This week’s alumnus, Craig Perkins ’16 MBA, is featured in the Spring 2017 Whitman magazine in our “Five Under Five” spotlight. This column shares a Q&A with a Whitman alum who graduated from the school within the last five years.
Perkins, a native of Cazenovia, New York (30-minute drive from campus), earned an MBA from Whitman in through the MBA@Syracuse program. His undergraduate degree in political science came from Colgate University, where he was a member of the football team. Today, Perkins and his wife, Sabrina, and their children, Mikayla, 5, and Derek, 3, live in Aurora, Ohio, where he works for McMaster-Carr Supply Company as the safety and human resources manager.
While there are compliance and rules-based aspects of his position, Perkins feels he has the most impact when partnering with operational management to develop strategies for minimizing the physical impact of job-related tasks on the individual. Body mechanics and ergonomics are significant considerations, as are overall culture, motivation and mindset of the company’s workforce, and Perkins is uniquely positioned to influence all of these components.
Please get to know Craig Perkins a bit through our “Five Under Five” Q&A:
1. What made you decide to pursue a graduate degree? And why Whitman/SU’s online program?
My career has progressed differently than I expected. It’s evolved from dealmaker/negotiator to operational management and now somewhat to a niche in human resources and safety. Pursuing an MBA allowed me to link all of those experiences into a package of skills. In particular, I have come to appreciate the value that safety can add to a business and want to use my MBA experience to help align the goals of safety with the values of my company.
The Whitman program exudes flexibility, quality and unity. The approach to residencies, class schedule and class structure all conformed to my work-life demands. Having professors with applicable work experience and course content developed and supported by tenured faculty is important. The unity of the Syracuse family and alumni is a tremendous asset. Despite much of the learning being done online, the program links students to campus and provides enriching experiences during residencies.
While I certainly found the program challenging, I also felt it was manageable, even with my personal and professional responsibilities. I committed to minimizing the impact of the program on my family. I did work in the mornings before everyone was awake, while the kids napped, on lunch breaks and after everyone was asleep. It took real discipline, and I couldn’t have accomplished this without my wife’s support.
2. Was there a particularly beneficial class or experience that comes to mind?
Luz Lee’s Leadership in Organizations class sparked a passion that I had never before felt in an educational environment. It helped me identify various leadership theories and approaches and armed me with knowledge that immediately improved my effectiveness at work. I also attended a weeklong residency with Professor Cardarelli (how often do you get to spend a week with an accomplished professor and successful turnaround CEO?) and had the good fortune of partnering with him and Luz Lee in an independent study on intrinsic motivation. I was able to develop my own framework, which I’ve implemented in training at my company.
3. How do you unwind/de-stress?
For anyone who knows me, the answer would be obvious—anything athletic or fitness related. I love experimenting with various fitness methods and setting new challenges for myself. I ran my first half-marathon last year and may compete in CrossFit this year. I also love to de-stress by spending time with my kids. It gives me a feeling of purpose, and their innocence is refreshing and motivating.
4. Where would you like to be professionally in five years?
When I say that safety is a distinction—when done properly—that can create tremendous value for a company, I mean it. I hope to be in a position of growing influence within a company (hopefully my current employer) that utilizes the discipline of safety as a value driver. I plan to blend my work experience with my education to make that value proposition clear.
5. Do you have advice for Whitman seniors or young alums just starting their careers?
There are many different definitions of success. Many of us are raised to believe money or status defines success. We all need to support ourselves and/or our families, so there is a baseline of need. However, there are a lot more definitions and attributes that make a person successful. For instance, using your professional and educational experience to establish a stable career which allows you to coach your kids or dedicate time to a social purpose is another way to define success. As you evolve as a person and gather more experience, try to define success for yourself. Don’t let others define it for you.