2016 Best EMBAs: Jennifer Harms, Purdue University (Krannert)

Jennifer Harms Purdue

Jennifer Harms

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

Tilburg University, Tias School for Business and Society

“It is always the plan to see students graduate and go on to successful careers, and Jennifer is clearly on the path to doing that. Yet, there are those that you miss having in the program after they leave and I count Jennifer among them. I could count on her for the honest feedback when it was needed and for help with implementing an idea. And it was always provided with a smile.”

Age: 34

Location: Torrance, CA

Family Members: Jan and Karen (parents)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Purdue University, bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering

Where are you currently working? Northrop Grumman Corporation, Systems Integration Laboratory manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: Beta Gamma Sigma honor society; Krannert Scholar, IMM 2015; Tias Best Student Award 2015; Engineering Technical Leaders program; formally identified as a company high-potential employee; Los Angeles World Affairs Council

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was in an MBA class with some very intelligent and hard-working classmates from an incredible variety of backgrounds. To learn that I was at the top of my class and received the Krannert Scholar Award and Tias Best Student Award for IMM 2015, was truly an honor.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I recently led an engineering team focused on designing components directly tied to the win strategy of a sector “must-win” business capture program. It is extremely rewarding to have a chance to directly impact the company’s future business, and equally rewarding is the opportunity to be the leader of an extremely motivated and high-performing team focused on a common goal.

Favorite MBA Courses? Business Strategy, Geopolitical Perspectives, and Macroeconomics. I have always enjoyed the “big picture,” and each of these courses provided me with key tools to analyze corporate strategy within the context of global societies and the economy.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose Purdue’s International Masters in Management program for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the international component of the program was extremely attractive to me. Of the programs I looked at, Purdue’s program was the most diverse and international, and in fact, in my year of graduation, The Economist named it the most global MBA program. Purdue’s IMM program attracts students and professors from a wide variety of different cultures and perspectives, and it is made up of five separate in-country residencies where we were immersed in different cultures and their business environments first-hand. As businesses become more and more global, understanding these different aspects of doing business is going to be key to a company’s success. Secondarily, the flexibility that came with being able to participate in the program while living anywhere was very appealing.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the international component of Purdue’s IMM program. While I might not always agree with all of the views of my fellow classmates, the perspectives put forth by such a diverse group of people were enlightening in a way that one could never get simply by being taught on a single campus with a group of professors and fellow students with similar backgrounds. The international travel was both enjoyable and a series of lessons in itself. Everything from going out for dinner to purchasing a taxi ride to negotiating with a street vendor was, at the end of the day, a lesson in international business and culture.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? For me, the most surprising thing about my MBA program was the closeness and friendships that were developed among people from such a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures from all over the world. While I had expected some camaraderie to develop, I can now say that I count a number of my classmates as friends, and those of us in my local area — alumni and professors — have already had a post-graduation reunion.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school was finding the time for work, school, and personal life. Each of these areas suffers a little, at different times. The demands and timing of each do not always cooperate well, and you have to make trade-offs, but it is worth it in the end.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? There is no such thing as balance, so if you can convince yourself to give up seeking this early on, you will be happier. I have heard this elusive “balance” described as more of a teeter-totter. Some days you will have to give more to work, other days, you will have to focus on school or family. Choose the really important moments in your personal life, and try to work those in, because you will find yourself sacrificing the smaller, less-important moments. It is also very important to surround yourself with positive people, so that you have someone to fall back on when things get difficult. You’re swimming a marathon, so take with you only what will help you to achieve your goals; you can’t afford to surround yourself with negative people and carry their weight — you’ll sink.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? Carefully consider whether a program is a right fit for you before embarking on it. Choosing the right program for you will largely dictate whether or not you are successful. Purdue’s IMM program was definitely the right fit for me, which was a big part of why I was willing to put so much into it. What you get out will be directly proportional to the effort you put in. 

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I realized that an MBA would become my stepping stone to an entirely new world of opportunities. The things you learn in business school are equally applicable, whether you are working for a large multinational corporation, or beginning your own business as an entrepreneur.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” In a good job, making less money. Yet I would always have wondered, “What if…?”  I would not have seen the things I’ve seen, or learned the things I’ve learned, or met the people I have; yet I would not know any of this. I wouldn’t have known what I was missing. In short, the world would have seemed like a far less interesting place.

What are your long-term professional goals? In my career, it is important for me to be able to have an impact on both business growth and the world around me. For this reason, I see myself likely engaging in business strategy or program execution, possibly with a focus on international growth.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my father, who taught me about investing and gave me an interest in business and economics from an early age, and my mother, who has always been a listening ear and my sounding board. I also want to thank both of my parents for my interest in science, for believing in me, and for giving me a moral compass that does not waiver. Finally, I would like to thank my team of coworkers — our company’s success is because of you.

Fun fact about yourself: My favorite founding father is Thomas Jefferson, because he was a true Renaissance man. I believe it is not enough to live a single-faceted life. Life is about business, science, philosophy, music, and the arts, and much, much more

Favorite book: Recent favorite: Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win — a must-read for anyone in leadership!

Favorite movie: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Favorite musical performer: Beethoven (composer)

Favorite television show: “The X-Files”

Favorite vacation spot: Italy

Hobbies? Hiking, gardening, photography, traveling, and life-long learning

What made Jennifer such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016? 

“Jennifer Harms is the poster candidate for Poets&Quants. She has a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, works at Northrup Grumman Corporation as a Systems Integration Laboratory manager and leads a team of high-potential engineers designing critical component highly advanced company products. Everything about the career choices and accomplishments and description of Jennifer screams analytical, scientific and Quant. You would expect her to be very strong in quantitative subjects like Business Analytics, Operations, and Finance … and she certainly is.

“What is absolutely delightful about Jennifer is the Poets part of her persona. When this engineer says that life is also about philosophy and music and the arts, she means it. She has a deep and genuine interest in art and culture and travel and in learning about people. She can be playful, get lost, discover new places and things, and be very flexible about time. And no matter what situation she finds herself in, she has a disposition and a smile wins most arguments. I teach classes on the Poet side of the ledger and I had the pleasure to have Jennifer in my classes in Organizational Behavior in which she proved quickly to be the best student. In the course on Negotiations, which was more a course on managing relationships, her interest in this topic and her Poet side was very evident. In the residency in China we had an immersion activity that had students keep a keep a diary of their explorations and learning of the culture they encountered. Jennifer went to China earlier than the rest of the class and traveled on her own through some of the more remote parts of the country, meeting people, learning to communicate without language and taking in the beauty of the history and culture. I will admit that when I was grading assignments I would look forward to reading Jennifer’s paper because it was usually well thought out and developed and always seemed to have an interesting spark to it. I have since learned that my colleagues on the faculty felt the same way.

“We are not nominating Jennifer Harms for this award just because she is the poster candidate for Poets&Quants. We are nominating Jennifer because she was the best student in her cohort, graduating with the highest GPA and was named the Krannert Scholar in her class. She was respected by her cohort members who knew that if they were in a group with Jennifer they would be pushed to produce ‘A’ quality work. And they knew that she would join them in the celebration when the work was done.

“It is always the plan to see students graduate and go on to successful careers, and Jennifer is clearly on the path to doing that. Yet, there are those that you miss having in the program after they leave and I count Jennifer among them. I could count on her for the honest feedback when it was needed and for help with implementing an idea. And it was always provided with a smile. It would be fitting to have her receive this award.”

Dr. David Schoorman

Associate Dean of Executive Education and Global Programs

Krannert School of Management at Purdue University


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