Despite Disruption, an E&W Student Builds His Network
It’s no doubt that last academic year has been year like no other! With this in mind, Inside Kellogg recently checked in with Norman Leonhardt (E&W 2022) on how he’s navigated the networking process this year and his recent attendance at a speed-networking event at Kellogg. Here’s what he had to say!
Tell us about your professional journey leading up to Kellogg. What are you most proud of?
I am originally from Germany and worked in international trade for several years before switching into the warehouse automation industry. As a director of business development, I am in charge of finding new clients and working with them on automating their distribution network.
It is a fun industry to be in and most people do not realize what a boom this industry is currently experiencing. With Amazon and other online retail warehouses shooting up like mushrooms all over the nation, the labor pool is completely dried up. This means that literally every company is looking for ways to automate its supply chain to some degree.
Of course, I am proud of every new client that my company can serve. However, some of my biggest accomplishments happened with clients that we could not help right away. As I am the one who learns about every client’s challenges, I became the eyes and ears of my employer.
Consequently, getting my colleagues in the design department to think about new technologies and getting them eventually realized is what I really find to be a success story.
You recently participated in a speed-networking event at Kellogg. What was it like? How did it help you and build your network?
It was great to be part of the first networking event at Wieboldt Hall since the Covid-19 pandemic started. My in-person networking experience at Kellogg until then had only consisted of one day, March 13, 2020. This was the first day of the two-day orientation for our spring cohort, the Purple Reigners. While we were all getting to know each other, the day ended by the announcement that we will not be coming back to the building until further notice.
A year later, I was able to participate in an in-person speed-networking event. Walking through the doors of Kafe Kellogg to meet with fellow students and to have food and drinks felt like we finally started where we left off 13 moths earlier. The only difference? I became a dad to a beautiful little girl in the meantime!
On that evening, I met and connected with quite a few new people and learned about their academic and professional backgrounds.
In addition, I was able to meet with people that I had seen countless times on my screen while classes were online, and have more of an opportunity to speak and learn more about these fellow students. Thus, in a way, the seed-networking was a way to get to really know people that I already knew.
COVID-19 has changed how we network, engage and grow. In addition to the speed-networking event, how have you maintained professional networks and networked in this predominantly virtual world?
The main goal for my MBA journey was always to build a strong network. When I found out the E&W Program offers the “Kellogg Table,” where students get to meet and connect over a free dinner before class, I was convinced networking is a big priority at this program.
But even when we had to stay at home, I tried to make the best of it and attended as many Zoom sessions as my agenda allowed. Ironically, I believe that I was able to attend more sessions this way than I would have been I person. Being able to go to a networking meeting during my lunch break or right after work definitely has its advantages. I am hoping there will still be such opportunities in the future.
Any networking tips you’d like to share?
My advice for any Kellogg student facing virtual networking: try out something new. Even if an event does not seem to be the perfect fit, you will always get to meet new people and might even make long-lasting connections.