Mike Brown, a Washburn University graduate, became interested in international travel while in college.
His passion for learning about different cultures and way of life outside of the United States helped land his first job overseas when he was only 25 years old. Recently, Brown became the President of Burns & McDonnell International—a globally recognized design and engineering firm based in Kansas City.
“My focus in my career has never been on the titles, but the work I was able to do with each role,” said Brown when asked if he had ever imagined becoming president of an international company.
During Brown’s 12 year career with Burns & McDonnell he has held multiple positions including senior attorney in the legal department, director of business development for the firm’s global facilities, vice president of the firm and finally, president.
“I believe I bring a unique perspective to the table in terms of understanding the culture and opportunities for successful business development.” said Brown.
With an impressive background of working overseas that includes working in six continents and over 40 countries, Brown definitely has the knowledge and experience to work with foreign affairs. Some of his previous accomplishments include leading the opening of offices in Doha, India and Calgary, Canada.
“The first step is to assess all of our opportunities and determine which have the lowest barriers to entry. There has been an explosion of the middle-class globally, so that is creating a massive need for infrastructure – everything from roads to energy to water supply,” said Brown regarding the expansion of the company.
He went on to say that for the firm, this need is more than just a business opportunity. It’s “a civic responsibility to help these communities have access to the types of conveniences we enjoy in the United States.” said Brown.
One of the things that helped prepare Brown for his successful career was a law degree from Washburn University. When he first joined Burns & McDonnell in 1998, he started out as a senior attorney for the legal department. From there, he worked his way up to becoming an officer.
“Having a legal perspective on every project can always provide additional value when accessing both opportunities and potential challenges,” said Brown.
When it comes to preparation for a job after college, Brown believes that internships are key.
“They allow you to ‘try on’ the job, so to speak, to see how it fits,” said Brown.
Burns & McDonnell welcomes over 100 interns from across the country every year. They experience a variety of opportunities, such as participating in interesting project work and learning about the benefits of employee-ownership.
In addition, students experience the “Mac Culture” of the firm, which is described as one person benefiting the whole company, and vice versa.
Brown also recommends that students do work in their field and explore the options for each job category. Taking a look at different job categories can help you find where your skill-set best fit’s in.
“When you start applying for jobs, try to learn just as much about the company culture and the offered benefits as you do with the specific position.” said Brown.
Perhaps the most important advice Brown can give to current college students is to be involved in university activities. He believes that his involvement in Greek life and intramural sports really helped him stay well-rounded and morph into leadership roles in his career.
“Themes of collaborative team work and friendly competition that I embraced in college continue to serve me well, today.” said Brown.