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Alumni: Colin Kessinger

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September 12, 2018

Meet Colin Kessinger, an MS&E alum who is currently a Partner at End-to-End Analytics.

With a focus on supply chain management, Colin graduated with a PhD in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford.

"Stanford left me with the impression that anything is possible. So rather than choosing from the career paths that were laid out in front of me, Stanford empowered and inspired me to create the career path that I wanted for myself."

Why did you choose MS&E?

I had a massive passion for math. What I liked most about Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) was that you could take math and apply it to almost any industry or problem. It provided me with many choices and led me to what I'm doing now.

How did your time at MS&E impact what you do now?

I was always focused on the application of analytics, and my time in the MS&E program gave me an outstanding background and training for what I do.  Also, Stanford left me with the impression that anything is possible. It empowered and inspired me to create the career path that I wanted for myself, which included starting two companies.

I think you can get a good education at many universities, but the "everything is possible" mindset at Stanford is probably the biggest thing that I took away.  End-to-End Analytics is the second company that I’ve started, even though I never meant to be an entrepreneur. It wasn’t about the entrepreneur title, but rather about the things it allowed me to work on. I became an entrepreneur to create my own path, to control the content of the work I did, and to choose the kind of people that I worked with. I was very intent on creating environments where I could control those items and aspects. Stanford gives students the courage to dream big and made it seem so ordinary to go out and do these things. It became a natural thing to do versus painting it as a big risk.

Was there a particular class or professor that really stuck with you?

Several professors made an impact on my time at Stanford. My advisor, Professor Warren Hausman, recently retired and I think the world of him. I also genuinely respected Professor Margaret Brandeau; and although we differed in our areas of work and interests, her commitment to working on the things that she really cared about spoke volumes about her character. And Professors Peter Glynn and Nicholas Bambos, from a content and style point of view, were some of my favorite professors.

How has the MS&E and Stanford coursework prepared you for what you do now?

Our mission is to drive the adoption of analytics. We implement a lot of things that we’ve learned, certainly from our supply chain coursework in the PhD program, but also other classes at Stanford such as the statistics classes. We have blended a lot of these concepts into our core areas of supply chain management, pricing, marketing analytics, and some human resources analytics.

What inspires you the most about this company?

The younger people that we’ve brought into the company are what inspire me the most--the rate at which they're learning and their continued hunger to work on meaningful and interesting problems that have an impact. The energy that they bring is fantastic.

One of the main motivations in my work is leaving a platform for the younger generation within my company where they can create and control content as well as who they work with. It’s essential if we want to make the same kind of choices and options available to them that I had on my career path.

What are one or two things that have made you successful in your career?

Part of what the MS&E program certainly helped with was providing both a solid technical foundation and the creative interpersonal aspects that are necessary to succeed in business. If you're able to deliver on both of those dimensions, the sky seems to be the limit.

So what advice would you give to a current Stanford student in MS&E?

Well, this is my own advice for myself--evaluate almost everything based on whether it opens more doors than it closes. It’s all about creating options. The first decision is almost inconsequential, other than measuring it with regards to how many more opportunities it opens up after that. And those doors open based more on your experience than on where you work.

What support is available for students considering a similar career endeavor?

I'm not sure that people are well supported in this, even hearing about the program that you are laying out for the department. Getting people to understand that there are a thousand paths to be taken. I think what happens is a lot of people fall into a trap of thinking, “I'm going to go work for a big well-known company because it’s a brand name and it’s going to create those options.” I think in our field, what you do and how you do it creates more opportunities than the company name under which you do it. And it’s certainly true in Silicon Valley where it's dense and the community is very small. There is a lot more value placed on what you've done and how you did it versus who you did it for.

Frankly, if you went to Stanford, you don't need to borrow a large company’s name;  you have enough cache, and if you can demonstrate your technical capabilities and you can communicate well working at a startup that nobody's ever heard of, it carries as much weight as working at big well-known company.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Take chances. And certainly for people coming out of the program, the job market is fantastic and taking chances will be heavily rewarded. The safe route isn't nearly as safe as you think it is.

Can you give an example of taking chances?

Jobs that give you more responsibility than you're ready for--go reach. Maybe it's a company that seems to have less brand recognition, but the job is right in your sweet spot, gives you a chance to shine, or gives you that extra responsibility. Personally, I never want to come to my job knowing that I already know how to do everything that will be asked of me. Right? Go into situations where you're not sure that you're going to nail it, because you will learn a ton and you'll do better than you think.