Managing global supply chain and manufacturing
Kevin Harkenrider '77 graduated from Union with a B.S. in civil engineering before earning an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is executive vice president of Global Operations at Viasat, Inc. in Carlsbad, Calif. Kevin has been in many different operational and profit and loss roles over 40-plus years. During the past year, he has been president of a $1B segment and is currently responsible for global manufacturing, supply chain and facilities teams. Kevin has been active in various non-profit organizations over the last 20 years, serving as an officer and board member. He serves on the Board of Father Joe’s Villages, one of the largest homeless services providers in San Diego, Calif.
What are/were the most challenging aspects of your career? What are/were the most rewarding?
Figuring out how to address the varied values of team members to ensure decisions are made in a timely manner and implemented effectively. The ability to balance the objective criteria surrounding a decision with the psychological impact on the team members affected by it, while retaining a sense of humor, remains the most intellectually challenging part of my day. I consider myself more of an amateur psychologist than an engineer most of the time.
How has your engineering degree been useful in another field?
Within six months of beginning my first full-time job after graduating from Union, I became a supervisor. Practically speaking, I’ve been a manager of people ever since. An engineering degree provides analytical skills and helpful rigor to utilize in the search for the root cause of a problem. Combining engineering principles and the quest for objective criteria for problem solving with the attributes of empathy, curiosity, self-awareness and tenacity has served me okay.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
My spring semester of my senior year, I held a part-time job as intramural softball league coordinator. Over 50 percent of Union’s students participated. This meant I was responsible for coordinating 1,000-plus participants along with the myriad of umpire scheduling problems, weather delays, and equipment and field issues. I learned then that I enjoyed leading more than following.
What’s the best piece of advice (professional or personal) you ever received?
Lack of results + excuses do not equal results.