Before he began teaching, Professor Ward Utter spent years doing marketing work for the food industry, where he worked for firms such as Chef America (the maker of Hot Pockets) and Mrs. Field’s Cookies. The industry was a good fit for him, as he enjoyed addressing product choices that consumers make on a daily basis; “It’s more relatable for me,” Professor Utter says, “I’m very food motivated.” After working at Mrs. Field’s cookies, Professor Utter became a Senior Vice President at MaketheMove.com, a service intended to streamline the process of changing addresses with utilities and other services when a customer moves. The transition across industries was difficult to make, but Professor Utter enjoyed the challenge of making decisions that impacted the entire organization. He credits the position for giving him the most valuable management experience of his career.
Professor Utter relies upon his background in marketing and management when teaching Competitive Effectiveness (CE) to Summer Business Institute students. He believes that students benefit from the mix of academic and corporate experience that he and the rest of the SBI faculty offers. While Competitive Effectiveness combines marketing and management into one course, Professor Utter notes that the management lessons students learn are applicable to any field, “everybody uses management principles along the way–everyone does.”
One of the key lessons that Professor Utter hopes to confer through CE is the importance of teamwork, a lesson that is part and parcel of management. He notes that working in a team can help a student better understand their individual abilities, and that the ability to work as a part of a team is a critical skill for those entering the modern workforce. As such, he advises SBI students not to be shy about getting to know their CE teammates, their classmates, and their professors. He also suggests that students have fun and think creatively when tackling the problems presented to them.
Professor Utter sees SBI as an environment that is particularly conducive to multidisciplinary thinking. To Professor Utter, the “magic of SBI” is how students from different backgrounds and with different career goals combine their diverse ways of thinking to attack a problem. He enjoys seeing what students from the different schools and majors can accomplish when they are placed on the same team for their CE capstone project. All in all, Professor Utter enjoys teaching SBI enough for him to return for what will be his fourth season, “It’s a unique opportunity and I’m glad it’s available.”