Catching up with Jamie Linna is a challenge: the 1999 MIS grad is a blur of motion, even when she’s back here in the Keweenaw on vacation with her family. She took a few moments to sit down with Mari Buche, associate professor of MIS, to talk about her life and career since graduation. Amidst the accolades and advice she was able to share, only one question caught Jamie off-guard: What would you have done differently?
Her answer might surprise current business students. “We wish we’d paid more attention in our finance and economics courses,” she says, referring to herself and fellow MIS graduate and husband Steve. “In corporate settings, grasping the big picture of how a business operates is critical.”
First-year students are often uncertain on their major, but Jamie discovered her passion for business information technology in high school. “Those were my favorite classes,” she says. She didn’t know that those skills would carry her around the globe and provide intellectual challenges that stretched the limits of her imagination.
After graduation, the Linnas both started careers at Dow Chemical. With only seven years of experience, they volunteered for an opportunity in Shanghai—and by volunteered, she says, they didn’t say no. “Out of the entire organization, we were among the only ones who said we would consider it." That off-hand "maybe" turned into a massive career opportunity. In two short years, they took the Shanghai office from a single-person IT operation to a 200-person delivery center. Leading global teams is now part of her daily activities.
Reflecting on her career to date, Jamie is most proud of her willingness to take on new challenges and opportunities—adapting to diverse roles within diverse teams. “An attitude of openness and risk-taking will differentiate a career,” she says. “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.” At the time, Jamie didn’t realize that managers and executives were watching her performance on the Shanghai assignment. It was the visibility of that successful project that fueled future opportunities.
Jamie takes pleasure in mentoring young professionals: they are open to change and have enthusiasm for learning new skills. “At the beginning of their careers,” she explains, “they’re eager, excited to try new things, and have fresh ideas to solve problems.
What does the future hold? “Business needs will be met by pockets of global expertise; and IT capabilities will enable those relationships,” she responds, pointing out that partnerships will not be restricted by geographical boundaries or limited to certain industries; the requisite skills will continue to evolve. “Professionals will need to be well-versed in vendor and service-management skills. The ability to build mutually beneficial work arrangements and contractual engagements is essential. These are critical for future employees.
Steve and Jamie made the decision a few years ago that he would stay home and raise their children, while Jamie continued her professional career. Recently, she was surprised to realize that three other team leaders in her department were also professional women with stay-at-home spouses. The bottom line? "Find the solution that works for you and your family, and then commit your energy and resources to making it work. You'll never be disappointed.
Ultimately, Jamie's advice for future professionals is to embrace ambiguity and not be afraid to take risks. "Growth begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” She’ll test that soon: she and her family are moving back to Shanghai for Jamie’s new position as Asia Business Services leader with Dow Corning.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.