The Twin Cities is a well-known hub of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies, many of which have a focus on international markets. UST alumni Drew Kniffin ’09 M.B.A., and Chris Rupp ’06 M.B.A., work for two of these companies, Cummins and Smiths Medical, respectively.
While part of the Full-time UST MBA, Kniffin and Rupp worked on four person teams, guiding fictitious companies through all the elements a real firm faces. They learned the skills to run effective teams in a variety of markets. The two men spoke with us about their time in the program and how it’s translated to the successes they’ve found working with international audiences.
Drew Kniffin is the manager of Project Finance at Cummins, where he develops new offices for natural gas powered generators in the western hemisphere. In the last couple years he’s worked on jobs in Brazil, western Canada, Mexico and the upper Midwest. He considers Cummins to be a “matrixed” organization.
“When I’m working with someone at Cummins, I don’t have authority over them,” said Kniffin. “I don’t have a stick, with which to enforce them to do X, Y or Z. I have to dangle carrots.
“They’re not thinking about me every day. I have to get on their radar, get their attention, get their time, and convince them they should spend half a day doing something they didn’t think they had to do.”
It’s a skill Kniffin said he’s trying to continuously improve, but that he has the foundation to do so.
“I learned to work in a business setting with persons from different cultures and dispositions through the M.B.A. program,” he said. “The education I received furthered my confidence and capabilities in working with people in different settings.”
Chris Rupp is the director of Global Airway at Smiths Medical, a Global 2000 company. He leads a team with marketing, strategy and product development in the company’s Global Airway Access and Respiratory Care disposables business. He credits his M.B.A. courses in changing his perspective when dealing with everyday problems.
Working locally or internationally, Rupp customizes each individual approach on his teams, as many people have different backgrounds and respond differently.
“You can’t manage or lead people in similar fashion,” he said. “You need to customize your approach to each individual the best you can. Make sure they’re in a position to be successful.
“One of the things I try to employ when I’m taking on a new assignment or working on a new team is listening first and helping establish an even playing field to discuss anything we’re trying to get done as a functional team. As a director in a leadership role, you’re really there to articulate the common objectives and empowering those very capable people to help us get to that end goal.”
An end goal that translates into any language.