Louis Renjel, '12
Vice President of Strategic Infrastructure, CSX Corporation
"In an environment where you are working long hours, plus making time for your family and an MBA, only your classmates can truly understand what you are going through. We consistently came together, lifted each other up and pushed each other forward."
From Capitol Hill to CSX
When I finished grad school the first time, I was working on Capitol Hill in the House and Senate and contemplated pursuing my MBA. But then I received the opportunity of a lifetime in 2000, to work for a senator on the Committee on Environment and Public Works. It was a chance to have a hand in shaping the country's environmental laws and policies, so I opted to forego my business degree at that time. After that, I had some great work opportunities. I worked as a lobbyist for a company before I joined CSX, which is a major freight rail transportation company. As the Vice President of Strategic Infrastructure at CSX, I work at the intersection of our business strategy and public affairs. I had years of experience in public affairs and knew the Global Executive MBA would allow me to serve my company in a more meaningful way. I was right. From day one, I could apply what I learned to be a more effective business leader.
Solving Global Business Challenges
During the Global Executive MBA program, we studied a live case on Rio Tinto, and it was fascinating. It was an incredible experience to have Tom Albanese, the then-CEO of one of the largest companies in the world as a professor for the project. We listened to a lecture, and then he presented a business problem related to energy, environmental policy, resources, and sustainability issues. The topic was right up my alley.
Working on the case in our teams, we each contributed our own expertise—political, economic, or statistical—as we thought through complex issues. We honed in on a framework for solving the case, and what questions to ask in order to find solutions. We then presented our project directly to Tom Albanese and received immediate feedback. Dialogue with a CEO of that magnitude—one who understands the correlation among cultural, social, economic, and political factors in business—was really unique and a great learning opportunity. This is just one example from many great experiences in the MBA program. There were many subjects and experiences that were completely new to me and "out of my comfort zone" that I equally value.
Financial Accounting was one of our first classes, and it was a huge challenge. I'm a public policy guy, so I had not studied accounting before. Fortunately, there was an accountant on my team, and even though he was busy with his own workload, he sat down with me and helped me understand the concepts. I was able to return the favor during a later class that involved more analysis and writing. When he struggled, I was able to help him. We learned together, and there were actually several points in the program when I was learning as much from my classmates as from the professors. I had a lot of amazing, successful, experienced classmates with unique perspectives, who also became great, supportive friends. In an environment where you are working long hours, plus making time for your family and an MBA, only your classmates can truly understand what you are going through. We consistently came together, lifted each other up and pushed each other forward.
On a professional level, I learned how to approach and work through problems in a fundamentally different way, due to what I learned in the MBA program. I gained hard skills from the course work and soft skills from the teamwork. With the cultural, social, and macroeconomic overlay of everything, I gained truly applicable knowledge for a global business environment. Any organization, whether it is doing business directly outside of the US or not, is impacted in a global sense. In my line of work, shipping and energy markets are extremely important, so understanding and experiencing them in China, India, and Dubai really gave me a perspective that I couldn't have found elsewhere.