Daniel Mitchell is the managing director for KPMG, where he specializes in providing audit and accounting services to Alaska Native corporations and financial institutions. KPMG is a distinguished audit, tax, and advisory firm that has participated in many SOM events and has recruited many SOM accounting students. Daniel understands the challenges ahead and advises students to part of the solution during these difficult times.
Tara McGrogan at Pump 1 (Milepost 0) of the Alyeska Pipeline
Tara McGrogan graduated from UAF in May 2016 with a BBA in marketing and a minor in music performance; she is currently pursuing her MBA at the School of Management. Tara worked for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in the summer of 2016.
Why did you decide to pursue your BA degree? When I first started attending UAF in 2011, I had no idea which industry I wanted to work in, but I knew a business degree would give me options because of its diverse applications. After working at SOM as a marketing assistant, I was motivated to get a concentration in marketing and continue in that field of business. The business degree I received gave me a versatile education and I will be able to contribute and have an impact on my local community in the future.
Why did you want to intern for Alyeska? I wanted to intern for Alyeska because they have such an impact on small communities in Alaska. They have provided job and career opportunities to people all over the state, not only through their own employment but through strong partnerships with other organizations. Alaska’s economy is highly impacted by oil revenue, and working for Alyeska over the summer gave me insight into the steps that they take toward protecting the state’s economic and environmental future.
Working for Alyeska was a great experience because I was immediately drawn to the corporate culture they have developed over the past few years. They have core attributes that each employee has embraced and integrated into their daily workday. Every employee is treated as a vital part of the organization. I had heard about Alyeska’s great relationship with its employees, and it was one of the reasons I applied for the internship.
What did you learn through your internship? My internship at Alyeska was full of new learning opportunities, and the best part was that my department was so willing to teach and collaborate. I was placed in the Corporate Communications department, and I was first tasked with learning the basics of Adobe products, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. I was able to contribute to social media and both external and internal newsletters by the end of the first week. After a few months of sharpening my design skills, I helped my department create the posters and displays for Alyeska’s month-long food drive campaign for the Food Bank.
During my initial interview, I had mentioned my work with Business Leader of the Year and other events hosted by SOM, so I was excited when I was asked to help with a few events at Alyeska. I put my event coordination skills to use during a few of Alyeska’s award ceremonies, the Atigun Awards, and was a part of the coordination, execution, and post-event activities of the Fairbanks and Anchorage ceremonies.
Working in the communications department allowed me to sharpen my writing skills and produce pieces for Alyeska’s monthly newsletter. I was able to meet people in the engineering, environmental, and health and safety departments and learn how to communicate information that they provided – including steps that Alyeska takes to make its daily operations efficient, safe for employees, and friendly toward wildlife and surroundings. By writing about new projects, I gained the real-world experience needed to work with people in other fields that I might not be familiar with. Everyone at Alyeska was happy to take time to answer questions about their role in a project for my next writing piece.
What advice do you have for students interested in internships? I received the best piece of advice on my first day from both the Alyeska President Thomas Barret and from my mentor for the summer, Josh Niva: What a student gets out of an internship is entirely up to them. Make the decision to learn as much as the company is willing to teach, because an internship is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and expose yourself to a potential career field.
What was the best thing about your internship? The best part of my internship was the trip to tour Pump Station 1 in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Not only did I get a broad tour of daily operations at the station, but I also got to meet many people I had interviewed on the phone over the summer and see the progress of the projects we had talked about in person. I ended my tour by participating in the annual Pump 1 Fun Run, which was a cold jog, but worth the new views!
Tara at the Fairbanks Atigun Awards with (left) Robyn Brune, Alyeska’s health and safety coordinator, and (center) Michelle Egan, Alyeska’s corporate communications director
Amy Cooper is an acclaimed UAF School of Management accounting instructor who is passionate about accounting and teaching. Amy was named one of the Top 40 under 40 in accounting by CPA Practice Advisor magazine in 2015 and was named the 2015-2016 Faculty Mentor of the Year by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC).
In the videos below, Amy discusses the challenges ahead in the future and gives advice on the opportunities ahead and the importance of investing in your future.
Vincent Castro, UAF Chancellor Dana Thomas, UA President Jim Johnsen, Eric Solie, School of Management Dean Mark Herrmann, Frank Paskvan of BP and Professor Ping Lan pose with the grand prize check at the 2016 Arctic Innovation Competition.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management awarded more than $28,000 in cash prizes Saturday, Oct. 22, after the final round of presentations in the 2016 Arctic Innovation Competition.
The competition, now in its eighth year, invites innovators to propose new, feasible and potentially profitable ideas for solving real-life problems and challenges.
The top prize of $10,000 in the main division was awarded to Vincent Castro and Eric Solie for Attently, a cloud-based software service for speakers and presenters. Attently uses a video feed from a standard webcam or smart phone to detect the number of faces in an audience and calculate the percentage of people who are paying attention.
Castro is a UAF senior in computer engineering, and Solie lives in Fairbanks. Their idea also won the Startup Weekend Fairbanks competition in September.
“The prize money is a huge aspect of the competition, but when you are on stage you are thinking of something else,” Solie said. “Like how good it feels to have your idea validated by well-respected, professional judges.”
With a record 27 Cub Division entries from youths ages 12 and younger, the competition was intense. Kyle Fischer, Keiveri Flannery-Schutt and Paul Melchert, who traveled from Anchorage, took first prize for their Lightning Lawn Razor, a sleek, remote-control mower.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Recycling Commission sponsored a special cash award this year. Harrison DeSanto, Andrew Ladd and Nathan Bauer received the $2,000 Recycling Kicker Prize for Activate Alaska LLC, a project to manufacture activated carbon from Alaska biomass. Such carbon is used in water filtration systems.
A complete list of winners is available on the AIC website.
A $75,000 gift from Usibelli Coal Mine was announced at the ceremony, making the mine the lead sponsor of the competition for the next three years.
UAF Photos by JR Ancheta
UAF Chancellor Dana Thomas, UA President Jim Johnsen, Shalane Frost, School of Management Dean Mark Herrmann, Professor Ping Lan, and Bill Staley of Northrim Bank pose with the 2nd place and Fan Favorite awards at the 2016 Arctic Innovation Competition.
UA President Jim Johnsen, UAF Chancellor Dana Thomas, Paul Melchert, Allysa Wood of Kinross, Keiveri Flannery-Schutt, Celine Graas of Kinross, Kyle Fischer, Professor Ping Lan, and School of Management Dean Mark Herrmann pose with Cub grand prize check at the 2016 Arctic Innovation Competition.
Henry Bolanos poses next to next to “Larry” – the 2015 NBA Championship trophy
Henry Bolanos is a senior graduating in December, 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in accounting. After working for a year as a student assistant in the front office of the School of Management, he just began a new student position in the UA Statewide Human Resources department in the fall of 2016. He plans on taking a break after graduating and then returning to pursue his master’s degree in a few years. Henry shared this story in September 2016.
In the summer of 2016, three Associated Students of Business (ASB) students had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to tour a number of organizations. Huckleberry Hopper, Claressa Ullmayer, and I spent three days on this trip, which was sponsored by ASB and the National Millennial Community. We joined about 20 other students from eight other schools for the trip of a lifetime.
Our first stop on this whirlwind tour was the Verizon Innovation Center. Only two of these centers exist, with the other located in Boston, and access to the centers is very limited. We received a tour of the facility and learned about the extensive research and development activities that go on there – far beyond just cell phone technologies. For example, one project involves an advertising tool that can detect multiple faces simultaneously and identify their age, gender, facial expression, how long the person focused on the ad; this system is intended for use as a rapid advertisement feedback tool.
After Verizon, we visited SHIFT Communications, an analytical public relations firm. The open floor plan office looked like a movie set for a hip startup business, with young millennials at every computer, and the sound of footsteps as workers moved from one desk to another to discuss their projects. We were fortunate to meet with Leah Ciappenelli, the company’s HR Director, who was visiting from Boston. She gave an overview of what the firm does, answered questions, and shared some career and life advice.
The next stop on our busy day was a meeting with the millennial team at Wells Fargo, which includes representatives from their Pacific Northwest marketing team and their community outreach department, and is led by Chris Galang, Diverse Segment Manager. We students and the millennial team engaged in a long and illuminating conversation about different aspects of banking, branding, community outreach, and nonprofit management.
Henry Bolanos (left) with other NMC students from around the country in a rooftop garden in the financial district of San Francisco
Finally, the day ended at the communications firm, Spitfire Strategies. We split into smaller groups to discuss a few different topics. In one discussion group, the staff members shared advice on the job seeking process – how to find the right job fit for your career, how to prepare for interviews, how to give informative interviews, and what their firm looks for when they interview people. Another discussion topic covered an in-depth look at what the firm does on a day-to-day basis. Essentially, they work with organizations, mostly nonprofit organizations, to help promote social issues and increase public awareness. They also handle campaign work, digital strategies, communication planning, and crisis communication.
Day two was especially exciting for us, as it began at the Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team. We were treated to a tour of the facility, including the newly refinished basketball courts. Unfortunately, there were no sightings of Steph Curry working on his magical 3-pointer. After that excitement, we met with Jennifer Cabalquinto, the organization’s CFO. Cabalquinto talked about how she ended up in her role, stating that the industry attracted her because it was something she had never been involved with previously. She also shared how important it is to her to always keep learning. I was surprised by this statement, since she has had an extensive career at a number of high profile organizations. To hear her say that she is still learning really showed me how important it is to not get complacent in my career down the road.
Henry Bolanos, Huckleberry Hopper, and Claressa Ullmayer in the gym at the Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team
After the morning at the arena, it was on to the mythical land of Google. There, we met with a panel of six “googlers” who also happen to be millennials. Most of the panel members confessed to not knowing what a millennial was until they were asked to be on this panel – which I found funny, since I had the same experience when I was invited to go on this trip! But despite this, we found it extremely valuable to hear from people who look like us and are a part of such a strong organization, and we gained great insights from the panel members about entering the work force out of college.
The final stop on our itinerary was the home of one of the original e-commerce companies, eBay. After a quick tour of the new eBay facility that is under construction following the company’s split from PayPal, we met with Claire Dixon, eBay’s Vice President of Global Communication. Dixon immediately stated that they wanted to pick our brains as millennial consumers, and gathered our feedback about various preferences, such as social media, celebrities, news sources, and more. The discussion then moved on to the topic of eBay, and Dixon explored our preconceived notions about the site, squashing many of our misconceptions along the way. She then showed us a few brand new commercials that haven’t yet been aired and asked us to share our opinions on them. This was another interesting and engaging experience for us, as we were able to share our input and ask (and answer) many questions.
Overall, the trip was an amazing experience for the me and the other ASB students, as we were able to meet fellow business students from across the country and learn about their stories, including their experiences pursuing business degrees in disciplines that UAF does not currently offer. Meeting with leaders in various roles from many different organizations really helped me understand more about the qualities that are desired by all firms. This was truly an experience of a life time and I am grateful to SOM, ASB, and the National Millennial Community for the opportunity.
Henry Bolanos, Claressa Ullmayer, and Huckleberry Hopper, enjoying the night life on the trolley on their first night in San Francisco
Cameron Gackstetter won the Main Division 1st place prize of $10,000 in the 2015 Arctic Innovation Competition for his innovation of the ThawHead. The ThawHead is a portable, 40-pound apparatus which uses a two-stage process to thaw ice and then remove melt water and debris in an efficient manner. The ThawHead is designed to assist with the removal of ice and snow from airport lighting canisters, thus exposing the lights and any areas that may need to be repaired.
The inspiration for the ThawHead came to Gackstetter through his recognition of a common and troubling Alaskan problem. On airport runways, groundwater often freezes inside airfield lighting canisters, and the ice build-up can damage wiring and reduce visible lighting. This can quickly become a critical issue if pilots cannot see the runway in order to safely land their planes, especially in rural areas and during the dark winter nights. When the lights freeze up, workers have to thaw the ice away to clear them. This is usually a long, slow process, and the typical methods (such as using a blowtorch) can be a hazardous task for workers and can also potentially damage the lights. Gackstetter wanted to create something that would quickly, safely, and efficiently thaw ice and remove melted water; thus, the innovation of the ThawHead came to be. Gackstetter sees the ThawHead as not only helpful, but necessary, in areas with harsh winter conditions, including Alaska. He explained, “The ThawHead cuts a 2-hour project down to 15 minutes, so it’s a big time saver.”
Taking a Chance
Gackstetter and his wife Shannon did not submit their idea until 11:58 p.m. on the day of the submission deadline. They had no expectations of winning the competition, but believed that they wouldn’t know how successful the ThawHead could be unless they tried. Taking a chance did in fact pay off for Gackstetter, and the AIC competition showed him what a promising innovation he had in the ThawHead. Winning the AIC and taking advantage of the resources and connections this provided served as a starting point for the couple to take their invention to the next phase.
Into The Future Since winning AIC, the Gackstetters have attended multiple conferences to demonstrate the ThawHead, including a Canadian cold weather exhibit in Minneapolis. The state of Alaska has already purchased two of the machines and plans on purchasing more in the future; in October, the ThawHead will be featured in a trade magazine. The Gackstetters hope to convince more municipal and state governments, as well as the U.S. military, to purchase the ThawHead. In addition, they are marketing a complementary invention called the Thaw Rig – an optional, self-contained support system for the ThawHead, which is housed in an insulated trailer that can be pulled behind an ATV or snowmachine.
Words of Wisdom to Competitors Cameron and Shannon’s advice to competitors would be, “Don’t afraid to ask questions.” The couple explained that having help from mentors and leaders is definitely beneficial for all competitors. “Believe in what you’re building,” said Cameron. The couple’s final advice to AIC competitors is, “Good luck and have fun!”
View a video taken during an interview with the Gackstetters on August 11, 2016.
With his creation of The Wylie Post, Wylie Rogers, along with his partner John Miller, won the Alaska College Student Kicker Prize at the 2014 Arctic Innovation Competition. The Wylie Post modernizes the hockey net peg by making it safer and more efficient to anchor hockey nets to the ice.
Focus on Safety The Wylie Post was created to help make playing hockey safer for all players. Many aspects of hockey have benefited from advances in technology, but not the net peg. The old steel pegs do not hold the net sturdily enough, allowing teams to lose control of the net or causing players to receive unnecessary injuries from running into the net. Rogers witnessed these problems firsthand during his college hockey career with the UAF Alaska Nanooks, and invented The Wylie Post to create a more stable net for a safer game.
Support Leads to Success When The Wylie Post was first created, Rogers admits that he was often unsure what he should to do next in order to make his innovation successful. He explained that he could have avoided many obstacles throughout this process if he had known someone who had previously gone through similar situations. With support from his mentors – Dr. Ping Lan, AIC director and professor of business administration at the UAF School of Management, and Ky Holland, assistant professor of business administration management at Alaska Pacific University – who helped guide Rogers to his next steps, The Wylie Post finally began achieving its full potential. Rogers stated, “Ping was like my Miyagi, he tells you just enough and then makes you figure out the rest.” Rogers further shared that Holland was instrumental during the process of engineering the pegs through the prototyping stages and into a market-ready product.
Mentorship – Paying it Forward Thanks to the success of The Wylie Post, Rogers has found himself mentoring fellow innovators. He has learned a lot from the process of creating and marketing his own product, and now he shares these learning experiences with other innovators who may be facing similar issues. Without his own mentors helping him throughout its creation, he firmly believes The Wylie Post would not be where it is today.
Into the Future Rogers hopes to see The Wylie Post receive a stamp of approval as the safest hockey net peg on the market; he looks forward to a day when hockey teams will be required to use The Wylie Post to protect their players from injuries caused by unstable nets. Rogers’ ultimate dream is to be able to go into any rink anywhere and find his product in full use.
Words of Wisdom for AIC Competitors Rogers would like competitors to know that they should never be afraid to ask someone for help. He explained how he would constantly call his mentors for help and absorb the information they were giving him like a sponge. He believes competitors should understand that it’s fine if they don’t know everything, and that asking for help always works in their favor. Rogers shared these final words of wisdom for AIC competitors – “Surround yourself with good people and good things are bound to happen.”
Hear Rogers share his stories and experiences in person at this year’s AIC Final Competition on Saturday, October 22, 2016!
View a video taken during an interview with Rogers on July 20, 2016.
The AIC team recently interviewed Marc Golat, part of the team behind the Thread Wizard bolt cleaner, which received an honorable mention in the 2015 Arctic Innovation Competition. The Thread Wizard was created for mechanics to have a safer and more efficient way to clean dirty bolts.
Inspiration for the Thread Wizard The idea for the Thread Wizard was thought up by Golat’s business partner, Gary Taylor, who is a mechanic. The old way to clean dirty bolts was using a wheel grinder. This wheel grinder would frequently cause injuries due to bolts coming loose and shooting off into the room while being cleaned. In addition, because the wire bristles on the wire wheel can fall out, they can potentially end up in someone’s eye or finger, making the use of this old product even more dangerous for mechanics. Taylor witnessed this problem first hand when he was cleaning old bolts and was almost struck in the eye by a bristle from a wire wheel. Taylor decided something needed to be created to ensure this would not happen to other fellow mechanics. Thus, the Thread Wizard came to be, a product that not only saves time and money, but also creates a safer work environment for mechanics everywhere.
The Thread Wizard Innovation Taylor took the original wire wheel and transformed it into stationary tool. Previously, mechanics would hold their bolts against a quickly spinning wire wheel. The Thread Wizard addresses this potential hazard by fitting the wire wheel into a sturdy handle, which can be held by hand or clamped into a vise. The wires protrude into various-sized holes surrounding the wheel. When a bolt is turned through the Thread Wizard either by hand or by power tool, the wire wheel removes dirt, rust, and other build up quickly and safely.
AIC Idea Update Since the idea was presented at AIC 2015, the Thread Wizard is now being sold all over the world through Golat’s and Taylor’s company, GolaTTAylor Tools, Inc. The Thread Wizard team has started marketing the product globally and now sells the product in Canada, Estonia, and even Australia. Golat stated that his team’s main goal is to help people understand what this new tool is and how it can help mechanics. His team has already started achieving this goal through a 5-minute segment about the Thread Wizard air on Velocity TV, a program that reaches over 50,000 people. Just through this segment alone, sales of the Thread Wizard have already increased. The team hopes to continue making people aware of their innovation and expanding their sales reach.
Words of Wisdom for AIC Competitors Golat believes that all competitors should feel confident about entering the Arctic Innovation Competition if they have a new innovation to share with the world. Golat explained, “Any product, no matter big or small, is worthwhile to show somebody, because you might have something that’s really good, so don’t be afraid.”
View a short video taken during an interview with Golat on July 20, 2016.
Now in its eighth year, AIC is Alaska’s original idea competition that will award more than $28,000 in cash prizes this year. The competition is free to enter, individuals and teams of all ages may enter, and multiple ideas can be entered. No business plan or prototype is required to enter, although they are recommended.
This year, the competition will feature a new $2,000 prize incentive. Joining the previously established “kicker” or side prizes, the new Recycling Kicker prize will be awarded for the best recycling-related idea. Sponsored by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Recycling Commission, this prize will recognize a new innovation for a product, service, or process that encourages or utilizes the reduction, reuse, and/or recycling of solid wastes.
The deadline to submit an idea for AIC is 11:59 p.m. AKDT on Friday, September 23, 2016.
The final competition will be held on Saturday, October 22 and all finalists must attend the event to present their ideas for judging.
GCI is an Alaska-based company that delivers communication and technology services to consumers and businesses. They’ve been delivering services for more than 35 years to some of the most remote communities in our state and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. GCI is proud to be an “Alaska born and raised” company; they’re dedicated to providing Alaskans with the most innovative technologies in order to improve the quality of life for all Alaskans, through education, health care and economic development.
The GCI and SOM Partnership
The UAF School of Management is training Alaska’s future leaders and is an important investment not only for GCI, but also for the state. Recently, GCI has become more involved, becoming a top-level sponsor of SOM’s annual gala, Business Leader of the Year, and participating in the Spring Etiquette Seminar, which provides students with the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about professional conduct from Alaska’s business leaders.
GCI and the UAF Business Leader of the Year As one of Alaska’s largest employers, GCI believes in the importance of developing Alaska’s future business leaders and value the education that SOM provides. Many key business leaders in the Interior and across Alaska are SOM graduates. As an Alaska-based company, GCI understands how crucial it is to attract talented business minds as well as retain those individuals so that they can continue to serve Alaskans for years to come.
Advice for Current SOM Students Value the lessons that you’re learning—they will help set you up to excel in the world of business and prepare you for many of the business challenges that are unique to Alaska. Also, keep in mind that it’s in your best interest to take advantage of every opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Internships and other forms of business experience can go a long way and will provide valuable, on-the-job lessons that will complement your education (and resume).
GCI Gives Generously Around the State GCI’s long-standing history of corporate giving is built on their philanthropic goals, which include supporting youth education and higher learning, investing in Alaska-based programs and initiatives and strengthening programs supported by GCI employees. There are dozens of organizations and causes that GCI supports; the gamut includes major Alaska cultural events such as the Native Youth Olympics and the Iditarod, to educational opportunities like the Alaska Academic Decathlon, to business and health-related organizations. A full list is available on the GCI website.
GCI’s Advice for an OrganizationConsidering a Gift to SOM
It’s incredibly important to support the institutions that develop and prepare the individuals who will make up our future business workforce. By investing in UAF’s School of Management, you are also investing in the next generation of business and community leaders, those who will play an immense role in the future development of Alaska’s economy and therefore the well-being of all Alaskans.