Episode 012: Kirsten Ahlen, Ahlen Consulting

In this last episode of 2020, we speak with DePaul Double Demon, Kirsten Ahlen. Kirsten is a musician turned consultant that specializes in strategic management for Associations.

Associations are a specific kind of nonprofit that usually represents a trade or professional group to communicate industry standards, avenues for continuing education, and policy considerations. Kirsten talks with us about the interesting industry landscape for Associations as well as the challenges of creating differentiated value. 

Associations have been forced to adopt technology solutions a much quicker pace as the industry begins to accept that our definition of normal from pre-COVID times is quickly becoming thing of the past.

Episode 011: Brian Raff, American Institute of Steel Construction

This month we speak with DePaul MBA Alumnus, Brian Raff. He is the Vice President of Market Development at the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The Steel Construction industry is at the heart of large scale and infrastructure level construction projects, with notable rivals like Concrete and Wood. Brian speaks with me about how Steel Construction works with representative firms and government organizations to advocate for legislation that achieves its intended purpose while still encouraging a level playing field.

Brian talks with us about the growing environmental awareness that has led to a more regulated steel construction industry. He describes how his industry is supportive of legislative goals, some misconceptions about steel, and about some areas of innovation.

It’s a great conversation, so we hope you’ll listen in!

Episode 010: Dan Ludovisi, Sargent & Lundy

In this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with DePaul MBA Alumnus, Dan Ludovisi. Dan is a Mechanical Engineering Manager and Consultant with Sargent & Lundy and teaches Energy Economics at DePaul University, which is the subject of today’s conversation: Energy!

The energy industry is a massive complex network of power production, distribution and delivery that cooperates across regional and national boundaries that supports both our present and future economy. Dan talks with me about the challenges faced by our society as we recognize the importance of moving toward to more sustainable energy sources while our overall demand steadily increases. 

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix, but there are some interesting disruptions on the horizon. Curious what they are? Well, listen in!

Talk on October 21, 2020: The Value of Nature to Our Economic Well-Being

On October 21, 2020, Ralph Chami presented a 1-hour presentation called “The Value of Nature to Our Economic Well-Being” followed by Q&A.

For the longest time, humans have assumed that they are separate from the natural world and that nature provides infinite commodities. These two assumptions helped fuel the industrial revolution, but at the same time, resulted in the abuse of nature and in the climate crisis. We need a new paradigm, a new way of thinking which recognizes that humans are part of the natural world and that nature is a finite input into our lives and livelihood. This realization—of the value of nature—allows us to develop a framework for natural resource valuation that also directly addresses the fundamental collective action problem in environmental protection.

Ralph highlights how their valuation framework uses the lessons of behavioral economics to create values that individual decision makers find credible and relatable, in addition to stimulating excitement or concern that is essential to prompting action around environmental issues. He then discusses how to apply this framework to value forest elephants in Africa and great whales that are found off the coasts of Brazil and Chile. The values they estimate for individual members of these species are significant: $1.75 million per forest elephant and an average of $2 million per whale.

He then discusses how their valuations lead to new designs for environmental preservation and restoration policies. Finally, he sketches how we can build a new economy that partners with the natural world to ensure a sustainable, inclusive and nature-friendly economic growth.

Get a preview of this talk with this 8-minute video.

Read the published paper here.

Presenter Biography

Ralph Chami is currently Assistant Director in the Institute for Capacity Development (ICD), International Monetary Fund, where he oversaw the development and implementation of the internal economics training program for all IMF economists as well as the revamping of the Institute’s external training program for officials from member countries. Most recently, he was Assistant Director and Division Chief in the Middle East and Central Asia Department where he oversaw surveillance and program work on fragile states: Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen, and was Mission Chief for Libya and Somalia. 

He is the recipient of the 2014 IMF Operational Excellence Award for his work on Libya. Previously, he was the Chief of the Regional Studies Division, where he oversaw regional surveillance of 32 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia regions, and the production of the Regional Economic Outlook. Prior to that, he was the Chief of the Middle Eastern Division of the IMF Institute where he oversaw capacity development in that region. He joined the IMF in 1999. From 1991 till 1999, he was on the faculty of Finance in the Department of Finance, University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He also served as a consultant to the World Bank, and to the private sector in the US.

Ralph Chami has a BS from the American University of Beirut, an MBA in Finance and Statistics from the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University. His areas of specialization are: banking regulation and supervision, financial markets, remittances, and climate. His hobbies include music and yoga. Ralph is a semi-professional guitarist for over 40 years

Episode 009: Maggie McHenry, Florence Crittenton Services

We are joined this month by Double Demon Alumnus, Maggie McHenry. Maggie is the Director of Development at Florence Crittenton Services, a nonprofit in Colorado that supports teen mothers and their children.

In this episode, Maggie talks with me about how she approaches strategy from a nonprofit perspective while leveraging the frameworks that, at first glance, might seem more suited to for-profits. While there are significant differences to explore between these two organizational models, the underlying purpose of strategy remains the same: Find a unique and sustainable way to create and capture value in a challenging industry and dynamic competitive landscape.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!

Episode 008: Sarah Wojtowicz, ITW

This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Strategic Sourcing Specialist, Sarah Wojtowicz. She is a DePaul Alumnus who earned her MBA in 2015 with concentrations in Operation Management and Business Strategy & Decision-Making.

Procurement roles can sometimes be thought of as simply a business function that looks for the lowest price, but Sarah tells me about how much care and strategy is involve in every negotiation, whether it be with new or existing relationships. Having a strong understanding of your industry, competition, the firm you’re negotiating with, and even the individual across the table can all affect the ultimate outcome of buyer/supplier relationship.

There was a delightful amount of nuance to learn. Keep listening to find out more.

Episode 007: Casey Hartman, FedEx Express

Casey Hartman has over 18 years of experience with FedEx and is currently the Operations Manager for FedEx Express. He is a Double Demon Alumnus with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Masters of Science in Economics & Policy Analysis.  

“Last mile” delivery is the most salient portion of the supply chain industry, but it is also the most complicated and costly part. In the past, the US has only really relied on UPS, USPS, and FedEx. However, the growth in scale and scope of Amazon, rapidly changing that landscape. So what’s it like to compete in this industry? How will it change in the coming years, especially with our increasing reliance on those firms during the pandemic?

It’s big topic that Casey offers some wonderful insight into.

Keep listening to find out more.

Episode 006: Erin Jordan Spanski, Walker Sands

Please note that this episode was recorded on May 20th, 2020. While we speak about how the pandemic has impacted the world, our conversation does not acknowledge the drastic and necessary increased awareness of sustained injustice, inequality, and inequity experienced by Black Americans. We stand by the message of solidarity from DePaul University’s Leadership.

Erin Jordan Spanski is Vice President and Partner at Walker Sands, a B2B marketing agency. She is a DePaul MBA Alumnus with concentrations in Business Strategy & Decision-Making and Marketing.

Marketing is already a challenging discipline because one must understand a plethora of complex interactions and motivations between the firm’s marketing mix and consumer. B2B marketing agencies have second and third orders of complexity. Not only do they have to be familiar with their market, but they also need to know their client’s market, and also know their client’s customer’s market!

This bodes question: how do you create value and a sustainable advantage in a value chain that might be complex and opaque?

It’s a big question to which Erin provides some wonderful insight. Listen to find out more.

Episode 005: Kristy Nitskoff, Vista Consulting Group

Kristy Nitskoff is the Director of Talent Consulting at Vista Consulting Group and is a DePaul Alumnus with concentrations in Business Strategy & Decision-Making, as well as Leadership & Change Management.

Filling open positions at any company can be quite stressful. There are important trade offs between filling the role quickly versus filling the role with the right person. Kristy talks with us about how she helps firms develop strategies to not only hire the right person, but do to so efficiently. We also talk about the changing landscape of being a Talent Consultant and where her market might be expanding beyond what she traditionally targeted.

Strategy Talk on June 4, 2020: Strategic Challenges Facing Small Businesses & Policy Implications

On June 4th, 2020, Patrick Delehanty presented his Strategy Talk “Strategic Challenges Facing Small Businesses & Policy Implications”.

Patrick is the Director of Economic Research for the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. He will speak with us about his experience in the policy world and how small business economic research can inform sound policymaking and address strategic concerns of small businesses across the U.S. His presentation lasted 45 minutes and was followed by a Q&A session.