Making Their Portland

How five Portland professionals landed roles at the region’s top companies and what they’re doing to tackle the new challenges facing their industries.

Sponsored Content Presented by University of Oregon Executive MBA

The list of things that make Portland great is long. We know that. The city’s prestigious parks, rivers, and outdoor recreation make it a destination for visitors of all kinds, while its iconic food scene, arts, and nightlife are just the cherries on top.

But what gets people to stay here? The answer is simple. The City of Roses is also home to a vast, diverse ecosystem of industries and well-known, name-brand businesses that draw professionals from all over the world from all kinds of backgrounds.

Willamette Week spoke to five professionals who have leading roles at companies across the Pacific Northwest — including a leading manufacturer, a CBD oil retailer, a prominent regional restaurant chain, and one of the world’s largest aerospace and defense technologies suppliers — about the new challenges facing each of their industries and how University of Oregon’s Executive MBA program prepared them for a path to success.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Emily Sloan, 33

Head of Marketing, Lazarus Naturals

Tell us about your professional background and current role.

I’ve worked for consumer products most of my career - starting on the merchandising operations side. Pretty early on, I realized I had a passion for marketing. At every company I’ve been at, I took roles wherever I could stretch to gain more responsibility and leadership opportunities - slowly working myself up in marketing.

Once I began my journey with the UO executive MBA program my career began to accelerate at a faster pace, and I was hired as the head of marketing and eCommerce for Lazarus Naturals. Here, I’m responsible for driving the brand mission and values. I’m focused on new customer acquisition and customer lifetime value. We create demand for the brand by connecting to the consumer and creating personalized experiences.

How is technology changing what you do or how the business operates, and how do you keep up?

The speed of information allows for a more educated consumer in an industry that was previously a bit overwhelming for people to understand. This means our team needs to be able to pivot and change direction on products to better meet consumer needs. The subscription model is becoming more popular and requires CBD brands to create a frictionless experience for customers to enjoy.

You graduated last June from Oregon’s Executive MBA program. How has that changed what you bring to work?

I knew the program was heavily focused on financial acumen, and I needed to grow professionally in this area. Since graduation, the benefits of having a more profound understanding around managerial accounting and finance has provided significant benefits to my company and my career. I am a better communicator and can tackle complex situations while bringing my whole self to work.

Renata Ariane Melo, 41

Director of Global Planning, Oregon Tool

Tell us about your background and current role.

I’m from Brazil and moved to the United States back in 2014 with my husband and two boys for a two-year project assignment — now Portland is home. I’ve been working at Oregon Tool for more than 15 years, mainly in operations. We make equipment for the forestry, agriculture, and construction industries. As Director of Global Planning, I’m now responsible for global supply planning strategy, while balancing customer demand and profitability requirements. In short, I ensure we reach our financial targets across all lines of business.

COVID must have really impacted your work.

The post-COVID/pandemic effects, global supply chain constraints have been very challenging! Technology was the only way we kept working with no impacts to our operations over the past 18 months, working remotely has in some cases made us more productive, increasing collaboration by sharing documents in real-time. But still - there are some opportunities to better leverage our technologies as we try to solve the problems of the future with tools of the past.

Last year you graduated from the Oregon Executive MBA program. How has that changed your work at Oregon Tool?

The program provided me the opportunity to earn my degree while working. The vast curriculum enabled me to be a high-impact leader, respecting people but holding them accountable, as well as emphasized my analytical strength to support a fast-paced business in a constrained environment. I also learned a lot about finance, accounting, marketing, economics and management and business ethics.

During my second year in the program, I received a promotion.

Dallas Duncantell, 39

Value Stream Leader, Collins Aerospace

Tell us about your professional background and current role.

I returned home in 2012 to Portland after serving nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was not sure what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to continue to serve. I spent the next year talking with other local veterans and was able to land an interview for an entry-level buyer role within Collins Aerospace. With little experience in the industry, Collins took a chance on me.

Collins is a leader in technologically advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace and defense industry. I am responsible for leading multiple customer-focused teams, ensuring the highest product quality and production consistency. This includes development of program plans, schedules, and budgets. I support strategic planning efforts, solutions for program problems, contract negotiations, and managing important vendors.

In 2019, you decided to pursue a Masters in Business. Why?

After celebrating 5 years with Collins and after several promotions with increased responsibility, I realized to continue my professional growth I needed to connect and learn from other high-achieving professionals. Also, leading cross-functional teams, I was focused on learning soft skills like influencing, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence as part of a graduate program. Currently in my second year at Oregon’s Executive MBA program - it has been an amazing experience learning how to master and deploy these skills from the industry leaders the program has brought in to teach us these skills.

What’s it like to add a rigorous part-time MBA program to your already busy life?

It’s not easy, and it takes commitment. Married with four children, there is no way that I could be successful without my partner’s support. As I was entering my first year in the program, the school brought back past students’ partners from previous classes to speak to the incoming students’ partners about their experience. This was so helpful and important to help prepare my entire family for what to expect.

Erin Corbett, 39

Facilities Operations Manager, Oregon Health and Science University

Tell us about your professional background and current role.

I began my OHSU journey in 2003 as a temp. I covered somebody’s maternity leave at the front desk of the outpatient oncology clinic, and the rest is history. In my time at OHSU I’ve supported outpatient healthcare, research, medical and educational ethics, and now central services. It’s a fabulous place to learn and grow and find out what you’re good at! In my current role, I manage teams responsible for everything from human resources support to general construction. My job, in a nutshell, is to ensure the facilities staff and departments have the information, tools, and operations assistance to do their best work.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

From the Facilities side, we are continually challenged by supply chain issues. From paint to computers to lumber, everything is difficult to get right now and we are always looking for creative ways to keep our built environment safe and effective in the potential absence of the usual materials we need. I know our partners in Logistics are also challenged by similar issues around personal protective equipment and other supplies we rely on. Everybody involved is doing their best work to approach these challenges from new angles and come up with solutions!

Why did you decide to pursue a business degree? What has it been like so far?

I wanted to gain skills to be a more effective leader, and the UO Executive MBA program is highly respected regionally and nationally. I have several colleagues who went through the program and had great experiences, and also appreciated that it’s in-person as opposed to online, as many MBA programs are. The connections I am making through the MBA program will be life-long, both personal and professional.

What has it been like to be a single parent and full-time professional while also pursuing a graduate degree?

My 7-year old daughter Olive is my partner in this journey. She and I, and our dog Ruth, are a little family support system for each other. UO’s MBA team has also been incredibly supportive and understanding as I need to end meetings earlier to handle bedtime, or school drop-off, or anything else that comes up. I would encourage other single parents to explore this program, we need more voices at leadership tables from all sorts of family situations and backgrounds. It has been challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

John Fredericks, 32

Director of Quality Systems, Health, Safety, & Environment (QHSE), and Social Distancing Officer, Burgerville

Tell us about your professional background and current role.

With a broad range of professional experiences from teaching Tae Kwon Do to working as a direct support provider for people with disabilities, a “Mad Scientist” for after school classes, a ropes course safety guide, and a private security professional, and an environmental health & safety engineer, I developed an interest in learning more about systems and ways of working that enable safe, high-quality contributions from people that lead to extraordinary outcomes.

I’m currently the Director of QHSE for Burgerville LLC, which is a new role and department for the company that I have been cultivating since 2017. I’m also the Social Distancing Officer - as a result of Covid-19 requirements in 2020.

How has the pandemic changed the way you work?

COVID-19 and all related upstream and downstream effects are still significant. This includes supply chain and distribution impacts as well as staffing and talent. Fortunately, our teams and partners are committed to working safely while serving to the best of their ability so wherever we can, we will be there to serve our communities.

What are you doing to continue to grow professionally?

My goal is to broaden and deepen my business acumen and skills, and I joined the in-person Oregon Executive MBA program in 2020.

It’s been extremely challenging. The coursework and fast-paced nature of the program require a lot of intentional planning and ongoing re-prioritization of other things in life. Fortunately, the faculty and staff do everything they can to accommodate individual needs while maintaining the standards of excellence expected in a graduate program. Having a reliable academic and personal support network has also been invaluable. We’ve covered a range of critically important hard skills like accounting, finance, and operations,but we also cover equally critical aspects of leadership, communication, strategy, and innovative ways of doing business. It’s some art and some science!