EPISODE 013
The Puzzle Pieces Came Together
Listen to this conversation with Bethany D. Valente, a doctor of business administration with experience that includes working with high tech scientific organizations. Though she doesn't have a science background, growing up with a mom who was a nurse and dad who was an entrepreneur the foundation was laid long ago for what she would become today.  This episode is dedicated to the late Justice "Notorious" RBG.
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Host - Monique Mills:     

[00:00]    In an economic downturn like right now, everyone goes back to school. So I see a lot of people in my network, they are now in the MBA program at various schools around the world. So with that--

Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[00:11]        I always call that hiding. That’s a little bit of hiding, Monique.


Host - Monique Mills:     

[00:15]    Wow, that is such an interesting way to put it. I never thought of it that way. You're right. “You know what? I’ll go under the covers and then when things get better, I'll come back out.”


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[00:27]        “I'm not sure where I'm going to go, so I'm going to train myself in something”, which isn't necessarily a bad approach. But I found that a lot in ‘09, shortly after I came out of school and finished my bachelor's, I found a lot of my peer group decided to go and “I'm going to go get all different advanced education”, and away they went, and then they came up. “Well, now I have too much education, I'm having a hard time finding a position.” So because the experience didn't line up with the academic background.


Host - Monique Mills:    

[01:03]     Yeah, you know what? That's a good point. I think that people think the MBA though is universal. It’s general enough that I could do this or I could do that but I think it actually needs to line up with your interests, not just make you more attractive for any job. But a lot of times it builds upon knowledge that you've gained earlier in your career, in your life, or what have you, as far as understanding how things work.

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[01:33]      Welcome to the Unpolished MBA podcast. On this podcast, we have conversations with tech startup founders and entrepreneurs and traditional corporate MBAs. Many say that startups equal the unpolished MBA because those without their formal business education are scrappy, and do many things untraditionally to achieve business success. But anyone who has built a business from an idea can attest to the fact that the experience is another level MBA, and there's nothing quite like it. The candid conversations shared here is helpful to both sides of the fence. One is not better than the other, just different. Let's jump in.

[02:25]      Hi, I'm your host, Monique Mills, and in my work, I get to have great conversations with a lot of smart and interesting people. Some are tech startup founders and entrepreneurs in various industries, and others are corporate employees. But in this case, we have both. In this episode, I'm sharing a conversation I had with Dr. Bethany Valente. She's a sales executive in corporate, but also does business consulting on the side. She has an interesting combination of experience, unlike anything you've probably heard of before. Listen in as she shares her journey with us.

[03:05]      Out of the folks that's been on the podcast so far, we're just getting started where we have about 12 or 15 episodes, and not all of them have been released yet. So you are actually the first one that has a doctorate and you have a DBA, is that right? Kind of explain that to the audience.


Guest - Bethany Valente:   

[03:22]         Yeah, absolutely. So I have my doctorate of business administration, it's a little bit different than a PhD, although the same credentials. I can do the same thing with it. The difference is a PhD really, they’ll study a lot about academic theories and developing theory, where a DBA actually is more of a practitioner approach. So we're going to look at, “Okay, we have all these great theoretical models, how are they actually working in practice? What's good? What's not working? What new knowledge can we get from that?” So that's the difference between the two degrees. In terms of what mine was, I actually did research in a Japanese biopharmaceutical company in their research and development and innovation programs and how they use what we'll call open innovation to simplify that. That would be collaborations and alliances and outside parties to shorten their product development process or drug therapy research.

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Host - Monique Mills:   

[04:33]     Next up, Bethany describes her educational journey and the effect of having real-world experience on it. I would say one word sums this up, and that word is balance.


Guest - Bethany Valente:   

[04:50]         So when I went through my bachelor's degree, I found that work-- You know, it was a lot of textbook work. You had case studies. It’s kind of you're putting the information in, you are using your critical thinking skills and that to move forward. I took five years between my bachelor's and my master's, and when I went into my master's degree, I found it much easier to be working while I was studying because when they were asking me to write up a case study or provide examples, I had real-life examples to utilize.


Host - Monique Mills:    

[05:26]     Exactly.


Guest - Bethany Valente:   

[05:26]         And then when I went in for my doctorate degree, which I just completed, it was the same scenario. Having 17 years of experience working and practical experience only enhanced my knowledge and my ability to problem solve, or critically think through different frameworks and models.


(music)


Host - Monique Mills:   

[05:52]     Bethany had mentioned that she spent time in Japan doing research for her doctorate in business. So having spent some time in Asia myself studying their business ecosystem, I was curious about her experience in Tokyo. Listen in as she describes the cultural differences with women in the workforce there.

[06:15]      So what was that experience like working with them? And what did you learn out of that experience?


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[06:22]         Actually, my entire program was a large developmental piece of my education. I actually say my doctorate program was probably the most personally developing for my personal enrichment outside of just my professional enrichment. But it was interesting in Japan particularly. I did go to Tokyo to do my research, and I interviewed executive-level corporate strategy people, research and development managers, etc. And in the Japanese culture, the women exit the workforce when they have children is more the cultural norm. So what was very interesting and an interesting dynamic when I was doing my interviews, is that I have a child and I'm married, and I'm a female conducting the interviews. So to see the cultural differences and how that played in certain interviews was very interesting, all very respectable and handled well because I come from outside the culture. But that added a little bit of a dynamic.

[07:28]      The other piece was understanding their cross-cultural viewpoint of doing business in the States and how we problem-solve with our context versus the Japanese context. And, for example, they were talking about “The States really wants to put in XYZ technology, and that's going to solve all our problems. Well, that's great, but it's just data, we need the context around the data.” And I think that's a very insightful discussion to have because we do, we like all the greatest apps over here. I thought it was a very fair statement. We like to see the latest and greatest coming out of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the country. And how do we implement it? It's great to have this beautiful interface and all these apps and all of this information, but how are we really using it and making it meaningful to grow business or save cost, etc.?


Host - Monique Mills:   

[08:25]     When you just mentioned how, in Japan, the women, once they have children, they exit the workforce. Is that never to return again or temporarily?


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[08:35]         It's usually never to return again, was my understanding. What was very interesting about those conversations with those participants, I did about two-hour interviews, there was an exchange that happened in the company. So some of the executives would come over, work in the States, and then come back to Japan. And a couple of them had shared with me, “Yeah, so my wife saw everybody working and she has children, she'd like to work too. And [we] have been trying to get her a position but it's almost looked culturally down upon like the male is not providing enough.” It's not necessarily viewed as a personal enrichment, or that she's motivated and wants to do those things for her own development outside of just the mother role, for example.


(music)


Host - Monique Mills:   

[09:30]     Well, I'm certainly thankful that we had women like the “Notorious” RBG in the US, rest in peace, Justice, to pave the way for women like Bethany and I, although I have experienced some mom shaming of my own. Listen in as Bethany and I discuss our observations of this in our own communities.

[09:53]      I don't know in certain parts of the US if that mindset has changed. I mean, I can honestly say I've experienced that living in the South. Once I had children, it was really some of the moms that I met living the suburban life would be like, “Where are you going?” I’m like, “To work.” It was kind of like a right in the mindset. It’s like, “No, I've had children. I stay home, he works and I homeschool if I want to, and I grocery shop if I want, and I take the kids to after school events, and how do you have time for all of that?” I’m like, “Well, I do all of that too, and I work. I need more fulfillment besides that.” And they thought it was weird that I felt like my children and my husband wasn't enough fulfillment for me, and so I find that odd. How is it in Florida where you are?


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[10:48]         I think you get a mix across the country. I'm actually from the Midwest originally, from a very small town up in Ohio, so you'll definitely see that. And I wanted to leave this small town and travel and do all these things. And I live in the notorious planned communities here in Florida that you see all over the news because that's kind of your choices, which I like where I live and everything, but you'll see a mix of both, very similar comments, and I'm very similar experiences what you just articulated, I really couldn't say it better, honestly. So I definitely see that in the community as well. So if it makes you feel any better, at least in my area of the state, and I've lived in two planned communities, you definitely have kind of a group that's going in and working and either side hustling, they have their own businesses and entrepreneurs or they're doing the corporate gig.


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Host - Monique Mills:   

[11:47]     In this clip, Bethany talks about how she ended up in the pharmaceutical innovation space without coming from a science background. It’s very interesting. Keep listening.

[12:01]      So one of the things I notice that you mentioned earlier was about being in the pharmaceutical, biomedical kind of innovation. How did you get to that? Is your background in science at all?


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[12:17]         So actually, no, my background is not in science, but it does all go together, believe it or not. I was raised by a nurse, my aunt is also a nurse, and then another aunt is a nurse, so I was definitely exposed to the medical community growing up. When I actually did my undergraduate school, it’s very known for pharmaceutical studies and getting your PharmD. So several of my friends are either medical doctors, pharmacists, chemists, all of those types of degrees. I’m one of the few business degrees that are out there. So I've been very exposed that way through my friendships, different connections there. And then through my day corporate job, I manage field-level accounts, and so I handle all different kinds of industries. And pharmaceutical healthcare is part of that as well.

[13:14]      So with that being said, I kind of took that basis and understanding that growth market and that exposure, and combined it with my business background, and here’s my dissertation of how that all comes together. So that's how that happened. And then how I ended up with a global study is my master's, I actually have a global master’s of business administration. My undergraduate degree is international business and economics. So that's where all that context came from. So it's really kind of all of these puzzle pieces that came together, and that's what was produced. And I do enjoy very much learning about the breakthroughs and the therapies, how those things help people cope with disease, live comfortably when they need to with more long term diseases that we're still trying to find cures for. And I think that's a very important and meaningful line of work, despite some of the controversy that is in that part of the industry.


Host - Monique Mills:    

[14:17]     One of the things that I know we wanted to talk about is how there's unnecessary judgment between those that's launching a business and then those, let's say, with or without a formal education. And one of the things you had mentioned was how you have your education, and you certainly have a lot of it, and how having both is good, and how a lot of expensive mistakes can happen if you don't have a good balance of real-life working experience along with the education.


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[14:54]      No, absolutely.


Host - Monique Mills:    

[14:55]  So I just wanted you to kind of share your viewpoint on the balance that you think is necessary to be successful.


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[15:05]        No, absolutely. So I'm going to give you a little bit of a long-winded answer, but hopefully not a boring one. So I was actually raised by entrepreneurs. So my mom was a nurse, but my mom and dad also had a building business and they developed some small bits of land back in the small town that I'm from. And my aunt had a restaurant and things like that as well. So my dad actually did not have his formal education and my mother had her nursing degree, etc. My aunt didn't, she went and did some culinary training in Europe, and then came back and did her restaurant. So when you talk to my dad's side of the family, it’s “Experience is king.” It’s very much I think, a very traditional entrepreneurial mindset. “Go out there, try it. What are you doing to bring in the money and bring in the sales?” Where what was kind of interesting in my background [with] my mom, she did have that formal foundation and that formal training with her nursing degree. So she would bring in some of those different skill sets of “Okay, let me look at my financials in a little different way, or go and find the information to guide you through and come up with some planning for the business.” And the combination was really good. So my dad was more of the risk-taker, my mom would kind of reel him in at times, right?


Host - Monique Mills:    

[16:25]     Yeah.


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[16:26]         So where I'm going in the long-winded explanation, you need both. The answer, I believe, is somewhere in between. I think it's completely an unnecessary judgment that is out there. I think you need big business to partner with small business because you need those networks and those collaborations with big business and some of the knowledge that gets transferred down to the small business to help them be successful and support them in their value-added services. I also think you need that nimbleness and that grit of being an entrepreneur and not being scared to go out there, “Hey, it's not perfect yet. Let's get it to market and start getting feedback to start to make some money. I can't just sit there thinking about it all the time, we got to go and do it.”


Host - Monique Mills:    

[17:11]     You’ve got to execute. That's right.


Guest - Bethany Valente:    

[17:15]   So with that being said, I think it's kind of a marriage of everything. Your education is really there to enhance and complement your talents when you think about it. So when I look at my doctorial program, there was a personal journey in there about my critical thinking skills, or how I might problem solve a little bit differently. Where in my MBA program, it was case study work and things happening with that, and how I can apply a real-world example and make that academic theory become a little more tangible or crystal.

But do I think you can be successful without a formal education? Absolutely. Do I think it helps, and you might avoid some mistakes if you understand some of the basics of the financial end of running a business and having a strategic plan to guide you for some goals? I think that helps a lot because there is a lot of waste in terms of finances, time, resources, helps your branding, etc., and you're a little more solid when you come out to market or go to market with your new product or solution to a problem in the marketplace.

But I think all the pieces work together, and everybody has a piece of knowledge to share. And I often, very often hear this kind of clash between the big corporations and the small businesses. And “Well you didn't jump in and take the risk, so how do you know? You're taking the safe way.” It doesn't matter which comfort is with your risk aversion, really. It matters on sharing the information so you're in a business partnership to move forward and be productive and successfully grow your business.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[18:54]     One of the things you've mentioned is that you wanted people to understand how important it is to use business partners, right, to grow their business faster, and all that. Sometimes I feel like those who don't have the formal education don't know what that looks like, or how it should be structured. You mentioned strategic planning, which is a big factor in just organizing what you're planning to do this year, this quarter, this week, this month, right? It's just helpful in doing that. But tell me a little bit about your thoughts on business partnerships, strategic partners, which I encourage people to do, especially small businesses, so tell me your thoughts on that.


Guest - Bethany Valente:   

[19:39]         Absolutely. So to give you a clear example, for my day job, so in my large business life and my corporate life, there's different networks and value add alliances that get extended onto our small business customer. And so you have a school of customers that will jump on and take advantage, and then you have the other, they're working really lean, they have X number of employees. “Yeah, we see it, we'll get to it, we'll get to it.” But where they miss it is how it helps them scale their business, potentially. It's very low cost, very low risk, and I can guarantee, you go to all your corporate partners, they're going to have programs to help enable small businesses at very low risk, and very low capital requirements to help grow your business because the bottom line is when the small business is growing so is the corporation.

[20:36]       When you're talking about a strategic alliance, so now flipping to my dissertation work or more on my consulting work, we want to look at the fit of the partner. What's the risk? What's the intellectual property that might be being exchanged between the two companies? And what's the risk of not engaging? And I think people miss that. “Am I duplicating technology that's already been developed or a product that's already out there, and I'm not really improving it? So you're reinventing the wheel. So by putting those partnerships in place, you can leapfrog steps, and it's going to lower your investment costs.

They may access and have knowledge and connections to get your product to market faster, or to increase your sales because they know XYZ at the commercial end of the product development process to get your market out that you don't have those connections because you're just getting started or you're in a middle market. So you can get those introductions and expand your network, which can be quite invaluable to grow your business as well as innovate your business.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[21:50]     Bingo. That is going to be underlined and highlighted in the transcripts for this one for you. Before we jump off, I want you to spend 30 seconds, a minute telling us, because you've mentioned a couple times, about your corporate role versus outside of there. So explain to me a little bit what you do in your corporate role, your day job, as you say, and what you're doing outside of that as far as your entrepreneurial pursuit.


Guest - Bethany Valente:   

[22:18]        So my corporate role, I negotiate different pricing agreements within my industry for the small business market. So I probably worked easily over 17 years with about 10,000 small business owners who have had that garage to very successful ink rated businesses. So I definitely have had a lot of exposure to small business that way and helping their businesses. In terms of my own personal consulting business that I started since my dissertation, that's named Tempo Seven, and I'm consulting with biopharmaceutical, high tech, scientific organizations to help them evaluate their innovation ecosystem to look for those partnerships or evaluate their innovation strategy to help reduce their costs and get things to market a little bit faster.


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Host - Monique Mills:   

[23:16]     Okay, that's it. Bethany has a remarkable background. She talked about growing up with parents who were on both sides of the spectrum. One was an entrepreneur without formal education and the other had the education and the corporate experience. And they complemented each other quite well in their family business. She also talked about the difference in a PhD and a DBA. And as a DBA, it's not surprising to me that in addition to her day job, she serves as a consultant to high tech scientific organizations to help them apply business concepts to their innovations. We talked about the importance of leveraging business partners, and we even talked about her experience in Japan and mom shaming in our own community. Again, I'm thankful that we've had a trailblazer in the US like the late Justice Ginsburg so that phenomenal women like Bethany are able to make their mark on the world.


The Unpolished MBA conversation continues, and you can be a part of it by going to unpolishedmba.com. Thank you for listening.


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