Jeff Barker, KSM '98
Director, Verizon Field Operations
"My Kellogg experience continues to add value to the way I do my job today. It has also paid huge dividends in the community."
Pursuing an MBA without putting his career on hold was unfinished business for Jeff Barker, who had interrupted his studies at another university years earlier. The Kellogg Executive MBA Program allowed him to fit his studies into a busy work schedule. It also opened his eyes to a new way of working — collaboratively — and has provided him with an alumni network he continues to rely on for advice and support.
When I started in the Kellogg Executive MBA Program in 1996, I was working for a company where collaboration and teamwork weren’t emphasized. So coming to Kellogg was a real breath of fresh air.
At Kellogg, I was assigned to a study group on day one and that was my team for the entire two-year program. I actually learned as much from my teammates, who came from different industries and backgrounds, as I did from my professors. When you work as a team to share ideas and solve problems, you acquire knowledge and build leadership skills naturally, organically.
You learn to value the unique skills and talents that each member contributes to the group. Our group project assignments were very challenging. In order to come out on top, we quickly learned to assign tasks that played to the strengths of each team member.
This approach is very common in the workplace today. In fact, many businesses set up cross-functional problem-solving teams that cut across divisions, subsidiary companies and even countries. In this increasingly collaborative environment, the Kellogg learning experience becomes even more valuable.
It also creates lifetime relationships. It’s been 15 years since my graduation from Kellogg. In that time, my relationship with the members of my study group has endured. In addition, my relationship with Kellogg has deepened through Boston alumni activity, work with Kellogg career specialists and fundraising.
On the job, my Kellogg Executive MBA experience has changed the way I think about marketing and industrial selling. Instead of thinking solely about what I want a particular outcome to be, I have learned the value of approaching problems from the customer’s point of view. Making “their agenda my agenda” can be tough. But at Kellogg, we lived on a steady diet of tough problems and learned that the key to solving them was working together! I wouldn’t think of tackling a problem now without first establishing a desired outcome that works for both the customer and the supplier, and that resonates with the members of my team.
My Kellogg experience continues to add value to the way I do my job today. It has also paid huge dividends in the community. I’m part of a strong Kellogg alumni group in Boston that provides networking, continuous learning and social opportunities. Since 2010, I have volunteered for Community Consulting Teams (CCT) Boston, an organization of MBAs whose members donate their time and talents to help Boston area nonprofits solve a wide range of business problems that they don’t have the staff, budget or expertise to solve on their own.
My first assignment was on an all-Kellogg alumni team that worked with an organization that helps homeless, at-risk teenagers finish high school and get jobs. Working collaboratively, we developed presentation materials aimed at retaining existing donors and attracting new donors based on the success of the program. An increase in predictable funding was key to their ability to expand services and increase the size of the served high school population.
In my current CCT assignment, my group is focused on increasing awareness of science, technology, engineering and math with local middle and older elementary school students, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that our youth are competitive globally in these critical fields. Once again, I’m on another all-Kellogg team — a different group of alumni — but we all have that collaborative spirit in common. That’s the Kellogg advantage.
View more Executive MBA Perspectives