Experience as Much as Possible: Video Transcript

Kevin George (Speech Communication major, Miami, 1988) [SVP, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Beam, Inc.]: My role at Beam is really global in nature, and my role is to look after all of our brands, R and D facilities, as well as our insights department, and our marketing department. And it's really about we are a company that builds brands and developing our markets to grow the business.

I think the most rewarding part about working in any marketing department or global environment are the people that you meet, and the brands that you get to work on. So, we work on some really iconic, fantastic brands that have been around for sometimes, 215 years, in the case of Jim Beam, and, or sometimes, 20 months, such as Skinny Girl Margaritas. So, the brands you work on are fun, and the people you get, and the older you get, the more you are in leadership roles, and seeing and developing people as marketers and as business people is really rewarding about what I do.

The practical reason I chose Miami was because it is a beautiful place to go to school. I drove on the campus, I remember with my dad, and I said, "Wow, I want to go to school here." He said, "We don't know anything about it." I said, "That's okay, I want to go to school here." So, look, I was drawn in by the place, then really got to know it and fell in love with it. So I think Miami is the quintessential college, it is the place where you feel connected to not only a place, but a group of people and alumni, and when you meet someone from Miami University elsewhere, and I meet tons of them, you just have an instant connection, and it's not too big of a school and too small of a school, so it's almost the perfect size, that's all I can say. So I was drawn in by everything about it, that everybody still talks about today, not to mention the education and people.

The thing that Miami prepared me to do, and specifically the education of liberal arts, is help me to think laterally. It's so important that today even in business, or any job that you have, that you are able to deal with ambiguity and things that come your way, and the ability to think laterally is really, really important for anybody that's in business today. Business school is interesting because business school that I went to, not here at Miami, but somewhere else, is very formulaic; economics is a formula, accounting is a formula, even marketing disciplines are largely around techniques and skills and things like that. The ability to think laterally is something that no one can ever take away from you, the ability to organize thoughts, and write well, is really important, and it comes into so many aspects of you life. Whether you are telling a story to friends at a cocktail party, you are not rambling, or you're presenting some sort of new strategic approach to business, and you are able to organize those thoughts in a really compelling way. So the ability to think laterally is really important, and I think what Miami allowed me to do, is actually figure out how to communicate with people well.

Ten years from now I'll likely be retired from business; although that's my plan, you never know what's going to happen. And I'd like to teach somewhere, and help, at a school, anywhere, and do more things that help people grow and learn. So the profile will say he's retired, hopefully with lots of money in the bank, somewhere warm, and is giving back.

The skills that you learn at Miami…look you learn coping skills, right? So I can tell you I learned skills while I managed the Saloon, which taught me how to make cocktails, which helped me because I'm a salesman for a liquor company now. But that's one thing, but you know, communication, learning to live with people, work in teams, all those little skill things that you have to figure out how to do in life. When I was, when I told my father I was going to be a speech communications major, he said, "Well that's really nice, but the only thing that will do for you is allow you to have an intelligent conversation with the guy next to you in the unemployment line." And I said, "No dad, they are going to teach me how to think and how to communicate with people," which it did. And you learn how to really have a lateral thought process, and when I got into my first job, they couldn't un-teach me how to think or communicate. They could un-teach me how to do accounting in a different way or marketing, and that's kind of why I chose liberal arts as my field; lots of skills, life skills, business skills — all kinds of cool stuff.

The best advice I could give is experience as much as possible in your careers. Don't follow a very vertical path. Follow a path that allows you to get lots of different experiences, because I think today, the most successful people are the people who deal with ambiguity very, very well. Meaning that they are flexible, they can react, they can change, they can experience different things along the way, whether they be great things, or really challenging things, that they know how to deal with, and they are equipped to deal with. We live in a world today that is so, it changes everyday, and there are things coming at us that we never expected. So, it's a much different world than the world of our parents. So, that world requires people to be flexible. So what I would say is, take your career, take opportunities that come your way so you can get different experiences, because it will better prepare you for ten years from now, when you are ready to kind of do that one thing that you really love and want to do. And you will be much better prepared if you have a broad range of experiences than just one single path.

[February 2013]