Amanda Kurth on Finding Success through Agility and Humility

Name: Amanda Kurth

Class Year: MBA'12

Employer: Heraeus Medical Components

Title: Vice President, Global Procurement

Years in this position: 1.5


Getting started

I entered the workforce as a procurement intern at an automotive manufacturer. Though it was just before the recession, the timing proved to be advantageous for me as I quickly gained valuable experience in a fast-paced, lean environment. With an undergraduate degree in international trade and foreign languages, work with multinational companies was a natural fit. A keen interest in strategic procurement and manufacturing was unexpected but led me to a variety of progressive roles in procurement in the automotive and consumer products industries. Intense drive and learning agility earned me recognition in each of these positions and ultimately led to my current leadership role in the medical industry.

Connecting academic concepts with practical application at the Haworth College of Business

I’ve learned that being a functional expert is not enough to be successful. I completed my MBA at Western Michigan University while working full-time and starting a family. The flexibility of the program, including online options and extended campuses, allowed me to accomplish this. The coursework created a bridge to connect academic concepts with practical application. Understanding how each business function operates and the strategies which drive them is critical. The MBA program focused on many of these areas.

I love case studies as a learning tool. In the global marketing course, we evaluated a case study every week, thus making it my favorite course. The case studies described how various companies handled marketing strategies or issues in different parts of the world. The global scope was appealing to me and it helped to reinforce a very important lesson—global business cannot take a “one-size fits all” approach. Business people must be savvy and humble enough to recognize what we don’t know and when to cater to unique regional or local needs.

On becoming agile and tackling challenges

Agility is the biggest challenge in today’s business world. There are many great ideas and lots of talk about dedication to innovation, but innovation goes beyond having a great idea.It requires the ability to execute and to adjust in an agile manner. In my experience, companies sometimes inhibit their ability to foster innovation by becoming too entrenched in internal politics and inefficient processes.

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a business professional is to not take conflict personally. We become so invested in our work and goals that it becomes difficult to not interpret complex business challenges as personal criticism. When I started looking at conflict from my colleagues’ points of view and stopped internalizing it, I became much better at fostering cross-functional relationships, which in turn made me more effective in accomplishing my goals.

On the joy of making an impact

The business unit I work for partners with medical device companies to deliver high-value solutions to improve patient lives worldwide. I can’t think of anything more satisfying or exciting than knowing that my daily work contributes to making a positive impact on someone’s life.

As a leader, I take pride in the impact I have on the growth and development of my team. Throughout my career journey, I promised myself that when I reached a leadership position, I would empower my team to make decisions. Allowing trustworthy professionals to make decisions drives a greater sense of ownership, better decision making and richer development opportunities. I find that it is essential for a good leader to be authentic, humble and to have an adaptable communication style in order to remain open-minded and approachable.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of leading my team through the beginning of a major transformation. While there is a long road ahead, I am proud of the progress we have made and the impact this process will have on the careers of my team members.

Business travel and keeping roots in Kalamazoo

My career has taken me to places I never imagined I would visit. While business travel often means an intensely packed schedule and a lot of personal time sacrificed, the opportunity to see the world and connect with other cultures is one that I am very grateful for and has been truly eye opening.

I am proud to call the Kalamazoo community home. Though my career has, and probably will continue to take me to other areas, Kalamazoo will always be special to me. It is the place where I built my family and my career. My childhood was spent elsewhere but this is where I grew up. My time at Western Michigan University was a big part of this.