Corie (Dumdie) Barry
Year of Graduation: 1997
Major(s): Accounting and Management (double)
Please give a brief description of your current position. I am currently the EVP and Chief Strategic Growth Officer for Best Buy Co., Inc. In this role, I lead the company's efforts to refine and implement its growth strategy. I also have served as the interim president for Best Buy's Services (Geek Squad) organization since March.
What path did you follow to get to your current position? My path has been anything but standard. I began my career in public accounting and achieved my CPA certification with Deloitte and Touche LLP just out of college. From there, I joined Best Buy in 1999 as a Financial Analyst and began a long progression of mainly finance roles, including merchant finance support, enterprise financial planning and analysis, retail finance support (which also led to a more operational role running the Geek Squad for the western half of the US for a year), and marketing, online and services finance support. Ultimately, this breadth of experience led to my most recent finance position as the SVP of Domestic Finance, reporting to the CFO. At the same time, these operational finance support roles also uniquely positioned me to help our CEO when our existing president of Services left last March and he asked me to step in temporarily to run that business. Since then, I was promoted out of finance and into the newly-created Chief Strategic Growth Officer position in October, while still temporarily running services.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career? I have two pieces of advice:
- Seek out risk and challenge. Of the many roles I have had at Best Buy, very few of them existed before I walked into them. I think it's important to take on new challenges and really stretch yourself. You're capable of more than you give yourself credit for, but you'll never know if you don't try. You really need to get out there and look for some areas in which you can make a difference and then ASK for a shot.
- Seek out breadth. Try to gain a number of skills and see the world from a variety of perspectives. Whether you aim to move up in the organization you are already in or move ahead in a variety of organizations, you will only benefit from a breadth of experiences.
What skills are important in your field? Well, that depends on the day! There are so many skills that I leverage on the average day - I think that's why I so firmly believe in a liberal arts education. There are a few that have been relevant, however, no matter what my title has been:
- The ability to take the complex and make it simple. Steve Jobs said, "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains." I think you have to know something really well to make it incredibly simple but that there is immense power in that, including the ability to more easily bring others along with you. Dealing with ambiguity. There is a lot of grey space in the world. You have to be able to get in there and bring order to ambiguity and get comfortable with the idea that there is rarely a distinctly "right" or "wrong" answer. It is a special skill to be able to take ambiguity and create structure and continue to move things ahead even in the face of adversity or massive challenge.
- Public speaking and thoughtful writing. While I thought I would be done with essays when I left college, I spend a great deal of time writing: e-mails, white papers, Board of Directors' presentations, etc.... These all require diligence, patience, energy and smart partners. Additionally, I have been lucky enough to speak in front of groups as large as 6,000. Both of these skills require tons of practice and effort and remain valuable no matter your role. Relationship building. It's important to build relationships in any role, but it is particularly important in very cross functional roles like the ones I have had. These relationships are not about having friends at work but are, more importantly, about seeing many sides of an issue and partnering to get to the best collective outcome. Two heads really are smarter than one. Building great teams. The old saying is true - you are only as good as your team. Which means their engagement and development is paramount. I over-invest in the time I spend with my team and it is always the time that I hold dear on my calendar.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position? Most importantly, I love what I do every day (mainly because it's different every day). It's incredibly rewarding to take something from an idea to a way of doing business and do it with a great team that is committed to the best possible outcome. There are more than 100,000 people that work at Best Buy and millions that shop at Best Buy. When you know you have made an employee experience better or a customer experience world-class, that's inspiring.
Most challenging? Right now, the most challenging thing is the multiple "hats" I am wearing and how to balance everything that's going on in both roles. You have to train your brain to shift gears all the time between a multitude of subjects. I mean it when I say I am committed to my teams, but ensuring I carve out enough time and focus can be incredibly challenging.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career? This is my favorite question because I can whole-heartedly say: EVERYTHING! And I genuinely mean it's the combination of so many things that have helped me get to where I am today. A few things that stood out: the professors and their hands-on approach, dedication and commitment to my success, the ample opportunities to improve and get coached on my writing and speaking skills, the honors program that pushed me to delve more deeply into a broad range of topics, the on-campus living that taught me the power of an amazing group of women just outside your door 24 hours a day, the job in public affairs that created an insane desire to edit everything I do multiple times, the journey to the women's rugby national championship tournament and all the drive, determination and desire that took, and generally a school that pushed me to value all aspects of life equally, including an insatiable desire to give back. My last bit of advice - do all you can in college and take advantage of as much St. Bens/St. Johns has to offer as possible.