The power of experiential learning
The power of experiential learning
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Honors Cohort alumnus Jay Klauminzer (BSBA ’01) reflects on how a growth mindset has translated into an energizing career path.
Jay Klauminzer, alumnus of the third Honors Cohort class and CEO of e-commerce platform Raise, epitomizes the growth mindset in action. He believes that new experiences are crucial to widening a perspective and that every challenge presents an opportunity to lead better. That framework has propelled him through his dynamic career in consulting and e-commerce.
Upon graduating from Fisher, Klauminzer did not feel comfortable committing to one industry. He craved more exposure, more chances to sort through his interests and align his skillset with his desire to join the consulting firm, McKinsey.
Understanding that a company’s success hinges on its ability to develop, retain and lean on the employees at all levels of the organization, Klauminzer implemented a diligent process around solving problems. He says that what he learned from his McKinsey experience is that “consulting is all about having enough expertise to point you in the right direction, analyze that insight and customize it accordingly.”
After a decade as a consultant, Klauminzer recognized where he wanted to go next: consumer experience.
“I found it rewarding to see the immediate impact I was having,” he said.
But he knew he had to do some additional learning to fully comprehend what it took to run a business. He spent the next seven years at e-commerce marketplace, Groupon, managing its U.S. sales group before ultimately becoming the company’s Vice President of North America.
Klauminzer’s stint at Groupon included two years coordinating sales efforts between different countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“Those I collaborated with reported to their country leader,” he said. “I had to adjust to being accountable for them while also ceding authority to those leaders regarding matters of discipline.”
Nevertheless, he was able to simplify the company’s global supply chain, reducing its shipping operations from 24 to five in two years. How did he do it? By connecting with those he worked with.
“Human beings have more in common than you think,” he noted. “There is power in engaging with different cultures.”
With his success at Groupon, Klauminzer began seeking his next career move. A peer bluntly told him that if there wasn’t a role between you and the CEO, that is an indicator that you are ready for the next challenge. Already the company’s vice president, Klauminzer applied for the CEO role.
He didn’t get it.
But that experience helped Klauminzer recognize that he was no longer learning at the pace he wanted to. So in 2017, he sought out another learning opportunity and turned his attention to a vice president position at DoorDash, the food delivery service.
For this interview, DoorDash sent a business case study and invited him to discuss how he would approach it. In preparation for the interview, Klauminzer wanted to make it as easy as possible for his interviewers to envision the future he could deliver.
“When you get to a more senior level in your career, you stand out if you come with a perspective,” he said.
He took the presented problem and contextualized it against the greater issues DoorDash was facing. He studied Chicago, a market in which the up-and-coming company was lagging behind its competitor, Grubhub, and laid out what his priorities would be in his first three months.
Klauminzer was offered the job. DoorDash went from operating in 300 cities at a $600 million valuation to 3,000 cities and a $7 billion valuation within his first year there.
His success at DoorDash caught the attention of Raise, a gift card marketplace where users can sell unused gift cards for cash, recruited him for its CEO position.
With two leadership experiences under his belt and plenty of trial and error in leadership tactics, Klauminzer was intentional about applying the techniques that worked best.
“When I started at Groupon, I put together a slide deck detailing our new direction, but I hadn’t built any trust with those employees,” he said.
This latest opportunity reminded him of the value of building relationships. “I had lunch with everyone at the company, asking for their insights on areas of concern, and most importantly, what were we good at,” he said. “I wanted to expand on that.”
Employing his appreciation for Socratic leadership, Klauminzer said, “I found that my job as CEO is to take information, make sense of it, provide direction and get out of the way.”
However, the transition to a CEO role did not come without its share of unexpected hurdles. “I did not expect 40% of my job to involve public relations, legal issues and HR complications.”
Intent on continuous improvement, Klauminzer turned to a public relations firm for media training. Today, he regularly discusses e-commerce industry dynamics with media sites such as Cheddar and Yahoo! Finance.
Establishing a feedback loop and methods for interacting with his board were additional unanticipated challenges. Klauminzer only had the opportunity to engage with his board four times a year. Faced with dealing with a group that had varying levels of risk tolerance, Klauminzer suddenly found he had no one to gut-check ideas with.
“I came to grips with the reality that I will not always get it right.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created more uncertainty. As Klauminzer has often done in his career, he and his Raise peers sought opportunity in the face of adversity. One positive Klauminzer discovered during the pandemic was that any fears the leadership team had about allowing more virtual work were eliminated.
While the initial response to remote work was an overwhelming flood of virtual meetings, the Raise team has optimized cadence, even finding room for a daily (virtual) yoga session or trivia game. Recognizing the need for transparency as people began to question how the business was doing when they were feeling disconnected, Klauminzer began publishing a weekly newsletter that contains professional and personal reflections.
Given the pandemic’s shock to demand and fervor in the capital markets, the Raise team has pivoted its offerings and revamped its revenue strategies.
“We set a higher bar for which marketing initiatives we decide to pursue and focused on how to better tailor our story in revenue efforts,” said Klauminzer. He believes that the world’s new-found need for mobile payments and virtual hiring will benefit his top line and diversify his team’s skillset.
Another positive from the pandemic has been the chance for Klauminzer to reevaluate how he spends time in his personal life. He is committed to physical activity each day, learning to cook with friends and finding new ways to engage with his children.
Reflecting upon what has gotten him to where he is today, Klauminzer is grateful for his Fisher education and the Cohort program. The college’s sheer size perpetuates a unique blend of opportunity and diverse experiences, priming students for any obstacle they may face in the real world.
“I always tell prospective students that the top 3% at Ohio State compare to the top 3% anywhere,” he said. “You will face adversity, see diversity, and get such a broader range of experiences – I can attest to that.”
Klauminzer says the high quality of instruction and hands-on learning opportunities in Cohort furthered his preparedness for the business world.
“When you work with peers that share your curiosity and dedication to making an impact, an immediate bond forms, regardless of where you are doing the work,” he said.
Through Cohort, he has built lifelong friendships, serving on the program’s advisory council with several of them. They serve with the intent to offer current and future Cohort students even better versions of the experiences that brought them together.
Klauminzer’s volunteer work for the advisory council along with his career path speaks to the value he places on experiential learning. The advice he most often gives to Fisher students?
“Spend at least 30% of your time getting to know people and experiencing college,” he said. “Spend money on experiences, not things, and save early so that you have the financial flexibility to find the career you love.”
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