Hello my name is Mark Meckler and I am an Associate Professor of Management within the Pamplin School of Business. When I first started out in college, I was pursuing a degree with the hopes of becoming an Astrophysicist. I discovered that the work consisted almost entirely of very complicated math. I was not good enough at it to speak math like a language. I had taken a class called “20th Century Physics and its Philosophical Implications.” I loved it. So I decided to move over to liberal arts and study Philosophy of Science. That was my major.
While I was getting my degree, I was working anywhere that I could, usually as a cook. I liked cooking and the hours were natural fit while going to school during the day. It was physical and athletic and creative at the same time. I also liked architecture and building things. Senior year I worked for a famous architecture firm in Harvard Square. They were telling me that I should become an architect. I talked to the junior architects in the firm and found out how hard everyone worked. Pulling all-nighters to finish projects was done on a regular basis, and they said that it was just the same in architecture school. I decided that was not for me. I changed direction and pursued the other thing I was really good at, cooking.
I moved to Switzerland where I’d been offered an apprenticeship in cooking at a landmark hotel. I read and learned everything I could about the science of food and cooking. I learned fast. In four quick years I became a professional cook in New York City, then a saucier in Puerto Rico, and finally a chef in San Francisco. I was the youngest head chef at a leading restaurant at the time. Chefs at other restaurants called me “the kid.” It was my liberal arts college education that taught me how to learn, and that’s what I credit for becoming successful so young.
There was just one problem. Even though the restaurant was busy, the accountant told me we were not making much money. I had no idea about business and barely understood what she was talking about. The owner of the restaurant thought it would be a great idea for me to get an MBA, then work with him developing restaurants.
I moved again. I went to the Michigan State University to get my MBA. I worked while going to school, both as a graduate assistant and teaching cooking classes. One of my Profs at the time told me that I would make a great professor someday, and thus a seed was planted. I also worked for Chef Nelson, treasurer of the American Culinary Federation, and he taught me to make money with food.
Upon finishing my MBA, I was recruited by a company to work in Aruba. San Francisco didn’t seem quite so interesting in comparison anymore so I decided to make the change and move. I worked in Aruba for four years. First I was at the airline catering company as their controller. Not creative, and not physical. Although I did learn a lot about budgeting and accounting, I just didn’t like it. I switched jobs (within the corporation) and became Food and Beverage Manager at a nice resort hotel. Much better! I was the youngest hotel F&B manager on the whole island. I had a nice house and really lived it up. Once I had learned all I could and things got repetitive, it was time for change.
I moved to New York City. I wanted to get out of the hotel/restaurant business because of the long hours and odd schedule. I was going to be married and wanted a family. Now that I had my MBA, I found I could work anywhere in business and chose to work as an analyst at a well-known investment bank, Baring Securities. The work at Barings was gratifying and I learned a ton, but I also saw a lot of unethical behavior. By chance, I agreed to teach a class at the local community college once a week. I loved it. I decided that research and teaching was what I wanted to do next. I also knew that I would need a Ph.D. to do that. I applied to Ph.D. programs, and gave my notice at Barings
I moved. AGAIN! My wife and I moved to Florida while I obtained my Ph.D. in Strategic Management. Once I completed it, I was offered a position at the University of Portland. At the time I didn’t even know where Portland was! But we moved again! After ten years at UP, I met Dr. Sam Holloway. We started to learn all about the craft beer business and now we are working together at Crafting a Strategy and creating the first online business courses for craft beer businesses.
As you can read from my story, I have moved, moved and moved some more. Life is about change. Sometimes it really is for the better but you won’t know until you try. If there is advice I could give my twenty-year-old self, it would be to follow what you are good at. Also, if you are not learning anymore, it’s time to move on. Find work where you can experience the joy of become an expert, where you can’t wait to learn more.