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Jana Ahlfinger Bell ’86 on finding a company culture that fits with you

Jamison Moore, February 19th, 2018

Having learned what it means to find good culture during her time at Texas A&M University, Jana Ahlfinger Bell ’86 wanted to share with current students the insights she has gained in her career on her way to becoming the Executive Vice President and CFO of RMG Networks.

Bell, who received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M, also worked as the CFO of EF Johnson Technologies, Inc., as president and CEO of Simple Products Inc., and as the CEO, president, and director of @TRACK Communications, Inc. Bell recently visited with Mays business honors students as part of the Mays Transformational Leader Speaker series, which recognizes business leaders in today’s society and gives them the opportunity to share their expertise with the Mays Community.

“Interviewing is important for both the employer and the potential employee,” Bell said, when she explained her wish for the students in the session – that when they go to their first job, they find a place that is interesting and get to work with great people.

“But how can one decipher what a company’s culture is like just based on the first initial interview?” one of the students asked. Bell responded: “You have to interview as if you’re already there, inside the company. See yourself there, and then you will ask more in-depth questions.”

Bell continued to highlight other ways to discover a company’s culture:

  • Think about yourself actually working there and what that would be like. Delve into their daily happenings to gain that understanding.
  • Pay attention to the tone at the top of the company, what is important to the leadership of the company, because it really matters.
  • Do your homework on the company and the industry to gain insight into the culture. A defense contractor, for example, has a different culture as compared with a media company, or a technology company, or a professional firm, or an oil & gas company.

Bell closed the discussion by telling the students, “I love what I am doing, and I have found that ethical center in what I do. I love being a mentor.”

Bell advised the students to “make the most of the opportunities presented to you during your time at Texas A&M like these speaker sessions.” Bell told the students she wishes she had the opportunities that the students have now to network with speakers like herself, and she encouraged them to take advantage of all of the networking opportunities provided to them during their time here.

Under the direction of Dr. George Fowler, the college’s Center of Management Information Systems (CMIS) is in the process of developing two new programs. Starting this fall, the CMIS Scholars Program and a mock interview program will help give students expanding opportunities within the information technology field.

“As director, my goal has been to reorient CMIS to project focus,” says Fowler, who assumed the role in January. “CMIS is an academic center. We concentrate on determining what kind of employees the industry wants and on forming partnerships with leading companies to help produce the kind of students that fulfill those expectations.”

According to Fowler, the CMIS Scholars Program will be sponsored by five companies from the corporate advisory board and will give five chosen students within the Department of Information and Operations Management (INFO) the opportunity for an internship as well as a $2,000 scholarship.

The mock interview program has companies from the corporate advisory board send representatives to A&M to stage simulated job interviews with INFO students. The representatives then will provide them with critiques and pointers for improved performances.

Along with these two new activities, Fowler said he will keep an existing program designed to have a company present students with a problem that MIS majors would likely come in contact with in a potential job. The students then have a week to come up with a presentation of their grasp on the problem and a proposed solution.

“It allows students who don’t have the best grades to shine through,” Fowler said. “It gives them an opportunity to be seen by corporate representatives. I am proud of our students. And I like to think that CMIS contributes to making them good students for good companies to hire.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Programs

Mays College staff members were recently recognized at the annual Brazos Bravo awards, sponsored by the Brazos Valley chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a 13,700-member non-profit organization for communication professionals.

Bob Beals, art director with the Real Estate Center (REC), and graphic designer J.P. Beato won a Brazos Bravo Award, the highest award given, for the design of the REC’s Tierra Grande magazine. Beals and Beato also received recognition of achievement for the REC’s annual report. In addition, the REC’s video “Affordable Housing: The Crisis in Texas” was recognized with a certificate of excellence.

In recognition of his more than 30 years of service to IABC, David Jones, senior editor with the REC, was presented the Edna Smith Standing Ovation Award, which recognizes outstanding volunteer efforts of an IABC-Brazos Valley chapter member. Jones has been with the REC more than 25 years.

The Mays Business Online team of Lara Zuehlke, Kendra Morris, Matt Tesauro and Pam Gerbig was recognized with an award of excellence for the launch of Mays Business Online and an award of achievement in the e-magazine category.

Categories: Departments, Faculty

Two staff members are retiring after successful careers with the Mays College and Texas A&M. Lucy Morgan, an administrative assistant with the college’s Center for Retailing Studies, is retiring after 15 years of dedicated service to A&M. Laura Taska, a staff assistant in the Real Estate Center, is also retiring this summer, after more than six years with the college and a total of 13 with the university.

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Texas A&M

While the rise in electronic commerce (e-commerce) is bringing about changes to all business sectors, marketing is one area that stands to be heavily affected. At the 21st annual American Marketing Association’s Faculty Consortium, marketing faculty, industry consultants and business people from across the country will be on hand at the Mays College to discuss the implications of the emerging electronic marketplace.

Hosted by the Department of Marketing, the consortium will bring more than 120 speakers and attendees to the Wehner Building July 14-17. This is the second time the college has hosted the annual conference, the first in 1985.

“Some very distinguished faculty will be here sharing their expertise,” says Rajan Varadajan, consortium co-chair and head of the Department of Marketing. “The consortium will foster an interactive discussion on the alternate approaches business schools are taking to incorporate e-commerce into their curriculum.”

With e-commerce as the centerpiece of the conference, program sessions will address the technology’s impact on marketing education, practice and research. Session topics, for example, range from interactive environments and consumer behavior to teaching and conducting research in e-commerce.

According to associate professor of marketing Manjit Yadav, the consortium will also bring together two commonly held viewpoints about the role of e-commerce in marketing.

“Some argue that e-commerce and related technologies are simply an extension of existing technology and that we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel,” says Yadav, who’s also a consortium co-chair. “The other viewpoint argues that there are significant differences and that e-commerce technology is not an extension of the television or telephone.”

In addition to exposing the challenges and opportunities associated with e-commerce, Yadav says the consortium “provides a great opportunity for the Department of Marketing and the college to showcase our work and our facility.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty

Kelli Shomaker has accepted the appointment as director of the Mays College Fellows Program, an undergraduate professional program for juniors. Shomaker, herself a former Fellow, serves as an academic advisor for the Department of Accounting and teaches financial accounting principles.

In addition, she is a member of the Fellows Advisory Council and is a faculty advisor to the Brotherhood of Christian Aggies. Shomaker will assume the post starting July 1 upon the departure of Dr. Tim Peterson. Peterson, who has served as Fellows director since 1998, is leaving the college to accept a faculty position at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa.

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Programs

Mark Welsh ’01 was presented Texas A&M University’s Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award during spring commencement ceremonies. Welsh, who served as cadet colonel of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets this year, was presented the award by Texas A&M President Ray Bowen while receiving his degree in finance.

To be eligible for the Brown-Rudder award, a student must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, leadership, be a member of an honor or professional society and have participated in extracurricular activities including community service with humility and dedication to Texas A&M and its principles.

As the cadet commander, Welsh proved himself as a leader. Maj. Gen. Ted Hopgood, commandant of the Corps of Cadets, called Welsh a “mature and dependable leader who gets things done.”

A profile highlighting Welsh’s achievements was featured in Mays Business Online’s Life Stories section last month.

Categories: Departments, Former Students, Texas A&M

This year’s spring commencement marked a major milestone for the Mays Executive MBA Program. The program welcomed its first group of students in 1999. And, after two years of giving up their weekends and commuting to The Woodlands, all 40 members of Class I attended the ceremony to receive their hard-earned advanced business degrees.

“This class had a definite dynamic,” said Kathy Thompson, a Class I participant and vice president for information technology planning and process management for Verizon. “After going through the program together, we decided we all had to support each other and walk across the stage to receive our degrees. We feel like it’s the final and is very important to us as a group because it is the last time we’ll all be together.”

Approximately 200 of the class’ family and friends came to campus from around the country to attend graduation and a luncheon hosted by the Executive MBA Program Office.


“Receiving this degree is very important to them,” said Julie Orzabal, associate director of the program. “This was a very successful class and they really set the precedent for the classes following them.”

In addition to attending graduation festivities, many of the Executive MBA students have ordered Aggie rings, excluding those who received their bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Austin, said Orzabal with a laugh.

Regardless of the fact that they aren’t considered “traditional” A&M students by many because they met off campus, for Thompson obtaining her ring in August will be the final rite of passage into the Aggie family. “I feel a very strong kinship with the other participants and with Texas A&M,” she said. “Receiving a ring and becoming a part of the Aggie Network is all part of earning the degree.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Programs, Students

For the 18th year in a row, the college’s Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) received the Student Chapter Outstanding Performance Award at the organization’s national collegiate meeting in Chicago.

A&M students also competed in the programming contest, including junior information and operations management students Michael Fowler and Shawn Kruse who placed sixth out of 95 teams in the visual basic competition. The team of senior information and operations students Jennifer Boyer and Nicolyn Marino placed first out of 32 teams in the Webmaster competition.

Categories: Departments, Programs, Students

More than 650 students and parents had the opportunity to meet Mays College administrators at the Business Student Council’s “Breakfast with the Deans.” Held in the Wehner Building during Parents’ Weekend, the event provided an opportunity for the council to welcome parents to the Mays College.

“We targeted the event to parents of freshman and sophomore business students, although it was open to everyone,” said council president Scott Ramsower, a junior finance major. “It’s a good way to communicate with parents and make them aware of what’s going on within the college.”

In years past, the Business Student Council sponsored similar events but Ramsower said the group opted to involve administrators and faculty members this year to give parents a first-hand opportunity to meet them. The program line up included Dean Benton Cocanougher, Ben Welch, director of the Center for Executive Development, and management professor Don Hellriegel, who discussed the approved Wehner Building expansion.

“Overall, I think it was a great success,” Ramsower said. “For next year, however, we would like to think of new ways to accommodate growth and offer more insight into the college and its facilities by providing tours and additional information.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Students

Governor Rick Perry has appointed the college’s namesake Lowry Mays ’57 to serve on the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. A San Antonio resident and chairman of Clear Channel Communications, Mays will serve a six-year term. He is a former chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and of the United Way of San Antonio and has received numerous awards and honors for his service to the communications industry and Texas A&M.

Along with Mays and Wendy Gramm, Phil Adams ’71 has also been named to the board of regents. A member of the Mays College Development Council, Adams owns the Phil Adams Company in Bryan and is very active in the community, serving on the board of directors of the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. He is also involved in the Brazos County United Way and the Central Texas Association of Life Underwriters and serves as a director of First American Bank in Bryan.

Categories: Former Students, Texas A&M