An Interview with Dr. Kristin Murphy

Kristin Murphy, global competitive sales intelligence manager for SAS Institute
Kristin Murphy, global competitive sales intelligence manager for SAS Institute

Kristin Murphy, global competitive sales intelligence manager for SAS Institute and an alumna of NC State, has been actively involved with the Park Scholarships program for the past four years. At present she serves on three committees for the Park Scholarships program: the Advisory Committee, which provides important counsel to the director on the scholars’ academic enrichment activities; the Service Advisory Committee, which offers guidance to the staff in planning and evaluating scholars’ Civic Engagement Initiatives; and the Selection Committee, in which capacity she conducts Finalist interviews.

Murphy also serves as a presenter for the Leadership Academy – a comprehensive, four-year program through which Park Scholars gain insight into theories of leadership, and develop a deeper understanding of their own leadership style. Topics addressed are relevant to leadership across a variety of fields and organizations, including both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Murphy’s session, called “Building Your Fan Base,” goes beyond traditional networking tips to explore the differences between operational, personal, and strategic networks, and the necessity of value, trust, and credibility in building relationships of all kinds.

Murphy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Colgate University, studied at Universität Freiburg, and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in industrial and organizational psychology from NC State. She has presented at national and international professional conferences and has been a panelist and guest lecturer at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Murphy has worked as both an independent consultant and marketing professional. She joined SAS in 2006 to establish a new department focused on strategic marketing research and competitive intelligence.

We caught up with Murphy to find out about her educational background, the dynamic nature of her work, and her role with the Park Scholarships program.

How did your experiences as an undergraduate shape your career path and help build a foundation for your success?

When I started at Colgate University, I was not entirely decided upon my major. I knew that I enjoyed research – discovering ideas and concepts, had an aptitude for learning foreign languages, and wanted to broaden my world view by studying abroad. I had always enjoyed visiting historical places so I tried out a European history class and loved it. I majored in history and German which combined my interest in research and international study.

Kristin Murphy with her children
Kristin Murphy with her children

My semester studying at the University in Freiburg in Germany was a pivotal learning experience for me in many ways. It took me completely out of my comfort zone. At first, I struggled to communicate, to find my way around town and to understand how “life worked” in a foreign country. I was fortunate to see so many different countries across eastern and western Europe and meet a variety of people. What was most intriguing was that I was visiting Europe at a time of intense change. The Berlin Wall had fallen and eastern and western Europe were trying to find common ground among differences in worldview. This was particularly true of Germany. I heard many lectures about change and impact as Germany was challenged with unifying people who had been separated for so long, not just by walls but by worldview.

I became intrigued by the process by which people learned and managed through change to reach their potential, whether it be in the past or the present. I not only wanted to learn more but also help people manage through change and transition. I soon thereafter learned that graduate study in the field of industrial and organizational psychology would provide me with that opportunity.

While pursuing your graduate work degree, did you know that you would be entering into the business world?

Industrial and Organizational Psychology, “I/O Psychology,” is by definition the study of work behavior. It is applicable to all types of organizations, and graduate study in this discipline can lead to careers in business, in the nonprofit sector, and in academia. I had always been fascinated with the business world but not entirely certain that I wanted to devote my career to being a “business person.” However, while in school, I observed how the “real world” application of I/O psychology made class most interesting. While I have a desire to teach and advise, I determined that having some personal  “real world” stories to share with students would be more personally impactful for myself and future students.

My degree has opened up many doors for me and has also given me an excellent foundation in strong leadership and management principles. It has also given me a vast amount of flexibility, given that it is a degree which I can apply to various types of jobs and organizations.

Describe your work in leadership development, change management, sales training, strategic planning, and market research. How have you been able to master so many different aspects of the field?

At a very high level, I describe myself as an “organizational architect.” I like to dive into an organization’s key challenges and develop the processes, organizational structures, and most importantly, the team of people required to find a solution and move things to the next level. In every position in my career, I utilized my consistent set of strengths and skills – research, analytical
thinking, team collaboration, understanding of organizational behavior, and leadership. The learning for me is how to apply them across a variety of situations and problems, bearing in mind the similarities and key differences you will encounter in organizational culture and structure.

Over time, you will see how most organizational issues boil down to common aspects of  human behavior. However, how you need to go about changing or enhancing that behavior is strongly dependent on what is uniquely tied to the situation. Even within the same organization, what you need to do in one division may be vastly different than how you need to address things in another
division. This is what makes my career so interesting to me. There is never a dull moment!

What advice would you share with current NC State students who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

There are jobs available in my field for those at both a master’s and Ph.D. level, whichever one chooses to pursue. I chose a Ph.D., as I felt it offered me more options in the long run, such as to move more easily into an academic position later in my career. In addition, a Ph.D. also gives you a little more credibility if you chose to go out on your own as an independent consultant. Some people who pursue a career in I/O develop a specific area of expertise – for example, HR analytics or training development – while others, like myself, focus on getting a variety of experiences. It really just depends on what is of most interest to you.

Overall, what has helped me the most is my focus on personal learning. Humans by nature want to feel progress which comes from learning and continually challenging yourself. What you’ll find is career success is less about what your specific job title and responsibilities are. It’s what you are gaining from your experiences and the people that matter most. Focus on what you are learning, and changing your situation when you are not, and your career will always keep you pointed in the direction you need to go.

Kristin Murphy speaks with Neel Mandavilli and Rasika Rajagopalan during the Class of 2015 Leadership Academy.
Kristin Murphy speaks with Neel Mandavilli and Rasika Rajagopalan during the Class of 2015 Leadership Academy.

Can you talk about your involvement with the Park Scholarships program and why it’s important to you?

I have been involved with the Park Scholarship program for four years and have loved every minute of it. I have a passion for developing future leaders and sharing my experiences and learning with others. More importantly, I truly value what I learn from all the Park Scholars and the people associated with the program. I am continually inspired by everyone I meet!

I am an optimist by nature and have always been someone who has a desire to “change the world” in whatever big or small way I can. My service to the Park program is a way for me to contribute to something bigger than myself while providing individual support to people with whom I am directly involved.

posted 2014.09.01