ORIE Alums Return to Campus as Colloquium Speakers
Each week during the academic year, ORIE M.Eng. and other students take a break from technical studies and project work to hear from speakers about the world of engineering beyond academia. Alumni from a wide range of industries describe their work, often introducing students to areas of application beyond those that are covered in their studies. Many speakers are ORIE alumni.
The Engineering Enterprise Colloquium, usually hosted by John Callister in one semester and Kathryn Caggiano in the other, provides the forum. In the 2009-10 year, seven of the scheduled speakers were ORIE alums. Two others have close connections to ORIE. The subsequent careers of these graduates illustrate part of the range of activities in which ORIE alums become involved.
|Duane Stiller discusses a shopping center example.
Duane Stiller ORIE '84, a commercial real estate developer, spoke on the use of analytics in real estate. He described the way in which sites and shopping centers are generally evaluated for purchase and provided examples to show how an engineering approach improves the evaluation and the potential of the location, noting that most property development organizations do not yet employ an engineering approach. Stiller's company, Woolbright Development, sponsored an M.Eng. project that resulted in an article in the Cornell Real Estate Review. Woolbright has become one of the largest retail property holders in Florida.
|Howard Morgan describes Idealab
Howard Morgan, ORIE Ph.D. '68, discussed the work of venture capital companies such as Idealab, of which he is lead investor and a director, and First Round Capital, of which he is a partner. He noted that Idealab intends to create 100 companies with 100 employees by providing a methodology, centralized services and an environment that leads to creative ideas and their quick and adaptive implementation. Morgan noted that Idealab is directly committed in the success of its ventures, and drew a contrast between the Idealab approach and typical venture capitalism as exemplifying the difference between commitment and involvement. Through First Round Capital, Morgan is also engaged in more conventional venture capital. Morgan listed more than three dozen successful start-up companies that he has helped start through the two approaches. Morgan described himself as a "lapsed academic," having taught at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania after spending three years post-Ph.D. teaching in ORIE.
Like Morgan, Michael Kubin ORIE '71 (right) is involved with founding companies, but one company at a time, in management - he calls himself a 'serial entrepreneur.' His career focus has been on media and marketing, with recent involvement as CEO of Ionic Media, a company that concentrates on influencing consumer behavior, from the time that the consumer becomes aware of a product or service -- through the web, direct marketing or print or broadcast media -- to a purchase of the product or service and continued patronization as a customer.
Kubin passed along lessons he has learned through companies he has founded and led, including Club Med Inc., where he was president, Evaliant Media Resources, a company he co-founded that tracks web-based advertising and is now part of TNS Media Intelligence and Invidi Technologies, a startup that uses digitally delivered television to send different commercials to different boxes depending the characteristics of the household. Kubin, who has a Masters in Journalism as well as an MBA, also has written humorous articles for the New York Observer and the New Yorker magazine.
"While I certainly don't use -- or remember -- much of what I learned at Cornell," Kubin said after the colloquium, "I am grateful for an education that gave me the building blocks I use to figure stuff out. The Engineering school gave me the confidence that, almost no matter how challenging the problem, it can be analyzed and solved."
|Steve Follett discusses strategy and tactics for profitable growth of a privately held manufacturing company.
Steve Follett ORIE '78 heads an eponymous privately held family company, Follett, founded in 1948 in Easton, PA. He is a third generation CEO. The company, which builds ice-making machines for restaurant, supermarket, and health care applications, has recently opened an auxiliary plant in Poland. Follett discussed how various aspects of his business relate to topics covered in the ORIE curriculum, including use of "cutting stock" software to minimize sheet metal scrap, innovation in the supply chain, project portfolio management, use of the Balanced Score Card, and the "lean journey" that the company has embarked upon in a "relentless quest to work on everything we can to reduce waste and strengthen competitiveness." Commenting later, Follett said "I really enjoyed being back on campus in this capacity and hearing the students' perspectives through questions and discussion."
As a student, Kristin Stahl ORIE '92 managed the Formula SAE project and was a co-op with General Motors. Working for Procter & Gamble (P&G) since graduation, she has had a variety of assignments in the product supply area and is currently the leader of market logistics for P&G's North American cosmetics business, a job which entails "dock to customer" responsibility.
In her colloquium talk Stahl (left) described the way in which program management aids innovation at P&G, through the cooperation of teams from marketing, sales, R&D, market research and product supply units. Stahl pointed out that a product supply program manager is responsible for integrating the engineered equipment and process, the sourcing of material and packaging, logistics and planning, and production for new products. In her talk, Stahl showed how these responsibilities were carried out for a successful new P&G innovation called "Simply Ageless." Commenting later on her involvement in the colloquium, she said "It was very rewarding for me to have the opportunity to share a part of my professional world at Procter & Gamble with the academic world that I love. The students were fully engaged and asked great questions. They reminded me of how much I love the ORIE field of study."
|Kurt Holstein discusses digital marketing with students after his talk.
Kurt Holstein ORIE '82 co-founded and heads a fast growing digital marketing firm, Rosetta (which he hastens to point out is unconnected with a widely advertised language learning software company.) In 1998 Holstein's company had 12 employees. Rosetta now has 740, making it the largest privately held digital agency in the U.S. Holstein described his as an extremely complex "data driven business to which Operations Research applies." The company has tools to determine "what drives customers to come through specific pathways," based on analysis of terabytes of data. Holstein discussed the capability to determine, in real time, the value of an online (or cellphone) interaction to the individual user at a specific location, through which marketing can be "personalized." However he distinguished "tailoring" from "targetting," noting that "bad personalization is worse than no personalization at all."
While not an ORIE alum, colloquium speaker Alan Rosenthal ECE '59 has been a loyal supporter of ORIE, in particular by obtaining funding for the original launch of the financial engineering program, as a speaker at Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan (CFEM) events, and as a member of the CFEM Advisory Council. In his colloquium talk Rosenthal discussed the impact of the current difficult economy on an engineering career. He said that prior to retiring, he had worked for 15 different companies, including engineering design and management for "the twelve different electronics manufacturing firms I saw come and go" during 18 years. The last 24 years of his career were spent in three different financial services, which he noted is "not a natural area for engineers - it's very people-oriented and relationship-oriented." Nonetheless "all of what I did was impacted by my Cornell experience," he said. CFEM Director Victoria Averbukh said that Rosenthal "has been invaluable in providing career advice to our students, they listen, and they express gratitude for the opportunity when they return in later years."
Chris Mazzei ORIE '95 has been a popular speaker in past years but was unable to reach Ithaca for his scheduled February 2010 talk due to weather. He is Director, Americas Strategy for Ernst and Young, and planned to talk on "Using Analytics in Corporate Strategy: Helping the Organization Make Better Decisions." Prior to joining Ernst and Young, Mazzei was a manager in the supply chain services group of consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates. He hopes to be part of the 2010-11 speaker slate for the colloquium.
One other speaker, Dr. Sándor Kovács ENG '69, has an ORIE connection - his son Tamás received his BS from ORIE in 2009 and an M.Eng. in Engineering Management in 2010, following which he joined Express Scripts in St. Louis as a Senior Business Analyst. Dr. Kovacs holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics as well as an MD degree, and is a cardiologist and professor at Washington University, St. Louis. He discussed his work on modelling of heart function, through which he has been able to determine that the left ventricle not only pushes blood through the body but acts as a suction pump to draw blood in from the upper chamber and the lungs.