The Work Seminar

Ep. 3: Candi Harmon Kruse - MA in Social Sciences Turned Sourcing Professional

November 17, 2021 Jesse Butts Season 1 Episode 3
The Work Seminar
Ep. 3: Candi Harmon Kruse - MA in Social Sciences Turned Sourcing Professional
Show Notes Transcript

Candi finished her MA in social sciences with plans to continue studying her beloved medieval French peasants in a PhD program. Then the unexpected happened: The sourcing job she took during a year off grew on her. 

After two or three years of internal debate over the doctoral route, Candi opted to focus her career in supply chain. Since then, she’s enjoyed a string of promotions and professional growth. And she eventually found her way back to academia, earning an MBA in 2018.

Candi’s reflections on how her history and social sciences background have shaped her work life and given her an edge as a sourcing professional reveal her gift for analysis and connection. Plus, she offers her take on the media attention her University of Chicago grad program received this summer.

“The Master’s Trap” and related reading/listening

“The Master’s Trap (Part One)” by Anne Helen Petersen (Culture Study)

“‘Financially Hobbled for Life’: The Elite Master’s Degrees That Don’t Pay Off” by Melissa Korn and Andrea Fuller (WSJ)

“Law School Loses Luster as Debts Mount and Salaries Stagnate” by Andrea Fuller, Josh Mitchell, and Sara Randazzo (WSJ)

Back to School: Masters mishaps” — The Weeds podcast

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Jesse Butts:

Welcome to The Work Seminar, the podcast for people with liberal arts advanced degrees considering work outside their fields of study. Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today I'm chatting with Candi Harmon Cruse, an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago turned sourcing professional. Candi and I both attended Capital University, where we overlapped in a few English classes during our undergrad years. Candi is now a manager of indirect sourcing at Victaulic, a global manufacturer of pipe joining products. Candi, welcome! Delighted to have you.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Thanks, Jesse.

Jesse Butts:

So before we talk about your time in grad school, can you tell listeners a bit about sourcing? What does that involve exactly?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So sourcing is part of the supply chain profession. Sourcing generally is considered to be how companies figure out what they want to buy, where indirect sourcing is basically everything that doesn't go within a product. So my team manages everything from IT to human resources to MRO to real estate. So it's basically everything you would think of in a company other than the actual components that go into product. I manage a team of three. We strategize what we buy from where, we negotiate pricing, contractual terms, and get contracts negotiated. So it's kind of that whole lifecycle of what we need at the company.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. And, sorry, what is MRO?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Maintenance, repair and operations. So everything from like lubricants to parts that go on to equipment.

Jesse Butts:

Okay, but not in the product itself?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

But not in the product itself.

Jesse Butts:

But those machines that are vital to creating the product?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Absolutely.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. Cool. So, obviously, I'm sure social sciences to sourcing is a pretty interesting story. So, so let's start there with that social sciences degree. I'm curious what prompted you to enroll in grad school? Why were you interested in going beyond undergrad?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So I started my undergraduate journey with a major in history education. And when I went into my junior year experience working in a middle school, I pretty quickly realized that I was not meant for high school or middle school education. That just wasn't where my heart was. And I really enjoyed the more academic side of history. So I thought what I wanted to do was teach it at collegiate level. So that's why I started applying to PhD programs and masters programs, hoping to get my foot in the door to start a academic career.

Jesse Butts:

So how did you decide on University of Chicago? What was that process like?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So I applied to, I believe it was 11 schools by the time I was done. Just like many people, you apply a lot of places. A couple places that are long shots and a couple of safety schools. I ended up being accepted to four programs. I was accepted to the PhD program at Akron. And then I was accepted at a couple of masters programs. The University of Chicago program was a little interesting, because I applied to their history PhD program. And you know, I got a big packet thinking I had gotten in. In reality, what they were doing was giving me an offer to go into their Master of Social Sciences program. So I looked at all of the programs and the options, and I decided to go to the University of Chicago, because a) if I would move forward to a PhD, I thought that it would be more competitive and helping me to get into PhD programs. And b) I thought that if for some reason I changed my mind, and I didn't want to go into academia, that I would be better suited with a master's in social science versus a master's in history.

Jesse Butts:

Got it. And for that part B, were you, even before enrolling, waffling a bit? Or was that a true backup plan?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I think it was a true backup plan. I was pretty set I was gonna be a medieval history professor. But I think I had this nagging feeling that I was going to spend money to do this. And if for some reason it didn't work out, that I wanted to make sure that I could, you know, pay the bills when I was done. So.

Jesse Butts:

So when you were at University of Chicago, I mean, when you were in classes when you're learningwhat was that experience like? Were you pretty set on still pursuing academia? Did something change during the actual master's program for your perspective?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So the studies themselves were fantastic. One of the reasons why I was pretty attracted to the University of Chicago was it's just known for its almost overwhelming academic feel. They generally attracts some of the best and brightest across the country. And it was an opportunity to be, I would call one of the dumbest people in the room, just surrounded by so much intellect and academic curiosity. And I didn't leave the program thinking that I didn't want to go into academia. I think what I began to understand, though, was the potential difficulties of actually reaching an academic career. I became a lot more understanding of the strong competitive nature of going into an academic career, I met a lot of people who had been adjuncting for 5, 10, 15 years without really even a hope of a tenure track job. And so I think at that point, I was starting to get a little concerned of the, you know, I could put 10 years into this and get a PhD and be the best at the best of this, and I still may not be able to get a full time job. And that had shocked me a little bit.

Jesse Butts:

As you're going through this and approaching graduation, what did you end up doing after you graduated? Or what were you thinking right before you walked down the aisle?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So yeah, so I was actually, I walked down two aisles. So I graduated, and I got married, within about a three week period.

Jesse Butts:

Wow, congrtulations.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Thank you. So it was, it was different because at that point, I was taking the advice of my program. And that was take a year. I had some language learning that I needed to really work on to be better prepared for PhD applications. Most people will tell you that PhD applications can almost be a full time job, you know, just trying to prepare everything that you need to get done. So I took a year. I h d just moved across the count y too. We'd moved from the Mid est to out East, and I had tol my husband, "I want to take t e year. I'm just gonna get a ob so I can help pay off my stud nt loans and keep us fed." nd I wanted to really think bout what I want to do going forward. So that's what I did. I did some Latin learning and c ntinued to have some involvement in academia. I went to th big Medieval conference up in ichigan that year, and just ki d of really thought about what wanted to do.

Jesse Butts:

And so that job that you took, was that something related to what you're doing now? Or was that really just something to help cover the bills, and really not much else at that point? At least in your perspective at that point?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

At the time, I was trying to find something to pay the bills. I think I applied to everything that I could find, and you know, it was a little different looking for a job in 2006. Back then I mean, you literally were still looking at newspapers often enough trying to find job postings. And I had done a internship in procurement when I was an undergrad, you know, again, one of those random jobs she did over the summer to get a little bit of experience. And I was able to leverage that experience to get a job as a materials assistant. And that job was a little bit of everything. Everything from faxing and filing to some really basic procurement functions. And at the time, I took it just to pay the bills, and then ended up launching an entire career.

Jesse Butts:

I almost wonder if we should define faxing for our listeners. Just kidding. So, as this year winds up, what are you thinking? Did you end up applying to PhD programs? Did you decide that you wanted to take a change? How did that all transpire?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So I had started PhD applications. I had picked the places I wanted to do, I think actually, probably one of the best things that I learned at the University of Chicago was how important your advisor is to a PhD program. And when I first applied to PhD programs, I just applied to like the best ones. You know, who doesn't want to get a degree from a top tier institution? And I used a lot of time that year to really kind of research too within the specific parts of medieval history I was interested in and try and find those connections. Because that's really how you can learn and grow as a professional and actually had made a lot of connections with people, going to conferences and starting to figure out where am I gonna go next. And then I got to about January, February when applications were due. And I was just really struggling because everyone I was talking to was telling me, "I've been on the job market for three years, and I haven't found a full time job." And I was enjoying making a paycheck. And I was beginning to enjoy the work that I did. And I was growing my responsibilities at work. And at that point, my decision was, you know what, I'm not ready to go yet. Like maybe at some point I'm going to want to go. I'm still very young in my career, I have plenty of time to do this. But why don't I play with this for a couple years, and let's see what happens and this happened. So.

Jesse Butts:

So you mentioned you started to enjoy the work. What was it about the work that you were starting to enjoy?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So I always tell people that part of what I really enjoy about having a social science degree is that the the basis of academic work at the University of Chicago was, how does the world work? How do people interact? How do people make mutually beneficial arrangements? And at the end of the day, that's what supply chain is. Supply chain is people who have things that they want to transfer to other people and people who need things to be transferred to them, and trying to, you know, strike a deal. A lot of people come at that from either a business background. You know, understanding the mechanics of business, and some people come at it from an engineering background being very tactical. Even now, there's whole degrees in supply chain, and people learn the mechanics of supply chain. And I came at it at a completely different angle. My angle is the interest in the people side. So when I approached supply chain, I'm looking at it. Okay, well, they want something from me, and I want something from them. And how can I use my social science background to understand the situation and try and reach that win-win solution?

Jesse Butts:

What is your day to day look like back then? Or what did it look like back then?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So back then, in my very first role, which I only had for a good eight or nine months before I got promoted, I was, I was an assistant. So I was assisting people who worked in the procurement functions. So I might help cut some basic purchase orders. I might do some research, you know, somebody from the floor might come in with a widget and say, "Can you help me find this?" And I might go to a website or a catalog and try and find that and give pricing to someone. And then my next job, I was a buyer, and I literally just bought things all day. Some of it was done based off of a system telling me to buy things, and some of them were done with more manual things. Back then we did a lot of, that they're literally cards that were tied to things and when you got the last 100, somebody ripped the card off and stuck in a box. And I would walk around and pick them up once a day and cut those orders. So I got started in that very tactical role. And then as I've grown the career, I went into the strategic side, so getting a greater understanding of the product that you're buying, whether it's a physical product going into a product or selling, or a service, or capital equipment, or all of those things, and really understanding the requirements of a company and how to best meet those through a contractual relationship.

Jesse Butts:

So as you're in your first couple years, I mean, you mentioned when you decided to defer the PhD applications that you wanted to try this for a couple years. At what point did the idea of making this your career really cement itself versus maybe I'll do the PhD, maybe I won't?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Probably around year two or three. I had left my first company and went to a second company. At that point, I had increased my income pretty significantly already. And my second company, I went to Bell and Howell, who's still around, they're based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They really introduced me to the strategic side of procurement. And that was a click for me. While I'm not an engineer, by any means, my brain thinks very tactically. I'm married to a mechanical engineer. So that stuff kind of intrigues me. And it was almost like getting to be an academic in a business type role. I got to explore new things, gain great understanding of things, come up with ideas. You try and prove out those ideas. I mean, just like you do in an academic construct. You know, I came up with ideas of why I think something happened 500 years ago, and then I looked for research to help support or completely kill my thesis. And that's what I got to do in that first strategic role. I really got to go out and say, okay, I think this might be the best method. And then you talk to 20 people and read a lot of different things and watch some videos and tour some factories. You go, that that wasn't the right thing. And that's okay. And you try it again.

Jesse Butts:

When you were making this transition from the tactical roles that you were describing earlier to the strategic role... When you were in that tactical role, did you have an inkling that you wanted to move to a strategic role? Were you advocating, expressing interest in that? Or was itI mean, a fluke isn't the right word, you're obviously doing a good job and being recognized for thatbut did someone maybe suggest it for you? And it kind of opened your eyes? What was that process like?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Well, I think I knew that while I enjoyed pieces of a tactical role, that I wouldn't be happy sitting just behind a desk executing purchase orders every day, like I wanted to do more than that. And so I took that second job, you know, it was a buyer role. It was meant to be, you know, just kind of sit a desk and execute things. But I had a great mentor, my boss, Renae, at that point was just fantastic. And she was very hands on. And I think she saw that I would be able to do this. So she began to give me pieces of playing in that role. And then it just kind of worked out that a company I worked for that point was Bell and Howell. We were owned by a German company, and they went into bankruptcy. And when that happened, they let go our entire strategic sourcing department, and my department ended up taking on all that work. So then I was very happy that I had gotten some crash courses previously on how that work worked. And then we all, we kind of pitched in and we took care of it. I feel like my whole career has been like just random things happening. And then it all working itself out. So.

Jesse Butts:

So I think if we're looking at the timeline, you're about three or four years since you graduated, that you're in this strategic role. And you're really enjoying it. What's happening after these three or four years kind of to present? Are you staying in similar roles at similar companies? Are you trying new things?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I think that everything's kind of just been a progression. I moved into that strategic role at Bell and Howell. You know, at some point, they were closing the facility, I was working at the northeast, and I had a choice of what I was going to do next. I took a little fluke role for a little bit doing purchasing management. And then I ended up at Victaulic. And I've been at Victaulic for almost eight years. I started as a sourcing specialist, which is kind of that base strategic role. And it was the first time I'd worked in a really big company. And the first time I had worked in a place where sourcing was really, you know, like, it was the entire role. Versus everywhere else I've worked sourcing was just a piece of the role. And when I came to Victaulic, I said that I wanted to go to a company that was big enough that I will have opportunity. I didn't enter supply chain because I wanted to enter supply chain. I entered supply chain, because it seemed to be a match. And I just randomly started here, and I've just never left. But I liked the idea of being at a big company where I found an opportunity for a lateral move that I could do that. I've just never been in this situation where it made sense to do yet. You know, my career's progressed. I was in the direct material side, so the componentry side foroh goodness, 1, 22 and a half years at Victaulic, and then my boss gave me the opportunity to try and start something new. We'd always played in indirect, but it was just kind of a side job for a lot of people. And I came over to do indirect full time, and really, really enjoyed it. It was a different challenge. It definitely relied even more on my people skills, which is part of the job that I really enjoy. I also have a great love of legal contracting, which is a very weird thing to enjoy for a non-lawyer. And I used to do a lot of that in direct procurement. So it's just kind of been a fit, you know, and then I grew the team. And I've got a team, you know, we're a team of four now. So it's just kind of been a gradual progression. I always tell my boss, I want to continue to enjoy the work. And I want to continue to bring value. And at some point, if there's a lateral move that makes sense for my career, I would absolutely consider it. But you know, for now, I just got promoted to manager indirect sourcing, and I'm gonna enjoy helping my team to continue to grow their careers.

Jesse Butts:

I think it would be really interesting here to talk a little bit about the people aspect. Can you explain a little bit about what people are coming to you with? The type of people that you're interacting with? You mentioned that's such an enjoyable part of the role. And I think it's something people really don't realize about this, or they might just think it's kind of like those early roles where you I mean, you're just at your computer, seeing what people want and ordering it. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, that people process in all of this?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

So I think part of what makes us interesting is, while sourcing, at its core is a strategic thing, there are a lot of tactical pieces of sourcing. So when I first came over to indirect sourcing, my job was very project based. You know, there's a corporate rule that says if you spend more than X, you have to go to sourcing. So someone will give me a call and say, "Hey, we're going to buy a, you know, a new HR information system. We need someone from sourcing to sit on this committee". And that's how I got startedthat very transactional piece of need to buy things, someone in sourcing needs to help us buy it. So I would sit in the committee to understand what they want to buy, do the research on who provides that in the marketplace, do requests for information, requests for proposals, make a choice and execute a contract. The other side of this is what we call category management, which is understanding in overarching term for a specific category. So for example, we could take marketing. Marketing is one of my business partners I work with, and there's specific sub categories of things that they procure. They might buy advertising space, they might spend money on PR, or they might spend money on digital assets or digital technologies. And in category management, you're looking at that overarching spend, understanding where that group wants to go long term, and try and help them continue and create new strategies to be successful. So that's where you really get to dig intoreally understand what people want and try and serve them with opportunity. And that's the really fun part of it. Because when I came in, we hadn't been doing that. Like in direct purchasing, we did that all day every day. If you were the fastener person, the expectation was you would dig in to spend and understand what we did and make solutions. We had never really done that indirect, because we didn't have the manpower to do it. And now that's the goal of what we do every day. It's to really dig in and understand what people want and serve them opportunity.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, one thing I'm curious about, I always found kind of interesting is that, in my experience, when a lot of people go to Sourcing, they have, they have whatever need it might be, like you said, it might be advertising space. But a lot of people haven't done any research. They talked with one sales rep from one company, and they're like, "I love this." And then they're like, "Yeah, Sourcing, we need advertising space, but this is the vendor we're going with, and..."

Candi Harmon Kruse:

"I like this guy, I already have a price, I just need you to look at the contract and say it's good." You know, that was...

Jesse Butts:

"...it's the software everyone's using..."

Candi Harmon Kruse:

"Like why wouldn't I buy it?"

Jesse Butts:

Yeah. So to me, that's, that's kind of an interesting thing, where in the sourcing role, you know, obviously, you need to find out what people want. But you also have to shine a light on their biases. And can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, because that seems like a really interesting people process to me. I'm curious for your, your take and your role in all of that.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yeah, absolutely. It's about building relationships and trust and comfort so that people know that when you're bringing them things, it's because you're really in their best interests. I think that a lot of people look at sourcing or purchasing or procurement, almost like the police, like, oh, well, you know, Candi's not going to let me buy this because it's $12,000. And the company rule says if it's more than 10, I have to have three quotes, and she's gonna make my life painful. The same reason why I think a lot of times, you know, especially with the growth of SaaS, you know, cloud based solutions, a lot of people just go buy some random software on their credit card and not talk to IT about it before, because they're afraid IT is gonna shut them down because of, you know, information security things. And I worked really hard at sitting very regularly with different managers within the indirect business units and just building those relationships, like letting them talk. What do you really like about, you know, what you're doing? You know, where do you see opportunity? Let them tell you, I mean, I feel like it's very similar to how it was when I was in direct materials and working with engineers. Engineers are subject matter experts, they have spent their entire careers to understand something, and they are more than happy to share that with you. And that can be challenging, because you don't know all the lingo yet. And you're still trying to learn, but coming to those conversations with a seek to understand methodology has always worked really well for me. And being able to partner to help people push things through, like one of the things that's really not my responsibility is actual vendor onboarding, and situations where somebody's already picked something out and it's under a certain threshold. They could really just go to AP and turn in a piece of paper, and I tried to build this...

Jesse Butts:

...and AP is?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Accounts payable.

Jesse Butts:

Okay.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yeah. So all you need to do is fill out this form, hand it in with their tax ID form, and you could get it paid off. And I tried to approach it as like a service to them. Okay, you know, when you go to add somebody, why don't you let me take care of the paperwork? I'll reach out to the vendor and get the nondisclosure done so that's protected. I'll file the paperwork, I'll get everything set up with AP. And that would give me insight into what they were doing. And just serving as that service, which is not any fun because it's very tactical and it's a lot of paperwork, kind of gave me the opportunity to have more conversations with people.

Jesse Butts:

So I know that you never went back for a PhD. But I know you did go back to grad school.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I did.

Jesse Butts:

You got your MBA a few years ago, correct?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yes, I did. I finished my MBA in 2018.

Jesse Butts:

What was it about getting a second master's and an actual business degree that was appealing? Did you think it would help youI mean, I'm assuming you thought it would help with your career growth. What were you intending to do with that? Why were you interested in pursuing that?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I think like all good liberal arts or social science people, I approached it very broadly. You know, a lot of people go to the MBA and they pick a specific section, I'm going to get an MBA with specific focus in Business Administration, or marketing or, you know, business analytics is popular right now. I picked self design because I wanted to do a whole lot of different things. But I only got to take four electives. The balance of the eight courses that I took were all just those base pieces that everyone takes. And because I didn't have a business background, and I didn't have a technical background, I felt like I was always going to struggle to some extent that people would trust based off of my resume or without knowing me that I knew what I was doing. And while I have learned financial things along the way, because you have to know your job, I just didn't have a strong background in the basics of accounting and corporate finance. And an MBA was a way to do that. My MBA was really a basis to a to prove out to the world that yes, I am a business professional, I understand the basics of business, but also gave me an opportunity to explore different areas. I took a, probably the coolest class I took in my MBA was a conflict resolution class that was taught by two Quaker lawyers. So like a very interesting cultural phenomenon. And basically, the entire class was just exploring what conflict has been from a historical perspective, from emotional perspectives. Understanding how conflict is resolved in different ways. And then our final project for that class was picking a conflict of any sort. And then explaining what happened, why it happened, and how it was resolved. I picked the conflict of women deciding whether or not to return to the workforce after having children. Someone else picked a historical conflict. Somebody picked a conflict that happened at their company holiday party, It was just the most random class to take, but absolutely phenomenal. And at the end of the day, I resolve conflicts on a regular basis. And had I picked a marketing or a supply chain focus on my MBA, I wouldn't have gotten that kind of work. So.

Jesse Butts:

So I'm curious, I'm mean there might be some listeners who have thought about getting an MBA for a lot of the reasons you you mentioned. Did you see advantages to having a liberal arts background? Were some, on the opposite side, were some courses a bit harder because you probably likeprobably unlike a lot of your cohort didn't have that academic business background? What was that experience like?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Well, I really enjoyed my MBA program, because it was specifically meant for adult learners. Not to say that there weren't some people who were, you know, relatively new out of undergraduate, but most of my colleagues were people who'd been out in the business world for a while. So it was interesting, because we all came from different backgrounds, you found people who had even done their bachelor's degrees in their, you know, 20s and 30s. And now in their 40s and 50s were working on MBAs. I mean, there was definitely challenges because my background is not in interest rates, and IRRs, and all those financial terms that you see spewing across the Wall Street Journal, but they had made it into a program that was pretty easy to approach. So there were prerequisite classes that I had to take, since I had a previous master's degree, they offered a class where I could take them all in one semester, which was kind of nice. I mean, it was a lot of work for me, and I, I'll say I did rely a lot on colleagues who'd already taken the classes or at a couple friends in the finance world that I would, you know, pick up the phone and call and say, Hey, can you explain this to me. But I also think that just having at that point, I had almost 10 years of work experience, was just really important. I always caution people doing an MBA without actually having worked in corporate environments is probably not going to be really helpful to you. So now, you can't be successful, I know people who've done it, but you can enter a conversation with, with so much more of a better understanding, and you can much easier quickly apply what you're learning. And that, you know, at this point, I'm looking at some additional education on specific areas of business that I'm interested in. And again, it'll be the same way now that I've got the basics of, you know, business administration from my MBA, and at this point, 15 years of work experience, I could enter those conversations and a much more educated manner.

Jesse Butts:

When you look at further educational opportunities, do you default to academia for graduate certificate programs, things like this? Or do you feel like once youI mean, especially since you have two mastersare you as interested in credentials now? Do you explore some online, online courses or communities? What's your kind of thinking on...

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I've looked at a lot of different options there. I don't really have an interest in doing another master's degree. Part of that is because I have two young children at this point in time of my life, and there's just a lot going on. I can't imagine taking on a monstrous, you know, two or three year, five nights a week experience. But I have lookeda lot of the business schools offer different types of education or executive education programs where you can spend a week or two weeks online or in person and get almost like a certificate. And that's really what I've kind of been focused on looking at now is there are specific skills that I don't have that I'd like to grow or specific areas of business that I'd like to explore. And that's a really nice way to be able to do that in a pretty succinct fashion. You know, looking

Jesse Butts:

You know, looking back a little, do you think you had to learn things about yourself to figure out what would work for you once a career in academia didn't seem like a viable or really an interesting option anymore?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I think I had to understand where my priorities lie, had lied. I think where I struggled was for the longest time whether I was going to teach at a middle school or high school level or collegiate level. Like I had grown this idea, this is what I was going to be. I was going to be a teacher. And this was a big shift to me, to not go into some type of academic role. And, to me, it was really a conversation about priority. I was uncomfortable spending 10 years working on a PhD, to potentially be working across three universities teaching as an adjunct making absolutely no money. And I didn't feel like I would feel valued enough for the work I was doing in that type of a situation. I also think that at least a lot of academics have, at least what I saw when I was in academia is that a lot of academics have a feeling that the corporate world is like this completely different place. And not to say that it isn't in different places. But at the end of the day, they're all institutions of some way, shape, or form. And they have different norms and different processes and different procedures, and different goals. But at the end of the day, we are all humans, interacting in some value stream proposition. And I've just chosen to do mine in a different place. So I still get to teach. I may not be teaching formally at a university, but I teach people to do things all the time. And the interesting thing about what I do now is that I'm not teaching somebody to learn something, to get a grade to go to do something else, I'm teaching someone a skill that they need to perfect to be good at their job. And if we're all good at our jobs, I get to help them grow a career from it. So I feel like almost there's like a longer term connection. And that teaching because I get to follow them, hopefully, for the entire time that they decide to build their career. And hopefully, beyond that if they choose to leave company,

Jesse Butts:

How important is passion, if at all, in a career? I mean, you obviously have found what you do very interesting. For you personally, did you need to find a job that you loved? Or was it more something that you really enjoyed, but you could shut off at the end of the day, and then read your heavy tomes about medieval French peasants or whatever it might be? Or simply, you mentioned you have young kids, spending time with your family? Where do you kind of fall on that scale of job as passion, calling, versus something enjoyable, but gives you freedom to pursue other interests?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I mean, it definitely has to be enjoyable. I mean, especially if you live in modern corporate America, you're not working 40 hours a week. You're probably working 45, 50, 55 hours a week, and you're giving up a decent chunk of your life to go to work every day. So if you don't enjoy what you do, and you don't enjoy the people you work with, you're gonna be really miserable. I know very few people who work in situations that they don't love that are really able to cut that off at the end of the day and be like, Oh, I'm done with work. That bleeds into your emotional health after time. I mean, I'll, I don't think it has to be necessarily the biggest passion of your life. I still have a lot of passionate interests outside of my work. But I get to leave my job every day with the satisfaction that I'm making impact in an organization. I make impact to people's lives every day. Victaulic makes safety devices. Would I tell somebody that like my life's passion was fire sprinklers? Absolutely not. My life's passion is not fire sprinklers. But I enjoy helping people to build relationships and to get what they need on a daily basis. And that's what I get to do.

Jesse Butts:

For someone who is in a situation similar to what you were where, they've completed grad school, maybe they got a masters, maybe they got a PhD, but that prospect of an academic career, they're second guessing. Now, they're having some second thoughts. What are questions you think somebody in that situation should be asking themselves?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Oh, goodness, that's a tough question. I mean, to me, priority was a big piece, like what's most important to you? That was a really big question that I really had to kind of focus on. I feel like openness to exploring new opportunity is really critical when you're in those places. I just happen to kind of fall into a job. I think now looking back at it had I realized I was going down that path, I probably would have been a little more particular about you know, how I landed in my case. It worked out perfectly, but I know for a lot of people it doesn't. The master's program I went into, a lot of people choose not to go into academia. And I've seen people, they kind of waffle for 5, 6, 7 years trying to figure out where they're going to go. I think it's important to understand, what do you really enjoy about the academic work? And is that enough to sustain you and sustain a career? And if it's not, how can I do those things Do you have any advice for that process of figuring out how to in the corporate world? I think we've touched on a lot about a lot of things that I learned in my undergraduate, my graduate education are foundational to what I do every day and being able to find ways to apply yourself and then market yourself. At the end of the da , that was one of the reasons w y I liked the University of C icago program. I felt tha I could market that degree, i I chose to go on a different oute. And some people just don' learn how to market it just lik liberal arts degrees, you kno , a lot of people who study hist ry or religion, they might eally struggle, struggle career wise, because they've not figure out how to prove to the world that it's something that can e substantially important to different environment. market your degree? Oh, goodness, well, I always think about the elevator speech. If you're stuck with somebody in an elevator for a minute or two, like, what do you want them to know about you? And then think about how do those things apply outside of your world? One of the things that I found really enjoyable when I moved to a new area was I joined a young professional group. And that was an opportunity to meet a lot of different people, in a relatively similar age frame, doing a lot of different things, and be able to talk to them about what they enjoyed about their work. I feel like that's even easier and I feel like there's just so many online opportunities to do that now too. A lot more than when I first graduated with my master's in 2006. I mean, just be open to conversation, and even, you know, I found going to some of the medieval history conferences, I went to obviously, there were a lot of academics at those events, because that's what you do. When you're an academic, you go to lots of these things. But there was a consortium of people like me who were not in the academic field, at that point they were really passionate and talking to them about what they did.

Jesse Butts:

So I'm wondering if your game to wrap this up... Your program, and its sister program, they've, they've madealbeit quite niche, but they've made news over the summer. Would you mind if we talk a bit about that. So...

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Sure.

Jesse Butts:

So for our listeners, what I'm referring to, in the Wall Street Journalso we're recording this in September, but over the summer, there had been a few articles about certain master's programs that are chargingI mean, you know, people are leaving their master's programs with total debt loads, you know, between $100,000, almost up to $300,000 now in some instances. And they're really fascinating reads and I'll include some of those in the show notes, but specifically with your program in Culture Study, which is Anne Helen Petersen's Substack newsletter, she wrote specifically about the University of Chicago'sI think it's, what, MAPSS? Which is your program, the Master of Arts program in social sciences, and then the program in, is it history?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

It's humanities.

Jesse Butts:

Humanities. So she was writing about how depending on how you read it, or your perspective, you know, the university preys on PhD applications or diverts them to these master's programs that, they have a pretty high price tag. They kind of lureI'm saying that with air quotespeople in by saying it's very competitive, if you're looking at PhDs, and then you get a master's from University of Chicago...but then most aren't getting into PhD programs. And they're finding that out later. So, and this was also covered on an episode of the Weeds recently that I'll include a link to as well. But I'm curious, you went to one of these programs. What was your experience in that? How or what are you thinking about all of this very niche news coverage that your program is receiving lately?

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yeah, I think. Anne Helen Petersen may have used the word predatory, I think was one of the words.

Jesse Butts:

It's a pretty in vogue word now for master's programs.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yeah. I mean, it's been 15 years since I graduated. So I can't tell you that the program that I experienced 15 years ago was a program that I'd experience now. I know there's a different director in place from MAPSS. So that can cause different things. You know, I was kind of taken aback by the numbers that Petersen put out. I think she was estimating somewhere like nearly $100,000.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah

Candi Harmon Kruse:

For the cost ofwas one year.

Jesse Butts:

It was in the 60,000ish range for tuition for one year, and then 30,000 for room and board and expenses, something like that. Yeah.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

I mean, at least when I was at MAPSS, most of us had scholarships to cover at least part of the tuition. I think I got a 1/3 tuition scholarship. I think I graduated with $33,000 in debt in total from my year. And again, I was comfortable with that number because I figured a basic entry level job would allow me to pay the loans on that. Would I pay $100,000 to do what I did? No. If that, if that's really the number at play, I probably wouldn't have done it. I felt like when I entered it while MAPSS did talk a lot about how they could help you grow an application to be a more attractive PhD candidate, I went up to Chicago the spring before I made the decision. And they do like a two or three day thing where you can come in and meet the professors, meet the people you would be going to school with. And at the time, the director, Dr. MacAloon, talked a lot about you know, most people are not successful. Most people get PhDs don't end up in academia because there's not enough jobs. I felt like they were very honest about what are thingsis this a moneymaker for the university? I cannot imagine it's not. Just like their undergraduate program, I'm assuming is a pretty attractive financial piece, you know, most PhD students are funded. They're not paying tuition, whether the university's funding that or outside grant money. Anne Helen Petersoe made some comments that different students had said that they felt like they were a second class citizen in MAPSS. And I did not feel that, at any point in time. I took both graduate classes, as well as University of Chicago has a lot of classes that are cross listed for grads and undergrads, especially in the humanities and social science areas. So I got to take some of those classes. I did not have trouble getting a professor to sponsor my master's thesis, and she was extremely involved. So, the experience that she put down is not the experience that I had.

Jesse Butts:

So I mean, it sounds like it was for youI mean, I think you summed it up well when you said the experience you had didn't reflect Petersen's, or the experience Peterson was conveying in that article.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Yep. I'd be interested. I've been trying to dig around a little bit and see if I can see, you know, more theoryI've not seen a lot of current graduates or alum in the last five years mention much about it online. I'm curious what their thoughts are. Because obviously, they're a little closer to what the experience is now. At least when I was there, it was a really great program. I got a great education, I learned a lot, a lot of different things. I got to hang out with some of the best and brightest in the country. And at the end of the day, I was able to market it into a career. So I'll take that as a win.

Jesse Butts:

Absolutely. I mean, you've got the education you wanted, and you found a career path that is really exciting for you. So yeah, I think that deservesand we didn't mention earlier, but you were just promoted within the last week or two. So congratulations on that as well. I think that's a great place to wrap up. So Candi, thank you for joining me. This was a great conversation.

Candi Harmon Kruse:

Awesome. Thanks, Jesse.

Jesse Butts:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Work Seminar. If you like what you've heard, please take a minute to rate the show on your favorite podcast app. Know someone who'd be a great Work Seminar guest? Or have a suggestion or two for the show? You can reach me at jesse@theworkseminar.com, or @TheWorkSeminar on social. And special thanks, as always, to Jon Camp for the music and Isabel Patino for the cover art and design. Until next time, never cease from exploration.