Fall 2021 Power Breakfast speakers Philip Jacobs, Mary Kipp, and Tony Rojas with Chip Hunter, Carson College dean.

Carson College Annual Events Offer Industry Insights to Business Students and Communities

By Sue McMurray

As an integral part of Washington’s research-oriented land-grant institution, the Carson College of Business creates value for business and academic communities by hosting the annual Power Breakfast, Business Technology Symposium, and Walton Lecture events, along with industry speakers throughout the year. In 2021 a mix of globally competitive business leaders and entrepreneurs shared their professional insights through Carson College panels and lectures.

Seattle Power Breakfast Discusses Influence of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Business Culture

Guests enjoying conversation at the 2021 Power Breakfast

Many business leaders experienced an awakening last year after events related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topped national headlines. To help the Pacific Northwest business community understand how these topics are reframing business culture, the Carson College of Business hosted the Seattle Power Breakfast featuring the perspectives of panelists Philip Jacobs, executive director of Washington Employees for Racial Equity; Mary Kipp, president and CEO of Puget Sound Energy; and Tony Rojas, president of Slalom.

Moderated by Chip Hunter, dean of the Carson College, the panelists spoke about their commitment to move business practices from words to action.

“Diversity of thought, race, culture, and background will be what moves the needle,” said Jacobs. “There needs to be a long-term commitment to embrace DEI throughout the company, and leaders need to make their vision very plain, establish trust, and get buy-in.”

Kipp said having a playbook based on intentionality is important—one that includes unconscious bias training, diverse panels, and empowers employee resource groups. “I want to leave a legacy by weaving DEI practices into the fabric of our company, with diverse people in leadership positions.”

Rojas spoke to Slalom’s mantra that focuses on making people feel valued and included, and its recruiting program that casts a wide net to hire the best candidate for the job. “Open opportunities for mentoring relationships to be created—it’s a critical tool,” he said. He also recommended “reverse mentorship” in which a younger team member can pass on new skills and ideas to someone more senior.

Business Technology Symposium Examines How Information Technology Creates Value in Business

Hannah Fisher

Alumni panelists Hannah Fisher and Ben Brewer discussed how advances in technology are creating value in the business world at the annual Business Technology Symposium. Specifically, they spoke to recent trends in automating information.

Fisher (’15 Mgmt. Info. Syst., ’16 MBA) offered insights from her role as a senior customer success program manager at MongoDB, a leading general purpose database platform. She said the vast migration to cloud computing is one of the fastest growing trends in information technology. “It’s quick and easy to use,” she said. “We’re now seeing big companies sprinting to the cloud to set up applications and get running quickly.” She said businesses are also looking at efficiencies for things that are content driven, such as slide decks and documents, as well as “database sharding,” a method for distributing a single dataset across multiple databases, thereby increasing storage capacity across a system.

Brewer (’03 Comm.), chief revenue officer at Nintex, a global process management and automation platform, said the speed at which information can now be accessed has changed the expectations of business owners and operators. “Being tech savvy is quickly becoming a requirement,” he said. “Leaders expect an immediate return on investment, and the pressure falls on front and middle line leaders within companies to keep up.”

Ben Brewer

He also said artificial intelligence (AI) has become the buzzword that automation was five or six years ago. Using data that’s been cleaned, AI creates a code that can do repetitive tasks. Companies are creating communities focusing on the value data creates for consumers, he said. “The consumer is the product,” he said, “and they are figuring this out. They don’t have to meet with a company rep or require any human engagement because of the automation AI enables.”

He said management information systems majors in particular should learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable when it comes to the rapidly pace of change in business operations.

Fisher added companies are rapidly adopting more automation into their products because people no longer want to talk by phone. She said a company’s reliability is critical and advised students that developing this skill is even more important when working in a remote environment.

Walton Lecturer Illustrates COVID-19 Impacts on Supply Chain and Risk Management

Nathan Mallory

Nathan Mallory, director of risk management and insurance – The Americas for Expeditors International, shared insights on how COVID has affected the global transportation industry and impacts to consumers in his Walton Lecture address. But even before COVID spread across the world in full force, the transportation industry was experiencing instability due to changes in global trade partnerships, he said.

One of the most impactful changes was a trade war with China that occurred when the Trump administration investigated the country for unfair trade practices relating to technology, intellectual property, and innovation. As a result of the investigation, the United States increased tariffs on certain commodities coming out of Asia and China, which raised their operations costs by nearly $50 billion. This, along with China’s retaliatory tariffs, greatly affected the $435 billion’s worth of goods normally imported to the United States, he said.

When COVID spread in 2020, ocean, air and truck transportation of freight temporarily stopped, causing a backlog of freight stored in warehouses and rail yards, he said. As airlines became grounded, managers lost 25 percent of their capacity to move freight by air. “The net result was skyrocketing shipping costs for cargo containers and longer shipping times. The typical 40-day transit time from Asia to the United States slowed to over 70 days,” he said.

“Things aren’t much better today,” Mallory said. “We are still having congestion in ports and the implications for risk range from potential catastrophic events, such as a fire or explosion from having property stored too closely, to the ships themselves losing containers in rough seas.”

At this point it’s impossible to predict if impacts to consumers and the market will continue for six months or two years, he said, though some companies, including Target, Amazon, and Walmart are chartering entire cargo planes or ships to get higher volumes of freight to the United States.