Terry Kramer can be best described as a master of all trades. He has succeeded in a variety fields including business, public affairs and academia. The epitome of a leader, Terry Kramer has shown the world what it means to be a Bruin.
Starting from his days at UCLA, Terry Kramer kept developing his skills based on the demands and context of the task he was assigned. He explains how his journey through multiple fields strengthened the three key aspects of leadership—strategic, operational and people leadership. UCLA kickstarted this journey by teaching and reinforcing these three key aspects; he learned to analyze the situation, understand the competitors and take well-informed initiatives on a diverse set of problems. At the same time, as president of Hedrick Hall, he acquired operational leadership skills by advocating for causes, staging events and more. Combined with school work, he truly learned how to best manage his time to get the job done. He learned to establish connections and have meaningful interactions, skills which became essential to his career outside UCLA.
After a brief stint at Harris Corporation, a technology company, his journey then led him to Harvard Business School. He explains that it is easy to get intimidated by the amount of smart people around, but this pushed him to work harder. The challenge allowed him to acquire skills that were indispensable later on. His advice is that when applying to competitive schools, it is vital to get comfortable with the fact that the competition is tough without getting discouraged and to ultimately develop your own unique “brand position”. Applicants must understand that even though there are a lot of smart people, there are also a lot of great jobs and that each person brings a unique set of capabilities that creates a unique and high-impact learning environment
His educational training helped him rise in a variety of fields, be it Vodafone or his role as US Ambassador. Terry Kramer explains that his experiences in the numerous departments at Vodafone were inspired by a top executive who moved him all over the business. This diverse journey was possible because of the people he built connections with, combined with his interest and willingness to take on new challenges. For instance, he met former FCC Chair, Tom Wheeler who was a key advisor in the Obama administration and informed him of the Ambassador job opening. After five months of background checks and a requirement to sell all of his personal tech holdings, he became the ambassador for the negotiations of an internet and telecom regulations treaty at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.
When asked why he decided to move around so much, Terry Kramer advised us that we should use the concept of diminishing returns rather than opportunity cost when making career decisions. We must keep on climbing new learning curves and find new opportunities once we begin to feel like we’re settling into a comfort zone. Congruously, we should think big and be ambitious, rather than getting stuck in a conservative and pragmatic mindset. We must take risks if we want to achieve great things. “It is always better to get 90% of a stretch plan than 101% of a modest plan.”
Completing the full circle, Terry Kramer’s path brings him back to UCLA as a professor at Anderson. He started by giving a few guest lectures, acting as a judge for a business plan contest and a faculty advisor for the UCLA Anderson capstone project focused on a 6 month management consulting assignment yielding a 50 page business plan. Next he was able to develop a course on the mobile communication industry based on strong student interest. Finally, he was additionally asked to teach a foundational course because of technology management encompassing cloud computing, Internet of Things and AI/big data industries. And he certainly loves teaching these to passionate Bruins. You might wonder, with his astounding CV, why did he choose UCLA? He could teach anywhere in the country (especially because he lives in the Bay Area). Pragmatically speaking, at UCLA he would be able to teach innovative courses on technology and drive his own curriculum and teaching approach. And even though he sometimes he takes 6AM flights to LA, once he gets a glimpse of Royce Hall or good ol’ Hedrick Hall, all the fatigue gets replaced with exhilaration.
Furthermore, he strongly believes that it is crucial to serve others along the way. He cannot think of a better way to serve others than by teaching at his alma mater. In fact, Mr. Kramer believes that serving others is one of the pillars to success and biggest source of saisfaction. In the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to get “me-oriented”, but we need to add value for others wherever we go. Serving others is what defines us as Bruins.
– By Natsharee Pulkes and Harsh Gupta, UCLA Undergraduates
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