Executive MBA Journeys: Kevin Holmquist, MBA '20

Staying Home for a Career Pivot

During COVID-19, some Oregonians learned how to make sourdough bread. Others grew beards. Kevin Holmquist—a 34-year-old ex-rugby player, husband, and dad of two—jump-started a plan to switch his career from a field that he liked into a field that he loves.

Holmquist's work paid off. After nearly a decade of various roles in banking, he started in a new position in a new industry, as a senior financial analyst for Columbia Sportswear in November 2020.

A 2020 graduate of the University of Oregon's executive MBA program in Portland, Holmquist credited the program for preparing him for his new job—and helping him figure out his true passion as well.

"I'm delighted where I am and grateful to the program," he said.

Holmquist decided to take the 20-month program to boost his career and help him discern where he felt most called to lead in business. Thanks to the program's convenient schedule, Holmquist found it easy to attend classes, which—in non-pandemic times—take place in person twice a month on Fridays and Saturdays at UO's Portland campus in the city's Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood.

While the courses, taught by academics and industry pros, were great (Holmquist's favorite might be Brandon Julio's class on corporate financial strategy), it was more about the entire experience—a global class trip to Southeast Asia, a robust network of faculty and alumni who were crucial in helping him switch industries, and access to executive coaching that Holmquist said led to a career change from banking to financial strategy and analytics.

"It did start with a conversation with my executive coach Mitzi Short about what the future of my professional career might look like," Holmquist said. "So, she asked me to start naming all the things I'm passionate about. And she pointed out that there are entire industries built around the things I love to do. And that kind of started the ball rolling with my career pivot."

Traveling with classmates to Malaysia and Singapore during the program's global trip helped Holmquist reconnect with his interest in international business.

"Some feedback that I got from classmates after the global trip was that I seemed very comfortable and skilled at navigating multicultural relationships and meeting new people globally. It was something that in my previous roles I was not leveraging, but I got to rediscover that strength during the global trip," said Holmquist, who earned an undergraduate degree with a double major in political science and Spanish.

As a senior financial analyst with Columbia Sportswear, Holmquist draws on his UO training to communicate the financial impact of various decisions throughout the Columbia Sportwear brand.

Holmquist is part of a team that looks at the product lines that Columbia Sportwear has in the pipeline 18 months out.

"During that 18 months, we review revenue projections and margin projections for all of our product lines within the Columbia brand. And we are working directly with our design team, our merchandising team, tweaking and perfecting styles. We're also integrated with the advertising, licensing, technology and innovation teams," he said. "And my job is to help those teams understand how their decisions could impact our financial results. It's really about communication and teamwork and trust, which really accelerates business performance. I'm having a blast!"

Though UO gave Holmquist specific tools that he uses every day in his job, he added that there is an intangible value to UO's executive MBA program that should not be overlooked.

"It's about helping you be a critical thinker. The opportunity the MBA gave me was confidence," he said.