COB Alumni named Portland Business Journal 40 Under 40

Today two College of Business alumni were officially recognized as up-and-coming business leaders at the Portland Business Journal‘s 40 Under 40 celebreation.

Lori Chamberlain, COO and senior VP for the Oregon Bankers Association, and Ryan Smith, CFO of Nike Golf, represented the Oregon State University COB at the awards luncheon in Portland. We congratulate both of them on their great careers so far and are excited to see where they go next.

To get to know a little more about Lori and Ryan, check out the videos the Portland Business Journal Produced to highlight each honoree.

2013 Weatherford Awards: Dr. Albert Starr

To celebrate the 2013 Weatherford Awards, this week we’re profiling each of the honorees here at the College of Business blog. Today is Dr. Albert Starr. For more information about the awards and links to other honoree profiles as they’re posted, check out our introduction to the series.

Dr. Albert Starr, courtesy OHSU
Dr. Albert Starr, courtesy OHSU

While all innovators have pressure to succeed, few work with the possibility of actually saving a life with their inventions.

Those were the stakes for Dr. Albert Starr just more than 50 years ago as he and co-creator Miles Lowell Edwards developed the first artificial heart valve.

On September 21, 1960, Dr. Starr and his surgical team successfully implanted the first heart valve. Since the valve’s first use, heart valve replacement surgery has saved millions of lives, giving hope to those with heart disease.

“Up until that point those patients were doomed to progressively worse heart failure, medication and spiral toward death,” heart surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Swanson told the Portland Business Journal in 2000.

Today, life-saving heart valve replacement surgery is performed 300,000 times each year around the globe, with more than 90,000 of those operations taking place in the U.S.

“Valve replacement turned the corner of cardiac surgery enormously,” Dr. Starr said. “It was the first implantable life sustaining cardiac device. And before that we were nibbling around the outside of the heart but nothing was put inside. This was the first life sustaining device.”

Dr. Starr came to Oregon in 1958 after graduating from Columbia College (now Columbia Univeristy) in New York. Soon after Dr. Starr was approached by Edwards, a retiring mechanical engineer, about the possibility of creating an artificial heart.

Dr. Starr, seeing an entire heart as too much for their first attempt, suggested the smaller but still never-accomplished task of an artificial heart valve.

Just two years later, after an exhaustive testing and selection course, Dr. Starr performed the first of thousands of valve implantation surgeries.

“I’ve done 8,000-9,000 heart surgeries during my career,” Dr. Starr said. “Actually, at one time I had callouses on my fingers from handling instruments all of the time.”

That drive has kept Dr. Starr a pioneer in the field. In 2007 he was named a winner of the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.

Even today, 50 years after his initial breakthrough, Dr. Starr continues to push for innovations in treatment.

Recently he took on a new role at OHSU. A historic $125 million gift from Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny established the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute and Dr. Starr and Dr. Sanijiv Kaul were chosen to lead the Institute that will bring clinicians and researchers together to take lab discoveries and turn them into new treatments for heart disease.

2013 Weatherford Awards: Don Robert

To celebrate the 2013 Weatherford Awards, this week we’re profiling each of the honorees here at the College of Business blog. Today is Experian LLC CEO Don Robert. For more information about the awards and links to other honoree profiles as they’re posted, check out our introduction to the series.

Experian, LLC, CEO Don Robert
Experian, LLC, CEO Don Robert

Looking only at Don Robert’s title, one may not immediately think of entrepreneurship.

But as CEO of Experian, LLC, the world’s largest credit services company, Robert must constantly be on the lookout for the next great idea and foster an environment that encourages and rewards innovation.

“I really think that defines entrepreneurship, constantly having to make left-hand turns and constantly having to reinvent the plan as you go along,” Robert said.

A native Oregonian, Robert grew up in North Portland and attended Oregon State, where he earned a degree in business administration.

“I got a great business education at Oregon State and it stood me in good stead when I graduated and entered banking,” Robert said. “I had fantastic professors. Two or three who were particularly noteworthy, and I still think about and I still have their books on my bookshelf at home.”

Robert was also introduced to the idea of leadership at Oregon State thanks to his roommate, then-ASOSU President Jeff Strickler.

Strickler made sure Robert was involved and active, encouraging him to join the Memorial Union Program Council and other student activities.

“Jeff dragged me into a lot of activities on the periphery of student activities and student government and it was in those activities I became more comfortable with the idea of leadership,” Robert said.

From Oregon State Robert went straight into the business world, excelling at every step.

Starting at US Bancorp and then First American, Robert advanced to become a Group Executive.

In 2001 he joined Experian as Chief Operating Officer in North America, before becoming North American CEO and eventually Group CEO.

At each stop he worked hard to expand his skillset. Robert learned how to be an effective communicator, a strong leader and a pragmatic executive.

At Experian, Robert said one of his major goals as CEO is creating an environment that makes it possible to develop and support the ideas that become new Experian products.

“Institutional innovation and a big part of my job is to create a platform where we allow the best ideas to come forward, to be developed, to be bankrolled and put into the marketplace at a very rapid pace, because one of the primary growth vehicles we have in the company is bringing new products into the marketplace,” he said.

Robert said a major entrepreneurial challenge for Experian has been moving into new markets, such as India and Columbia. Both areas required new solutions and quick thinking to make the endeavors successful.

“We’ve had to create new products, throw away our original business plans,” Robert said. “We’ve had to raise financing locally. We’ve had to do things we didn’t anticipate.”

Robert’s advice for current students is to find something they’re passionate about, work harder than anyone else to get it, but not to be afraid to fail along the way.

“You never learn and you never grow when everything is going great,” he said. “It’s only during the tough times that you get stretched and that you develop as a person.”

2013 Weatherford Awards: Barbara Roberts

To celebrate the 2013 Weatherford Awards, this week we’re profiling each of the honorees here at the College of Business blog. Today is former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts. For more information about the awards and links to other honoree profiles as they’re posted, check out our introduction to the series.


Former Gov. Barbara Roberts.
Former Gov. Barbara Roberts. Photo: Edmund Keene Photography

Barbara Roberts has never let convention get in the way of doing what she knew to be right.

As a young mother of an autistic son, Roberts began advocating for special needs children.

In 1984 she became Oregon’s first woman House majority leader, then in 1990 was elected as the state’s first and still only woman governor.

“It’s impossible to be a leader without being a risk-taker,” Roberts said. “You must take a risk to lead. You have to walk out on a limb to make the kind of changes to make you that leader.”

Roberts was born a fourth-generation Oregonian in Corvallis before moving to Sheridan. She graduated from Sheridan High School and then Portland State University.

Though Roberts never saw herself as a reformer, in 1971 she saw a need and began to fight for the rights of special needs children, inspired by her own son, Mike.

In her new role as a lobbyist, she spent four days a week at her job as a bookkeeper and one day at the capitol building in Salem.

In the next six months, she became an expected presence, talking to all 90 members of the Oregon legislature, telling her story and advocating for educational rights.

Roberts’ efforts helped Oregon make history, passing the first law in the nation requiring special education for children.

“Women have a tendency to be more collaborative leaders and it was that collaboration that allowed me to bring all kinds of people to the table,” Roberts said. “The table was full – out of that collaboration, we came up with a lot of innovations.”

From there Roberts become involved at every level of Oregon’s political landscape, serving on the Parkrose School Board, Multnomah County Commission and the Oregon House of Representatives.

In 1984 Roberts was elected Oregon Secretary of State, winning re-election in 1988.

Soon after, the Democratic candidacy for governor was open and, with this newfound confidence and understanding of herself, Roberts announced her campaign.

During her time in office, Roberts had a significant impact on the state – on the economy, on the people, in education and the environment.

Roberts initiated the “Conversation with Oregon,” a statewide project to meet with citizens and hear opinions on how the state should address issues with taxation and government spending. The Roberts administration is also a strong supporter of gay rights and appointed a number of women and minorities to positions in state government.

After her term as governor, Roberts served as Director of the State and Local Government Executive Programs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, as Associate Director of Leadership at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government and as a member of the Metro City Council in Portland.

“I like to look at the fact that I served in public office for more than thirty years and no one ever questioned my honesty and ethics,” Roberts said. “If I had to pick a thing that I am proud of, that would be it.”

For a career of service that always found new ways to bring people together for innovative solutions to the problems of government, Roberts is being honored as one of the 2013 Weatherford Award Winners.

“At first I was surprised to hear that I was getting this award,” Roberts said. “It became clear to me that there was more than one way to be innovative. ”

Meet the 2013 Weatherford Award Winners

Oregon’s first woman governor. A groundbreaking heart surgeon. A dynamic chief executive. Innovative tech startup founders.

Over the next few days on the College of Business Blog we’ll introduce you to the honorees of the 2013 Weatherford Awards, which honor entrepreneurs and innovators who further Oregon’s pioneering spirit. As posts are added we’ll link to them below. This year the awards will recognize:

Each day we will  profile a different honoree with a glimpse into how they changed the world by advancing entrepreneurship, innovation, and social progress.

If you’d like to join us to honor this distinguished group and their achievements, the awards take place Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower. Registration runs until Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Click here to register.

Improving, not just doing, the key for Microsoft exec DeVaan

Update, Jan. 24: We’ve added the video from the event at the end of the post.

Microsoft's Jon DeVaan Speaking at Oregon State

Jon DeVaan said while he was working on the initial release of Excel, the current Microsoft corporate vice president didn’t know the program would become an omnipresent part of work life.

“The focus was ‘We think this will help people a lot, and everything will flow,’” DeVaan told the audience at Wednesday’s College of Business Dean’s Distinguished Lecture at the LaSells Stewart Center.

DeVaan has been at Microsoft since graduating from OSU in 1982, starting with his work on Excel and most recently helping to design the new Windows 8 operating system. DeVaan ran his presentation from a Microsoft Surface, the company’s new tablet computer.

The theme of the talk was how individuals and organizations must focus on improving, or risk falling behind by simply continuing to do what brought them success in the past.

In his own experience, DeVaan recounted how when he started with Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 was the dominant spreadsheet program. But while Lotus saw only a professional market for its product, Microsoft wanted to make a product that could be used by anyone.

“Our motto was a computer on every desk, in every home,” DeVaan said.

A quarter century later, that initial goal has helped make computing accessible for many more people than even DeVaan imagined at the time. He remembers sitting on a plane and being grabbed by the person next to him after mentioning he worked on Excel.

“He said he hated his boss, but he didn’t need him anymore because he had a PC and could start out on his own,” DeVaan remembered.

DeVaan counseled the audience to always confront hard truths and set aside time to fix them. To work smarter, not harder, which can be difficult when that sometimes hurts efficiency in the short term.

He noted that the initial release of Word, the popular text editor, was delayed for two years and Access, a database management program, was cancelled twice.

DeVaan said at Microsoft the company has built in time for “renewal activities,” reviewing how the company is working, not just what it’s producing.

“No one ever gets credit for fixing problems that never happen,” DeVaan said,  borrowing a favorite quotation.

Instead, he pointed out “everything real has problems,” and the key to good leadership is knowing which problems have to be fixed and which are OK to live with, for now.

As long as you take time to focus on improving the process, and not just trying to fix every issue as it comes up, you’ll find things get better in the long run.

“You don’t know where new ideas will come from, but renewal activities create the space where that’s possible,” DeVaan said.

Video Part I
video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

Video Part II
video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

Panda Express co-CEO discusses how to create a culture

Peggy Cherng speaking at the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series
Peggy Cherng speaking at the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series

Panda Express co-CEO and Oregon State alumna Peggy Cherng let the crowd at the Oregon State College of Business Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in on a little secret Wednesday.

“I happen to be good in math, good in engineering, but I don’t really know how to cook,” Cherng said.

Cherng discussed how the Panda Restaurant group, which operates the popular Panda Express chain, focuses on creating an atmosphere where associates can grow and better serve guests.

“We don’t call them employees but associates, because they’re our partners,” Cherng explained. “We want to build an organization where people are inspired to better their lives.”

Panda focuses on fostering a culture that creates happy associates, which becomes happy guests.

“The judges out there are you, and we will work very hard to be loved by you,” Cherng said. “But first we have to work on ourselves and love ourselves.”

The chain has more than 1,500 locations, opening 100 new stores this past year. With such a wide network, the company encourages decentralized learning, where associates take initiative to learn on their own with resources from Panda.

Peggy Cherng speaking at the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series
Peggy Cherng speaking at the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series

After her talk, Cherng sat down for a question and answer session with OSU associate professor of management Pauline Schilpzand and then took questions from the audience.

Schilpzand asked why those of us in Oregon haven’t seen many Panda Express television commercials.

Cherng explained Oregon is still an emerging market for Panda, and the company focuses larger ad buys in their core markets, such as California.

“We do do advertising in the core market because we can leverage the cost more effectively,” she said. “But in the emerging market the cost prohibits TV.”

Schilpzand also asked Cherng about what she’s used from her academic background in her career. Cherng earned a B.S. in applied mathematics from OSU and an M.S. in Computer Science and doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri.

Cherng mentioned that while she never learned much about food herself — husband Andrew Cherng started the original Panda Inn with his father and now serves as co-CEO with his wife — she has a passion for systems, honed by her training as an engineer.

“You first have to find out your passion,” she said. “If you have passion you’re really able to make a difference.”

She stressed that passion is a key for all entrepreneurs, no matter what industry one may be entering.

“If you just want to make money, if a hard time comes you’re not able to pull yourself up,” Cherng said. “But if you have passion you can overcome.”