Tauber alumnus Brian McDonnell (MBA '98) is the Marketing Director of Global Product Management for Dell Technologies. He has employed the multidimensional approach to business problems he learned from the Tauber program throughout his career.
What drew you to the University of Michigan?
It was the opportunity to augment my MBA with a concentration in Product Development through the Tauber Manufacturing Institute (previous name of the Tauber Institute for Global Operations). I wanted to leverage my background as an engineer but learn the business skills required to understand how companies function. There were very few MBA programs available for this type of study back in 1996.
When you think back on your time with the Tauber Program, what stands out?
The team project with Harley-Davidson stands out the most. I truly enjoyed working as part of a multi-functional team to solve real-life challenges that Harley-Davidson was facing. We were able to apply a combination of engineering and business tools to recommend improvements to their paint/chrome development process. And it was certainly cool to be around awesome motorcycles and work with proud employees as well.
What sticks with you as important lessons learned while at the Tauber Institute?
Most business problems are multi-dimensional so they need to be solved by considering all the functional perspectives; engineering, marketing, finance, supply chain, procurement, sales, etc. I am grateful that the Tauber program really helped me to think that way.
What recurring principles do you see showing up in your career?
Process improvement is needed everywhere. I have had the opportunity to work in multiple departments and on multiple product lines at Dell Technologies, and there was always an opportunity to review and improve some inefficient business processes. The challenge is taking the time to fix a process when you are busy with your “day job.” But the payoff is worth the extra work and will get you noticed by your leadership.
What advice would you give to current or future Tauber students?
Take as many opportunities as you can to learn from working on team projects. It is rare that you will be working by yourself in the “real world.” But if you can learn to build a cohesive team that harnesses diverse skills and backgrounds, you will be much better prepared for your first job out of school.