Our blog team got to sit with a management professor at GVSU and ask him a few questions about what life is like after college, and for some advice for soon-to-be graduating-college students. Several Lambda Xi brothers have had classes with Prof. Ballard, and we all have nothing but awesome things to say! Here is some of our Q&A session:
Q: What courses do you teach, and what did you study in college?
A: Bruce currently teaches two management courses at GV, and was in supply chain management before it was even called supply chain. He has an engineering degree with a minor in materials and logistics management, which is what supply chain was previously titled.
Q: Did you always want to be a professor?
A: He was a student just like us, sitting in the back row and not asking questions, but as he was getting MBA, he noticed that a lot of faculty didn't have Doctorates, but they were coming in after work, and he thought that it would be cool. He thought that when it came to retirement, it would be something nice to do, rather than play golf every day. "It would be fun to teach and give back to our community." He decided to teach at Grand Valley since his daughter went here, and he eventually became a Visiting Professor.
Q: Where all have you worked, and do you have a favorite place?
A: Texas Instruments, Herman Miller, and Johnson Controls.
He doesn't necessarily have a favorite place to work, but he loved working at TI, and was there for 14 years. They are consistently on the 100 Best Places to Work For list, and eventually was asked to move to Japan with his family. Mr. and Mrs. Ballard then decided to move back to Michigan so they could have more life in the work-life balance, but he genuinely did love working there.
For Johnson Controls, he worked in purchasing and finance in automative electronics. He gained financial experience in which he leveraged later in his career.
Herman Miller was a new experience for him, since he was a tech guy and didn't necessarily see himself working in office furniture. However, from what he tells his students in class, he has a lot of good stories from HM, and did enjoy working there very much. He brings ideas from HM to the classroom, and uses his knowledge from being a Director there to teach his students using real-life examples.
Q: Do you do any work outside of the classroom?
A: He has a small business to keep him occupied, since he is retired, but he says that it is more of a hobby for him than anything.
Q: What is one thing you always tell your students?
A: "In Operations, many students do not see the connection to their major. However, knowledge of how a business supports its customer through its 'make' function is very important, no matter what function in which you reside. Also, when we take about Lean, it is important to think about how it applies to all functions, not just Operations and Supply Chain.”
Q: What is a piece of advice you'd give any student, if they asked?
A: 1) When looking at where to work after college, look first at where you want to live, and then look for jobs in those areas. 2) "Know you end game" and research what skill sets you will need for that, and what jobs can give you that experience. 3) Early in your career, focus on learning. Create a solid foundation for career growth in the future.
There is one thing Bruce tells all of his students at the end of lecture, and hopefully it puts a smile on your face, like it does everyone who's had him: