spea magazine

SPEONS on Success



Taking Risks


Ed Ingle, MPA ’85
Managing Director, Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation

ingleThe day after receiving my MPA from SPEA in May of 1985, I loaded up a U-Haul in Bloomington and made the long drive to our nation’s capital. Two days later, with my SPEA degree in hand, I started at the Office of Management and Budget as a GS-9 career employee. My first year’s annual salary was $21,804. Try living in DC on that salary. But, frankly, I didn’t come to Washington to make money. I came to put my MPA to work, and to learn and grow professionally, and I assumed everything else would take care of itself. And, fortunately, it did.

I do a lot of guest lecturing today for numerous university public policy and political science programs. In these discussions I describe myself as a “student of public policy and politics,” explaining that I have a natural curiosity and am always seeking to learn new things in my work. I tell the students, “when you quit being curious, you quit learning, and then — you quit growing.”


Tonja Conour Eagan, MPA ’94
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana


eaganOne of my favorite sayings is that “Every ending is a new beginning.” In an era of economic uncertainty, many employees hold on tight to their jobs and do not consider venturing into the world of job-seeking. In my 20-year career, I have seen people who stay in their jobs too long. Some may be burnt out, some are constantly negative about their employers, and some are complacent in their work — all too fearful or unmotivated to pursue a new beginning.

To truly care about our clients, employers, employees, and colleagues, we need to be innovative, energized, and invest ourselves fully into our jobs. For the sake of the organization, clients, and colleagues, when our interest and energy wane in our work, it could be time to move on.

I am not a proponent of “job hopping,” when employees leave a job every time something better comes along. Rather I propose that as successful Speons, we evaluate our attitudes and performance to ensure that we are contributing our best at work. Once we’ve achieved our best, we can explore opportunities to expand our horizons, move on, and make our career journey a win-win for our current employers, future employers, and ourselves.


Marilyn Beckwith, MPA ’78
Human Resource Policy, Smithsonian Institution


beckwithMobility, both geographic and local, has been critical to my career success. I was willing to follow the opportunities wherever they took me. And they took me to New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York City, and, yes, Bloomington. Each of these relocations presented an opportunity, and each involved a significant risk, both personally and professionally. I found that one must give up familiar, safe spaces, and confront and challenge the unknown. Therein, I believe, lays the probability of optimal professional achievement and success. One cannot stay in place and optimally succeed.

The most transformative decision I made in my career was my decision to interrupt my career and return to Bloomington to pursue an MPA at SPEA. I returned to Washington a year later with the knowledge I needed to navigate the federal bureaucracy effectively and to achieve a highly successful career with the federal government in a far more informed way than I would otherwise have been able to accomplish.


Samuel L. Odle, FACHE, MHA ’78
President and CEO, Methodist and IU Hospitals, and Clarian Health Indianapolis Operations

odleThere are many factors in a successful career. But understanding these five principles— mixing it with energy, commitment and a service orientation—will increase the odds for any professional. They all come from the Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge. It was written a number of years ago, but these still apply today.

Systems Thinking – the skill of analyzing a set of events and being able to understand what system is at work. Learning to be proactive instead of reacting to activities happening around us, which can make us less effective.

Personal Mastery – simply said, the commitment to lifelong learning. When relevant, what we have previously learned can only be applied to today’s situations by mixing it with new knowledge and new skills. Continual preparation is important.

Mental Models – Understanding that a stove could be hot is a mental model that cautions us to touch the stove lightly first, to avoid injury and then proceed. On the other hand, mental models, like stereotypes, can serve to hamper us from seeing and developing the most innovative new ideas or hinder our ability to understand and value diversity.

Building Shared Vision – In many cases, a visionary leader will struggle because s/he cannot get others to share his/her vision. The ability to garner support and develop consensus is an important step in accomplishing the full spectrum of simple and complex tasks.

Team Learning – Without the ability to learn and improve and increase a team’s overall performance, dysfunction and underperformance will follow.