Experiences Lead to a Better Educator

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

I spent about 12 years in the corporate world. I was “let go” from The Stroh Brewery in 1999 after helping sell most of its assets as a member of the “Strategic Transition Team”. I essentially helped turn out the lights. As a part of my severance, I was given “executive outplacement”. There I was coached in interviewing, cover letters, resumes, and networking. During this training, I learned that when asked, “What do you do”?, you should answer in terms of how you help others (either individuals or organizations). I was instructed that previous positions on my CV or future letters of introduction should be couched in terms of “helpfulness”.

I landed a job within three or four months at a reputable, publicly-traded, “below the line” marketing firm, Visual Services Inc. (VSI). We did everything in marketing except what you regularly think of, traditional advertising. I was hired to help General Motors conquest the competitors’ drivers through the implementation of a program called AutoShow In Motion - no small task, given the quality, or lack thereof, of GM’s product line at the time.

In the spring of 2001 the economy began to tank. After an eleven day, four city trip promoting VSI’s services, the Executive VP in charge of the GM account called me into his office and told me GM had cut our budget by $12 million. This time I was not asked to stick around to close off the lights; I was caught up in the second round of layoffs for VSI. Later, VSI would be removed from the NYSE never to be heard from again. I dabbled in some freelance work and a short stint at a boutique marketing firm only to find myself at a pivotal crossroads. 9/11/2001, the Twin Towers came down and I lost another job as the economy nose-dived.

Here I was, living in Grosse Pointe Michigan, jobless for the second time in two years and America is at war. To add to the drama, I had a mortgage, a two-year-old son and a longing I couldn’t ignore. As the event did for so many people, 9/11 caused me to reflect and reevaluate my purpose and pursuits; How I “helped” GM’s top line by conquering the competition was not how I wanted to start my CV. I began to earn my secondary teaching certificate at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.

While “the calling” had been in my heart and soul for a time dating much farther back, the most definite point I can put a finger on is at my first job after earning my MBA from Indiana University. The company with which I worked, Conrail, “strongly encouraged” new employees to work 20 hours of community service each month. I accepted an assignment through Junior Achievement to help a high school senior class start their own tee shirt business. After three or four visits, I knew I had found my true calling - helping young people develop their business acumen and actively apply it to their own ideas.

After this high school experience, my wife and I put in place a plan for me to continue in the corporate world until I was 40 and then become an educator. (9/11 hastened the journey by several years.) Spending more time in the corporate world was important for two reasons:

1. I needed to earn an income that would permit me to save money so I could continue a reasonable lifestyle after I left the boardroom for the classroom.

2. If someone is to teach the art and science of business, they ought to have practiced it successfully for some time; time enough to truly understand what it takes to be a real contributor and progress toward the top of an organization.

I have now been a business, marketing, and finance educator for three years more than I was in the corporate world. The paychecks are not as large but the “value” of the rewards are tremendous. I am a richer man for having made the move to education. My learners benefit more because of my experiences. #pfiscool

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