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ALUMNI PROFILE: Rob Kelly MBA/Engineering ’03

by Christine Cox

August 26, 2014

Tag: Alumni

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Home football game days haven’t been the same for Rob Kelly MBA/Engineering ’03 since he became the assistant athletics director for ticketing & technology with the Notre Dame Department of Athletics in July 2013.

“There’s no glory in being the ticket manager on game day,” he says with a laugh.

On home game Saturday mornings, Kelly arrives at the box office by 7 — just about the time the fanatic tailgaters start showing up. He and his team prepare the box office for its first customers of the day, ready to address any surprise issues that come up overnight. “Our office handles special ticket requests among other issues,” Kelly says. “You’d be surprised at how often and how many things pop up.”

The crew of 15 full-time and 10 on-call staff stays hopping until the office closes after halftime. Then they are able to enjoy the rest of the game. “When you work in the ticket office, you can kiss tailgating and the first half of the game goodbye,” he says.

He’s explaining, not complaining. “My job is wonderful. It’s tremendously fulfilling,” he says. “For an Irish fan motivated by challenge like I am, it’s been a fantastic experience.”

Fantastic, yet very unexpected, as he explains in this Q&A.

Q: The joint five-year MBA/engineering program is obviously extremely difficult. What made you choose this path?

A: I grew up as an Air Force brat enamored with aviation, flight and airplanes. So I came to Notre Dame to pursue an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. Two or three years in,  I started realizing a career in aerospace engineering wasn’t going to leverage all of my strengths — I wanted to interact more with people and spend more time away from a computer screen. So I applied to the dual-degree program my junior year.

For the program, you split the senior year of courses over the last two years on top of a full MBA course load. So there were some crazy semesters where I had a 23-hour course load. But I’m very glad I did it.

Q: You had a great career before working at Notre Dame. What made you come back?

A: After I graduated, I went to work for Honeywell International in supply chain management. It was a great career. I was working with automotive aftermarket suppliers, and we were managing top brands. Modern supply chains use complex equations to manage inventories, and I felt my preparation in engineering and business was a perfect fit. Eventually, two internal divisions merged, so my job went global overnight. I started traveling 40 percent of the time.

During all this, my wife and I had the first of our five children. We started having those conversations about what we really want for our family. I was wondering what my legacy was going to be. I like to say working at Honeywell was rewarding while working at Notre Dame is fulfilling. It is easier for me to see my impact on the world through the mission of Notre Dame.

Q: What have your career experiences been since returning to Notre Dame in 2006?

A:  I was hired as a business manager for procurement services. Within a year my boss left, we went through restructuring and I was appointed the director. It was a great opportunity for me to lead a team of 15 people for a department that has responsibility for $400 million in University-wide sourceable spend.

After five years with procurement, I entered the University’s rotation program, an 18-month leadership development program that assigns you to projects in departments across the university. I worked for the law school, auxiliary operations and human resources. It was an outstanding experience.

As that program was nearing its end, the job in athletics opened up and I was blessed to be selected. As well as overseeing an exceptional team in the ticket office, I manage the department's information technology and serve as the athletics liaison for the Office of Continuous Improvement. I’ve also served as the athletics lead in preparing the premium seating concepts for the Campus Crossroads Project, the $400 million academic, student life and stadium facilities project. That’s been exciting.

Q: What is one of your goals, either personal or professional?

A:  Professionally and personally, I want to achieve better focus. That really means simplifying my life at work and at home to what is truly important. I think I share that goal with many others these days.