2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Robin Steininger, Purdue University (Krannert)

Robin Steininger, Ph.D.

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

Age: 45

“Fundamentally shy and grounded. Enjoys the “blank page” stage. Focused on team success instead of individual.”

Hometown: Wichita Falls, Texas

Family Members: 4

Fun fact about yourself: Back in the early 1990’s my family went to see the comedian Gallagher, who is famous for smashing watermelons as part of his act. My mother made us all make homemade watermelon hats and we waited in line to get his autograph, so embarrassing. Now, I am the proud owner of a Gallagher-autographed handmade watermelon hat.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Executive MBA, Purdue University Krannert School of Management, West Lafayette, IN

PhD, Mechanical Engineering University of Dayton, Dayton, OH

MS, Mechanical Engineering Wright State University, Dayton, OH

BS, Mechanical Engineering Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Where are you currently working? I am currently the VP of Product for Tranter, a global heat exchanger manufacturer and service provider. I have two distinct roles for the company, one focusing on new product development and another focusing on global product and price management. I directly supervise three teams, two located in Texas and one located in South Korea.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Community work: For 7 years, I was a community mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sister of America organization. I was lucky enough to be matched with a bright young girl when she was only 7 years old and watched her grow up to become a young lady. It was this experience that allowed me to become the Big Sister of the Year for Dallas County in Texas.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In Purdue’s EMBA program, we took an Entrepreneurship class which allowed us to develop business plans for our own business idea. My team chose an idea where we developed an all organic, customized deodorant using a simple algorithm to select the right formula per customer. It was an opportunity to combine my hobby of creating all-natural cosmetics with a potential business plan inspiring me to consider starting my own business in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Early in my career, I worked for a group that designed a new laser level mechanism. My technical solution to use magnets in a unique way ended up being the key concept that made the product work. It was during this project that I earned my first of five patents and discovered my interest in innovation and new product development. It also gave me the confidence that, even as a woman, I can be successful in this career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Ashley Gangloff, who taught the Corporate Governance class at Purdue. For a class that I thought I would have little interest in, I found the topic extremely informative and even inspirational. I felt better equipped to understand my own company’s corporate governance and how it impacts the management of our company. It might have even piqued my interest to serve on a board in the future.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Before COVID, I traveled extensively internationally. I was searching for a program that was flexible and would allow for asynchronous learning but also allowed for in-person classroom experience. Purdue’s EMBA program offered both. Also, with my background of engineering, I was familiar with Purdue’s outstanding reputation.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? With my career previously focused on the technical side of business, my expertise felt very narrow, and I shied away from conversations pertaining to the business as a whole. I think the MBA gave me the vocabulary and confidence to not only participate in these discussions, but to offer my own opinion on the strategy and direction of our company. For example, I am now deeply involved in price management and pricing strategies for the company globally. This might not have happened without the MBA.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My MBA experience was probably different than most. Since I started the program in 2020, I was able to complete the degree as the world shut down due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, I was traveling significantly internationally and needed a flexible program to work with my travel schedule. Once the pandemic happened, I was able to slow down, which allowed me to really focus on school. I should note that we have no children at home, so perhaps my experience was somewhat unique and working from home was quite relaxing and borderline boring. The EMBA program really energized me during a difficult period, and even offered a bit of distraction. Bottom line is that I suddenly had tons of time to devote to the EMBA program and tried to capitalize on the opportunity.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I have several suggestions. First, it is best to attempt to use your own company for any class projects and exercises. I found that especially working collaboratively with a team on these exercises, I received great insight into the company I currently work for. Another is to be open-minded. When working with a team with diverse work backgrounds, everybody has a distinct perspective. Seeing your company’s problems from their point of view can often be eye opening. And finally, stay on top of things, and try to read EVERYTHING. I know it can be daunting to try to keep up, but you will get the most out of the program if you try.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I’ve gone back to school twice in my career, once when I was 30 to get a Ph.D. and now at age 44 to get an MBA. I might not be the best benchmark as I could be considered a perpetual student. With the MBA, I fell right back into my normal school mode, which means I was super organized and planning homework or projects way in advance. With balancing a full-time job, I had to be more flexible on when to focus on work and when to focus on school. But by working at home due to COVID, I was able to manage both rather easily. Once I got in the groove, I didn’t find school any more challenging this round compared to before.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t know if I would call it a regret, but I would have enjoyed working with students with more international experience. The uncertainty due to COVID likely impacted the ability or interest from international students to participate in the program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I thoroughly enjoyed working with Alex Itsell-Olson. He was not only an outstanding student, but he went out of his way to help tutor other students in our most difficult classes. For example, in Managerial Economics, Alex and I worked closely together on the team homework to ensure we had the correct answers. But then he would arrange a tutoring session with many in the class to review the assignments in detail. He showed true dedication and patience that I admire. He also has an extensive list of super cool math jokes. What is not to like!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The executive MBA program offered me the flexibility I needed while allowing me the opportunity to learn beside others with similar work experience. By working within a cohort of individuals all with impressive resumes ensured that I not only learned the course material but in a way that could also provide real-life experience.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I feel extremely fortunate in my career and hope to continue to learn and be challenged. When I graduated from undergrad 23 years ago, I would have never imagined where I would be today. I’m excited to see what new challenges the next 20 years will bring.

What made Robin such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“It has been a delight having Robin in the Purdue EMBA program. Robin has embraced the cohort approach to education, working with colleagues from various backgrounds, each with a unique perspective that enriches the experience for everyone. As a long-term mentor in her community, she has brought that mentor mentality to the cohort and is seen as a go-to resource for colleagues. She truly demonstrates her desire for team success instead of focus on the individual. Robin is an accomplished professional, innovative entrepreneur, reliable friend and an outstanding member of the Purdue EMBA Class of 2022.”

Donna Steele
Senior Program Manager
Krannert Executive MBA Program
Purdue University


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