By Delaney Brown
By day, Tim Curran is the CEO of a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the role of distributors in a healthy technological economy, but by night, he teaches a small group of Master of Business Administration students about the role of managers in the workplace.
For some it might be hard to square the professional world with the academic, but for Curran, the relationship is natural.
The 65-year-old spent most of his professional life working among technology giants like Panasonic and Tech Data becoming CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council and beginning a second career as a professor.
He sees a lot of lessons that transfer between the two worlds and often uses his personal experiences to bring some of the classroom lessons to life.
When Curran was 18, he decided to spend a year studying in Japan. As he flew into a gray and rainy Tokyo and then stepped out into an airport surrounded by an unfamiliar language and culture, Curran knew he needed to expand his worldview.
He was ravenous. He read everything he could about the history and culture of Japan. He became fluent in Japanese.
He took the time to understand the way the Japanese do things.
“Japan has a very different social structure,” said Curran. “Every country has its positives and negatives, but one of the things the Japanese do really well is developing their teams. They see longevity as a priority and put an enormous amount of effort into building and maintaining their teams.”
Curran said that his biggest takeaway from Japan was an appreciation for learning from different perspectives.
It’s a lesson he never would have had if he learned solely from U.S. business practices. That lesson is something he wants to pass on to his students.
Curran, an adjunct professor, co-teaches a class on social issues in management every spring with retired Marine Col. Mike Brassaw. The setup of the class is matched in the way they dive into the material.
Each week students are expected to read five to seven articles from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and then come prepared to discuss the topics they studied.
“Each student has an interesting perspective,” Curran said, “That’s why I put them in groups. I want them to know each other and feel engaged, like they’re part of a team.”
A lot of Curran’s focus is on helping students gain a global perspective. It’s important for him that students are cognizant and receptive to new approaches and techniques.
Each week he divides his class into two teams, each are tasked with presenting and discussing a social issue, but one group explores this issue from a domestic perspective while the other offers an international point of view.
“It exposes students to new ideas and shows them how we can leverage them in the U.S.,” Curran said.
It’s an important issue for Curran; He knows firsthand how helpful outside perspectives can be.
“The world is changing so rapidly that you have to have the ability to continue to learn,” Curran said. “Even if you can do your job today, you won’t be able to do it down the road.”
Pictured Above:Tim Curran, an adjunct professor since 2004, credits his life-long love of learning for his success in the business world. Courtesy of USFSP