I am privileged to work at LinkedIn where the mission of “connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful” and vision of “creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce” is inspiring and helps build leaders. We have six values that we use every day to guide us on business decisions that we make as an organization. While the world has changed tremendously since I left Whitman in 2000—computer clusters and floppy disks have given way to handheld devices and cloud based storage—two of the six values I believe were ingrained in me at Whitman and have remained with me until this day are that relationships matter and the importance of being open, honest and constructive.
For a project in the statistical analysis class I took my junior year, I worked closely with two other classmates on a predictive model for baseball statistics. We certainly didn’t create a new revolutionary baseball statistic that would lead to movies being written about us, but we did spend an inordinate amount of time listening and learning from each other. We spent many hours discussing and debating various statistical models and presentation techniques. I think back to that group fairly often as I captain a 10 person team at LinkedIn and I always find listening and learning from my team members allows me to deliver a better solution for my clients. Collaborative and team-based work is the new normal, and my Whitman experience helped me hone the skills needed to be effective as a team lead but also allowed me to constructively deliver and receive feedback in a way that benefits the person and organization as a whole.
Competition is so fierce in the media landscape nowadays that, to truly make an impact, it is vital to develop a strong relationship with your customers. If you aren’t spending a vast amount of time with your clients asking pertinent questions to uncover both their personal and professional needs, you are falling behind. Building these relationships takes a long time and has to be consistently re-enforced with data-backed results but, ultimately, it’s a massive differentiator to separate you from the competition.
At Whitman, I learned the key tenet of building a successful professional relationship is asking the right questions. To this day, my goal is to spend 80 percent of my meetings listening and understanding the goals of objectives of my customers.
Being a Whitman graduate has given me access to a vast array of interesting and successful professionals around the globe. Seeing the enhancements they have made to the school with the new building makes me extremely proud and unbelievably grateful. I’ve worked with many other Syracuse alumni at LinkedIn, and we have hosted current students on many occasions. Those are always special days for me.