When Razzaaq McConner, SBA (Marketing) ’01, has the opportunity to talk to OU students, he consistently urges them to look for opportunities to set themselves apart.
“I always tell them to get as much experience as they can while they’re in college,” says McConner, an executive business planner with Chrysler. “I tell them to work in teams, to demonstrate leadership. When they get in the workplace, the expectation is they already have experience.”
McConner says he still benefits today from the experiences he gained through the SBA’s Applied Technology in Business (ATiB) program, which educates juniors and seniors in information technology applications through corporate-sponsored projects.
“It gave me indispensable experience that helped me transition to the corporate world,” he says.
McConner, who was raised in Charlotte, N.C. and in Pontiac, Mich., was offered academic scholarships to several universities by his senior year of high school. It was the encouragement of his father, retired GM employee Ronald McConner, CAS ’82, who convinced him Oakland University was the right choice. He went on to receive 10 scholarships and student awards during his years there.
When the marketing major was a student, ATiB was a fairly new program. Founded in 1997 by Mohan Tanniru, now the SBA dean, the program was the first of its kind in Michigan. Today, ATiB boasts a high graduate employment rate.
When McConner learned about ATiB, the business minor program immediately drew his attention. First, there was the practical benefit of scholarship money. But the program also appealed to his competitive nature. “It seemed all of the top business students were in the program, and I wanted to be considered one of the top students.”
The IT side of the program intrigued McConner, too. To him, ATiB looked like a great way to broaden his horizons.
He was right. During his years with the program, McConner worked on IT projects for Fanuc Robotics, RGIS Inventory Specialists, Comerica and EDS.
During each project, McConner found himself exercising his presentation skills. “I still remember my first presentation. It bombed so badly. Presenting to executives can be nerve wracking. I’ve gotten better since then.”
Looking back, McConner also can see the benefits of the teamwork the program required.
“Everything you do in the corporate world is in teams; you rarely do anything alone. Being able to work in teams definitely gave me an advantage in my professional career.”
And it was during his time in ATiB when McConner started familiarizing himself with the technologies he would be using in the workplace. That practical foundation proved to be invaluable, he says. “Whenever my company introduces something new, I can learn it and jump on it quickly.”
McConner, who was recruited by Chrysler before he graduated, now serves two primary roles there. As a business planner for purchasing and supplier quality, he collaborates with contacts around the globe. During any given day he could be working on strategy sessions, helping the communications team with presentations, or organizing volunteer and charity events.
In addition, McConner represents Chrysler as the executive-on-loan for the Michigan Minority Supply Development Council, a nonprofit organization advocating for minority businesses.
Throughout his professional career, McConner has maintained strong ties with Oakland University’s SBA. In the last 12 months alone he was the keynote speaker for the SBA’s first Undergraduate Student Recognition Dinner, served as an alumni panelist during OU’s Go Business Day, and participated in a video interview for ACHIEVE, the SBA’s professional and career development program.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Oakland University,” McConner says. “I owe it to the university to be an ambassador and give back.”
As an SBA alum, McConner says, he’s able to connect with students on a different level than their professors. “They want to see someone who’s in the field doing what they hope to do one day.
“And I enjoy interacting with the students. It keeps you on your toes.”