The Office of Alumni Relations is proud of the successes of Smith School alumni throughout the world!
From entrepreneurship to marketing, accounting to logistics, and operations to consulting, Smith School alumni pursue careers in every field imaginable. Take a moment to read these interesting stories about your fellow Smith Terps!
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Alumni Spotlight: Smith Alumna Builds Relationships from Sea to Sea
Katie Praske Brandt ’01, now works as a senior advisor at ARG. The Virginia-based IT consulting and brokerage firm helps over 3,000 companies and non-profits make the best technology decisions for their business. The company was founded in 1991 by her father Gregory Praske ’77, who is also a Smith graduate. Prior to joining her father’s company, Katie spent nearly 15 years at Maersk leading a variety of corporate projects and customer supply chains. Every transaction is international when you work at Maersk, the world’s largest container ship operator. “Supply chain management gives you a really literal illustration of global business. Each shipment touches at least two countries. You can’t do anything in isolation.”
Her education at Smith allowed her to work on projects with students from diverse backgrounds and cultures, which prepared her for Maersk, a truly international organization where most people work in their second language. The job required Katie to function as a type of translator. She took corporate directives from Maersk HQ in Copenhagen and explained them to front-line workers at ports around the world. She also carried information back the other direction. “I spoke fewer languages than most people at Maersk, but I did the most translating,” says Katie. “I helped people in different departments and at different levels understand each other.”
Cultural and language barriers added complexity. But Katie built relationships of trust by focusing on communication, empathy and mutual respect. She says that’s what it means to have a global mindset. “People all have the same basic needs, but they’re under different pressures and have access to different types of information. You have to pause and see impacts from different perspectives.” In that way Katie still functions as a translator, bringing people together and building understanding. Relationship building gives Katie confidence to talk to people from any background or industry. Many people want what’s comfortable, but Katie says her global mindset pushes her to new frontiers. “You can’t be in a position that’s truly international and has global impact if you’re not willing to work outside your familiar surroundings.”
Having held multiple positions at Maersk across five different locations for a span of 15 years, Katie became versed in a wide range of job functions and expanded the breadth and depth of her talents among several departments. She gained invaluable skills that equipped her with the experience which now helps her in the role of a strategic growth advisor at ARG.
Katie was part of the QUEST program while she was at Smith, where she consulted for government entities and companies, which gave her practical business, project management, and teamwork experience. With the benefit of perspective, that exposure propelled her to reach for the variety of opportunities that were available to her, and not limit herself. This summer, Katie will return to Smith to teach a supply chain management course for the online MBA program.
John Jacobs '81: Think big; don't be afraid to be bold.
John Jacobs '81, former Executive Vice President at Nasdaq, now retired, is involved in a number of projects including academia, consulting, and board work. With over 30 years of his professional life dedicated to Nasdaq, John created and launched "QQQ," one of the first Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), among the most successful and widely traded financial products to ever hit the market. A visionary leader, he was instrumental in growing the once 80-person company to a globally recognized brand. Retired but not slowing down, he shares his expertise through teaching, upholds a rigorous fitness routine, and most importantly, spends quality time with his family. Having been at the helm of Nasdaq's index business and as one of the most influential trailblazers in the financial world, John's humility, passion, and authenticity is truly inspirational.
At the very beginning of John's three decade long Nasdaq journey, he served as a qualifications analyst, reviewing the financial statements of public companies. As a graduate of the University of Maryland's accounting program, John had a solid education foundation. His accounting classes prepared him to be technically proficient, his marketing classes taught him to think about problems differently, and his finance classes tied it altogether and helped him understand the flow of business. John knew his way around financial statements, and was thoroughly prepared for the job. John remarks, "if you graduated from Maryland's business school, you could compete with anyone, but you had to be proactive to earn success."
There are numerous opportunities and career growth when moving both horizontally and vertically in a company. There were times in John's career where he had to make a decision about whether to make a lateral move, or climb the next rung on the corporate ladder. In most cases, taking the lateral job allowed him to be fluent in a variety of disciplines and opened doors to new possibilities. John explains, an upward trajectory and horizontal growth are not mutually exclusive and can complement each other very well. Early on, he learned to focus on the job and not the money, "it's about the opportunity itself, if you keep looking at it that way, you will acquire invaluable skills and expand your horizon. Money will take care of itself over time."
A mentor to many, John attributes his career success in part with having mentors along the way to help navigate his journey. He emphasized the importance of seeking out the opinions of others, and asking for constructive feedback to highlight problems and create a plan to improve or resolve it. It's okay to mistakes as long as you figure out what went wrong, and vow to do better next time. One of the biggest takeaways from John's career was that he learned not to reinvent the wheel. You are faced with a multitude of problems during your career, and while the problem may be different, the nature of the challenge is the same. Ask people for advice; it will provide perspective and an idea of how to approach and solve the problem. John also encourages leveraging Smith's alumni network to reach out to people for connections, and by the same token, pay it forward. Always look for ways to add value - it goes a long way.
In the workplace, we are trained to be analytical and to problem-solve. This is an extremely valuable skill to have, but the flip side is that possibilities are confined to carefully calculated outcomes. "The best ideas are the ones where you don't limit yourself to why you can't do it." Your path will continue to pivot, but as long as you stay the course, and remain flexible yet steadfast, you won't end up too far from your goal. For John, being a fearless Terp means you need to have an idea of where you want to be and find a way to get there. Know that there will be some sort of disruption, but keep at it because perseverance pays off. Be prepared for opportunities to surface at the most unusual times so that you turn them into successful outcomes.
Sagar Doshi '15: A Fearless Entrepreneur Hard at Work
With a strong interest in social impact, Sagar Doshi '15, a Smith finance major, created his own major with the IVSP department, Social Innovation and Philanthropic Management. Sagar began his journey in social impact as part of Social Innovation Fellows, a year-long program that explores social and environmental change through business, created and sponsored by the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC). In his sophomore year, Sagar took this interest to new heights. He traveled to Honduras with ambitions of ending extreme poverty and violence by building a school in an at-risk community. Together, Sagar Doshi and Anderson Sloan '15, also a Smith Terp and currently at IBM, continued this effort through entering the Do Good Challenge in 2014, where they won the first place award and secured $8,500 to put towards funding an entire school.
Now a Strategy and Operations Consultant at Deloitte, Sagar channels his passion for social impact into his job, spearheading education and sustainability projects at Deloitte. Outside of their daily jobs, Sagar and Anderson launched a new non-profit initiative in March 2017, One Thousand Schools. This organization, in partnership with Students Helping Honduras, brings young professionals together on a one-week service project to Honduras to build a school for a community in need. On their first pilot trip back in July 2017, thirteen young professionals traded in their cell phones and laptops for shovels and gloves, rolled their sleeves up, and got to work. They got their hands dirty with moving cinder blocks, making cement, and flatting out the classroom floor of dirt every day at the work site.
After returning from their trip, they worked tirelessly to fundraise for the school they started building, Escuela Marina Yolanda Melendez, and recently reached their goal of $25,000, which will fund the completion of construction. School is scheduled to start in late January 2018, and will house both day and evening classes in three classrooms for 135 kids. Sagar is looking forward to visiting the school when they go back for their second service trip in February 2018. Knowing that he's part of a greater undertaking to provide access to quality education, however much, propels his commitment of making a meaningful difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
What's so remarkable is that there were people from different walks of life and professions that went on this trip. Not having hot water for a week, consultants, teachers, and lab workers alike, labored day in day out. Sagar made a thought provoking comment about this project, that he hopes to avoid the stigma of #SaveTheWorld, but rather, going forward with the intention of learning about a world problem and doing the best you can to help towards a solution.
For Sagar, being a fearless Terp means taking on difficult endeavors with determination, but also learning from the drawbacks. When you have an idea, be receptive to feedback because there's always more to learn and gaps to fill. Sagar talks about how his education from Smith gave him the experience and skills sets to create a business plan, think through strategy, and plan out tangible steps that he needs to accomplish his goals. The courses that he took has enabled him to make better decisions and given him a different perspective that has been critical to the success of his ventures. And he's been 'paying it back.' Sagar has been a champion for the Deloitte mentor-partnership between Deloitte and CSVC's Change the World Program, and has even returned to UMD as a featured guest judge of the Do Good Challenge. Sagar is on a quest to do more and in search of social impact and sustainability projects that he is passionate about.
He hopes to inspire more people with shared passions to join him in building One Thousand Schools! The next service trip is February 17-24, 2018, and there are still spots available - click here to learn more and sign up. You can also reach out to Sagar directly via email.
Steve Washington, EMBA '16: Believe in What You Have to Offer
A double Terp, Steve Washington earned his bachelor's in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, and went on to pursue his master's in electrical engineering at Howard University before returning to UMD for his Executive MBA degree. With a knack for solving problems and keen analytical skills, Steve took a strong interest in software development, and became a civilian contractor for the DoD, supporting national defense agencies. Continuously learning and always seeking new challenges, he dove into the commercial sector after six years of working in the defense sector, where he gained hands-on experience in internet protocols, networking and web development.
In 1999, Steve started an electrical contracting company, building smart homes systems and solutions to be internet and wireless ready, it was the early phases of installing technology for the home. Business quickly took off and he secured several large contracts with home builders and local government contracts such as structured wiring for a prison in Maryland. Fast forward five years, the company had achieved considerable success, but Steve didn't stop there. He jumped at the opportunity when a friend from his DoD contracting days reached out to him about starting a company together, leveraging predictive analytics to improve business decisions and operations for businesses. Together, they started a predictive analytics firm, and scored contracts with big names such as Intel, Sysco, Kraft and Heinz.
As the company steadily grew, Steve wanted a solid business foundation to help him make better decisions to take the company to the next level, and that's what led him to the EMBA program at Smith in 2015. He returned to the classroom to fortify his skills, exchange insights with his peers, and was inspired by new ideas that he took back to his company. He learned a lot about himself through feedback from classmates, self-assessment tests, and introspection. He realized there is no set formula for success and that there is more than one way to reach your goal, understanding this gave him confidence. Part of being successful comes from good decision making, but also not second guessing yourself. When you doubt yourself, it holds you back. Steve explained that you are always making the best decision you can with the information you have at that particular time.
When asked about fearless ideas, Steve stressed the importance of being bold in the face of uncertainty. Even in the smallest of victories, it instills a sense of confidence, and small wins amount to big accomplishments over time. He also talked about how he has overcome his obstacles by trying new things that are outside his comfort zone, and even from a negative trial, you learn something. Having that perspective will give you that extra boost of confidence to go for it. Believe that you have what it takes, don't be afraid to hypothesize, test, and learn from mistakes. To keep up in this fast paced world and what sometimes feels like swimming against the current, adaptability and staying agile is key.
While his ventures keep him extremely busy, Steve is committed to giving back to his community in Baltimore, where home is. With STEM programs and technology jobs on the rise, he shares his expertise and knowledge by volunteering his time to tutor his community in software applications. He hopes to help build skillsets that will open doors to a wider array of opportunities, and show more people that with the right training and tools, software development jobs are accessible.
Arhaan Saksena, MS '15: Go Off The Beaten Path
What separates the top performers from everyone else? According to Smith graduate and Googler, Arhaan Saksena, MS '15, it's a focus on the big picture. "Always ask yourself, what is the larger problem that you're trying to solve?" It's crucial to define the overarching goal first, and work smartly to resolve the issue. Otherwise, you will end up spending time and resources on tasks that may not be aligned with the actual problem. It's about asking the right questions to tackle the right problems.
Prior to attending Smith, Arhaan obtained his bachelor's in computer engineering and worked for the multinational financial corporation American Express, and one of the "Big Four" accounting firms, Ernst and Young. With a few years of technical expertise under his belt, he recognized it was important to understand the impact of organizational decisions through business lens, which led him to Smith. During his time at Smith, he found his niche and leveraged opportunities that enabled him to build the skills necessary to be an expert in technical product sales. Arhaan was very involved with the efforts of building the Smith community through organizing social and networking events. Additionally, he collaborated with industry leaders to bring professional development workshops to Smith graduate students.
Arhaan's strong technical background, coupled with Smith's Masters of Information Systems program, provided a well-rounded education that helped hone his business acumen. This laid the foundation for Arhaan's career. He has always gravitated towards the business side of things, and the formal education allowed him to apply his knowledge and technical skills in a non-technical role. Arhaan stressed the importance of going off the beaten path and finding ways to set yourself apart. Ask yourself the question: What makes your brand different?
In addition to its global-perspective, Arhaan believes what makes Smith unique is a culture that is never satisfied with the status quo. To him, fearless ideas means the willingness to take risks and not being afraid to fail. Upon graduation, Arhaan was faced with the decision of taking a secure job from a big global firm in New York or pursuing an opportunity at a unicorn in its early stages in Silicon Valley. He took a leap of faith, packed up and moved to the west coast to work at Apttus, where he took on a lot of responsibilities and grew immensely in a short period time of time, which ultimately paved the way for landing his job at Google. Today, as a sales engineer, he helps enterprise customers transform their businesses and enable innovation through Cloud Computing. Forbes estimates the Global Cloud spending to reach $390B by 2020, Arhaan is fearless in the face of this opportunity and all the challenges it presents.
Katie Breen '12: From Cube Farm to MTV2
Katie Breen remembers advising her classmates to "do things that are scary" as the commencement speaker for the Smith School of Business in May 2012 when she earned her degree in marketing. Doing the "scary" thing is exactly what she did to land her in her current position as Marketing Manager at a start-up called Shinesty, a company that sells outrageous, fun and wild clothing.
After deciding she didn't belong in the cube farm world of corporate agencies, Katie was hired as the eighth employee at Shinesty in 2015, just six months after the company's creation. In her time with Shinesty, Katie's position has been ever-evolving, and she's been involved with everything from search engine programming to marketing project management to running the internship program. "I've had to figure things out myself and establish processes from the bottom up because the rules were totally unwritten," she says.
While at Smith, Katie's digital marketing classes laid the groundwork for her career, and taking classes in operations, finance and accounting provided her with a comprehensive perspective of businesses and the intricacies and inner workings of a company's operation. With this foundation, she took the risk to jump into the startup world, and she couldn't imagine herself anywhere else.
Katie has helped Shinesty grow tremendously, and the company has now more than tripled in size at 30 employees. Just recently, she and nine of her colleagues, were filmed for six weeks by MTV2 on working as a millennial entrepreneur. When asked what advice she would offer current Smith students, Katie says, "Follow your career interests, but follow them in a way that will lead you to the work environment where you will be most happy, even if they aren't typical or traditional. Sure there may be higher risks at startups, and you'll need to be hungrier for those opportunities, but for me, there's a much higher reward."
Stan Hankin, B.S. Educ. '62, MBA '66: His Fearless Idea of Video Technology
Stan Hankin, '62, MBA '66 is a fearless leader. He began his career at the US Department of Labor while pursuing his MBA at the Smith School. After graduating in 1966, he continued his career where he developed training programs for workers in the State Employment Security system. In this position, Stan had a fearless idea that transformed the Department's communication strategy: video technology. At the time, video recording was largely unknown within the government. Stan's imagination and foresight helped the Department on a new path, and at the same time, defined for himself a role that no one else did.
Through his leadership and vision, the Department utilized cutting-edge technology to produce PSAs and documentaries, develop nationwide training programs, and connect satellite workers with in-person meetings and events. Stan quickly became known as a forward-thinking leader within the Department.
In the 1980s, Stan successfully lobbied for the Department of Labor to get its own television studio, which led to programs that earned him awards and international recognition. Due to his reputation, he was invited to Amsterdam to teach its Labor Department employees how to produce video programming. This led to his breakout opportunity in 1981, when Stan documented the Conference of Liberators, a gathering of the men and women who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps. The movie To Bear Witness, based on that conference, earned Stan critical acclaim and an Emmy in 1983.
Stan's more recent work includes emergency PSAs for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the documentary Up From Zero, a story that follows the heroic workers in New York City who reclaimed and recovered the World Trade Center site. Up From Zero won numerous awards including the CINE Golden Eagle Award. He also became the department's principal media and public speaker trainer, conducting numerous seminars for both career and appointed officials, both in Washington and across the country. Stan retired in 2015 after 53 years of service in the Department of Labor.
When asked about his advice for other Smith alumni or current students, he chuckled and said "As is true in many cases, a career happens by accident."
Richard Blackman, MBA '84: Follow Your Passion and Find Success
"Get out there and don't be afraid to fail." That's what fearless ideas means to Richard Blackman, MBA '84, a 22-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and experienced entrepreneur.
Richard, a double Terp, received his bachelor's degree in psychology, and a few years later, his master's in business administration.
It was through his education at the Smith School that Richard gained the confidence do anything, and made him an indispensable civil servant at the EPA. There, he led a seven-person team that oversaw the entire agency's budget, developed reports for the US Office of Management and Budget, and fielded congressional inquiries related to spending.
He became the resident expert on all budgetary issues, and after numerous hours of answering internal questions about the process, he identified opportunities to innovate and improve office operations. Richard developed a creative and engaging training on the budgetary process, and quickly realized he loved it. He became so good at it, the agency made it part of his job description.
Earlier this year, Richard retired from the EPA. Now in his second act, he took his passion for training and joined the Smith School's executive communication team where he helps MBAs prepare for their next careers. His goal is to help pass on a legacy that allows student to "find something they love to do and succeed."
Sherri Locke, MBA '82: I Did It My Way
If the Smith School had a master's program for selling, Sherri Locke, MBA '82 could be a professor. After completing her undergraduate degree in French Literature at New York University and spending time in Europe, she enrolled at the Smith School because she was looking for something different in life.
In her last semester at Smith, she was asked to intern at IBM in a sales position. Sherri had no prior sales experience, and it was not what she expected.
She quickly learned sales was a sophisticated art form, and her training at Smith was key to success. She feels Smith taught her the fundamentals, like clear, concise business writing and decision analytics, that enabled her to meet client needs.
Fearless ideas are critical in business, although Sherri pointed out that organizations are often slow to adopt creative solutions. In her most recent position at Kaiser Permanente, she found a warm embrace for innovative ideas. There, she started a dog therapy program to help patients in recovery programs at over 20 medical center locations. Sherri's therapy dogs have helped patients in the infusion, internal medicine, and adolescent behavioral health departments. Although she has recently retired from her day job at Kaiser, she continues to work with the dog therapy program. The work has been extremely rewarding, and Sherri is now looking to expand her program to all Kaiser Permanente locations in the DC region.
Michael Dobslaw '01: History Meets Augmented Reality
The pursuit of fearless ideas is what makes Smith School graduates unique. It is the defining characteristic of our culture, and that fearlessness makes it easy to spot a Terp beyond the walls of Van Munching Hall.
One of our fearless graduates, Michael Dobslaw '01, a senior manager at Ernst and Young, who, in his free time, is pursuing his passion for history and augmented reality through the development of his mobile application, reVistor.
Michael grew up not far from the University of Maryland, and from an early age, developed an interest in US history. He would often visit historical battlefields, such as Malvern Hill in Virginia, and wonder what it would be like to be in the middle of the action.
While an Honor's student at the University of Maryland, Michael obtained many of the skills necessary for him to be successful in his career and allowed him to follow his passion. He leveraged his project management experience and training to develop reVistor, an application that recreates historical events using augmented reality. For example, one of the sites currently live is a reenactment of first flight, which can be accessed on reVistor when in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina at the Wright Brothers Memorial.
At this time, reVistor supports only a few sites in the United States. However, with Michael's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, the application has scaled at an exponential rate.
Michael's goal is straightforward. He wants to make history before he can teach it. He is well on his way toward achieving this goal!
LaKisha Greenwade, MBA '11: New-Age Techie with Flare
LaKisha Greenwade, MBA '11 known by her clients, followers, and peers as Coach L, is the founder and chief executive officer of Lucki-Fit, a platform that empowers individuals to look and feel their best in all aspects of life to become lucky in life and business.
A 2011 graduate of the University of Maryland's part-time MBA program, LaKisha's pursuit of her fearless ideas have been the driving force behind her success. While balancing a full-time career working as a human relations consultant to the federal government, the rigor of a part-time MBA program, and other extracurricular activities, she recognized her role as a social influencer and passion for leveraging technology for personal development. This revelation led her to start her first business.
Launched in early 2016, Lucki-Fit provides a variety of services and events for leaders and entrepreneurs. Two of Lucki-Fit's flagship events are The GLAM Retreat – an exclusive retreat for leaders and influencers to practice self-care, development, and networking – and GLAM Tech – a platform for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and design fashionable, wearable tech.
LaKisha adamantly believes in the power of one's personal brand. If ever given the opportunity to teach a course at the University of Maryland's Smith School, she would focus on the importance of developing and managing a personal brand and best practices for networking.
She's an innovator, entrepreneur, social innovator, and most of all, fearless. Her message to students and Smith alumni is simple: take advantage of the endless opportunities on campus and don't be afraid to chase your passion.
LaKisha was recently inducted into the prestigious Forbes Coaching Council and will be speaking at the 2017 SXSW Festival.