughout the organization,” says Stephanie Gallo ’99, vice president of marketing. “Some would say that’s ‘teamwork,’ but it’s more than that; it’s about leadership and results. We like to win — but we also feel like we’re in this together, so we like to win as a team.”
Those qualities are common among Kellogg students and alumni, Gallo says. That’s why her company recruits so heavily at Kellogg.
“Kellogg serves as an aggregator of people with skills that will make them successful here,” Gallo says. “We think the Kellogg culture and the Gallo culture are similar, and you tend to not see that as much with alumni from other schools.”
At her Gallo interview earlier this year, Brie Koenigs ’09 instantly felt at ease when she learned that three of her six interviewers were also Kellogg alumni.
“I already knew that my educational background would hold up,” says Koenigs, who was hired in March as an assistant marketing manager. “But when I saw such a strong presence of Kellogg alums, I knew my personality would probably fit in here as well.”
A unity of purpose
The impulse to work together toward a common business goal tends to reverberate beyond the organization into the greater community. The Kellogg spirit of shared success has had a tangible impact not only on businesses and markets, but also on social issues such as education and world hunger.
On the governing and fundraising boards of One Acre Fund, a nonprofit that helps African farmers improve productivity, sit 12 members with Kellogg MBAs. Another two board directors are on the Kellogg faculty, and many others with Kellogg connections contribute to the organization as volunteers.
“At first, all of our U.S. operations were run by Kellogg alums,” says founder and executive director Andrew Youn ’06. “Everything from our tax filings, to external audit, to budget, to website, was all done by Kellogg alumni volunteers.”
Since its 2006 founding (through Kellogg’s Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formulation class), One Acre Fund has helped more than 22,000 African farm families lift themselves out of poverty and is on track to help 100,000 families over the next three years. That growth could not have been possible without the Kellogg network, which supplied Youn with human resources and hard dollars.
The seed money for the venture — which won the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2010 — was provided by individuals on the board of Kellogg’s Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice. Together, they contributed $200,000 to help launch the organization. Individual alumni have given another $500,000, representing about 10 percent of the donorship base.
When working with his fellow Kellogg alums, “‘likeability’ comes to mind immediately,” Youn says. “The great thing about working with Kellogg people is we share a unity of purpose and have fun pushing toward a goal together.”
That’s to be expected, Krueger says, given the mentality of those who are drawn to Kellogg.
“Kellogg attracts the type of person who believes, ‘Somebody else has helped me, so I’m going to make sure I help someone else,’” Krueger says. “People who come to Kellogg have that sense of social responsibility in the first place, and it’s nourished when they’re here. Then, when someone from Kellogg reaches out to us later on, we respond — not because we’re looking for something, but because we have shared a significant experience.”
That lesson is not lost on Kozoulina. Only two years after earning her Kellogg degree, she has already had the chance to pay forward the favors bestowed by a fellow alum. When Valentina Riazanova ’05 moved to Cape Town last year, she approached Kozoulina for advice.“I have helped her get job interviews, and we’re now friends,” Kozoulina says. “I think I’ll always be receptive to Kellogg alums who contact me. What goes around, comes around.”