Jeff Bock, MBA ’03: Engineer Turned Marketing Manager
Jeff Bock, MBA ’03, is global marketing manager for microcontrollers at Freescale Semiconductor (formerly Motorola) in Austin. The Wisconsin native (and yes, he is a die-hard Packers fan) joined the company in 1996 as a process engineer. He was part of the first graduating Texas Evening MBA class and is a member of the Executive Committee for the McCombs Alumni Network Advisory Board. He also helps manage the alumni network Knowledge To Go webinars.
What kind of work were you doing as an engineer for Motorola?
I worked in wafer fabrication, so I wore the “bunny suit” everyday. I worked on the third shift, which is like being an emergency room doctor in the factory. Whenever one of the pieces of equipment goes down, they call the engineer on duty to try and figure out how to save the product that was inside of it. It was triage with really expensive technology. You’re usually holding on to a quarter of a million dollars of revenue in your hands. I was also in product engineering, which is effectively technical new product development. I was responsible for project managing the technical aspects of creating new chips for Motorola, targeted at the consumer electronics industry.
Why did you pursue an MBA?
I wanted to get into a role that was more marketing or sales related, but I didn’t really have any training that was going to let me do that. I heard an ad for the Evening MBA on NPR, and I thought "Oh that’s perfect!" I got my application in within a few weeks and just barely made the deadline for applying for the program in its first year.
What did you gain from the MBA experience?
It fundamentally changed my life. It’s changed the way I think and changed what I believe I’m personally capable of doing. It gave me a whole new network of friends in the Austin area. I certainly don’t think I’d be sitting in my current job if I didn’t have an MBA, because I developed the ability to think in a more analytical fashion, to abstract myself from a situation and think about it from multiple contexts. And it was sort of a revitalization of my energy level. I was already a hard-working guy, but to me it opened my eyes and taught me that I could do a full-time job well and also do a pretty good job at business school. I was being pushed really hard in multiple directions, but it was actually kind of invigorating. It just put me on a different trajectory.
What was the transition like from a technical role to a management position in marketing?
In engineering, with most things there is a correct answer. Either the part runs or it doesn’t. As a marketing leader you have to be able to deal with ambiguity much better. A lot of the way that you’re perceived is not so much in the way that you can describe technical issues; it’s more about how you can communicate your ideas. As I moved into management and I became someone who had to hire people, it became clear that the key things I needed to be successful were, again, the ability to have organized thought processes, the ability to express my ideas and the desire to really be creative and passionate and to pass that passion along to others who I am leading.
What do you love about your job?
I love the fact that the technology we’re building at Freescale actually has the ability to change people’s lives for the better. Whether it’s a medical product that helps a diabetic with their insulin management, or an energy-efficient appliance that consumes less power. The technology we build is typically deeply embedded into products that people might interact with, but it impacts people’s lives. They may not know it, but it does. I also love the ability to go in and collaborate with customers in a way that really helps them. It’s typically not an adversarial thing. Our customers are looking to us for help, and we have products that can really help them save them time or money, as well as to help them differentiate their end product in the marketplace. We can do lots of things that make their life easier. That’s a fun position to be in. The last piece is the best piece but also one of the most difficult, and that’s the global nature of my role. Every day I have a constant barrage of issues and opportunities arising from every nook and cranny across the world. It’s really invigorating! I consider it an honor and a privilege to speak to customers around the world and to experience the cultures of these people while representing our company.
How do you prepare to do business in another country?
I use a tool called GlobeSmart when I’m going to a new country for the first time or to remind myself about cultural differences. It covers basic trends but also talks about the way people work in daily business. For instance, I lived in China for two years, and I realized very quickly I am very different from the average person in China. So I had to basically completely change my working style in order to be effective over there. Self-awareness for your own tendencies and knowledge about the typical styles you’ll find in another culture are both critical to being effective in a different culture.
What can people expect from the Knowledge to Go webinars?
Knowledge To Go is a series of monthly webinars featuring faculty and alumni experts. We’ve had Jim Nolen, who spoke on venture capital and private equity, and the always entertaining Sandy Leeds, who did hot topics from the financial markets. It’s so exciting to have these people sharing information so that you can relive sitting in a lecture back at UT once a month. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The Alumni Executive Committee is very focused on creating ways to encourage alumni to be more involved, and I think the number one thing that can drive more passion and energy from alumni around UT is to feel a greater connection to the University on a regular basis. We hope this will make them feel like they’re still receiving direct value out of their association with the McCombs School. I’d like to encourage everyone to register for a Knowledge To Go Webinar--they are free to all McCombs students and Alumni.