Monday, June 3, 2013

Alumna finds the right fit in Silicon Valley

In 2008, a young woman’s college career ended and her business career began. Shalie Gaskill is a graduate in finance and marketing who recently accepted a job offer from Box, a enterprise software company in the San Francisco Bay area. The winding road from KU to Stanford, where she earned her Master of Business Administration degree this spring, to the technology-driven Silicon Valley, is not the path she expected to travel.

When Gaskill arrived at KU, her interests leaned toward sports management and marketing. But, like many undergraduate students, she discovered a subject she enjoyed even more.

“During school, I realized that sports weren’t actually what I was most passionate about,” Gaskill said, “but I did love looking ahead for trends and winners. Technology had both of these characteristics, plus there was so much to learn. I was immediately invigorated.”
Shalie Gaskill with Chancellor Gray-Little

After KU, Gaskill worked at Sabre Holdings, a technology company headquartered in Texas. She became the first analyst in Hospitality Solutions, a new group focusing on hotel software products, Gaskill said. The position connected her with senior leaders in the company.

“This created opportunities to be part of various side projects lead by company executives,” Gaskill said. “Looking back, I think these side projects, which I took on in addition to my full-time role, lead to my progression.”

When Gaskill was a senior at KU, Mark Hirschey, Anderson W. Chandler Professor of Business, helped her create a five-year plan, culminating with a doctorate degree. In 2010, Hirschey passed away, yet even death couldn’t stop him from continuing to make a difference. Out of that loss came the inspiration Gaskill needed to continue her education and move one step closer to the goal they set together two years earlier.

But the Stanford Graduate School of Business is not easy. At first, she admitted, it was extremely intimidating.

“I knew the formulas in finance and the P’s of marketing, which I attribute to my time at the KU School of Business,” she said. “The classroom setting, on the other hand, was something I wasn’t prepared for. At Stanford, none of our classes are lecture-based. Instead, we discuss a case and learn a decision-making framework. The protagonist of the case is usually in class to comment on what actually happened.”

The network of KU business alumni spans the globe, and Jayhawk values are ingrained in the most populous cities in the U.S. Even though Dallas was a perfect fit for her career in 2008, Gaskill said she still wonders what opportunities she missed by not knowing who to reach out to and what to ask while at KU.

“At the time, I felt lucky to have an opportunity in technology in Dallas.” Gaskill said. “I wish I would have looked at other areas of the country like San Francisco, Chicago and New York and reached out to alumni to see if there were any opportunities available.”

Regardless of where Gaskill’s career leads, the fond memories of her days in Lawrence, KU and the School of Business follow along.

“KU is a very special place and was an amazing time in my life,” Gaskill said. “While you’re in school, it feels like nothing will ever change. But once you’re gone, you quickly realize that it’s never going to be the same.”

Gaskill earned her MBA and she is once again leaving college to continue her career. Now she can’t picture herself anywhere other than Silicon Valley, at least for now.

“This place is electric,” she said. “Everyone is so motivated and working on things that have the ability to change the world. It’s truly inspiring!”