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vnccom@rit.edu (Vienna McGrain)
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - 10:30am
Saunders College of Business 'Sharpen the Saw' brings alumni back to the classroom

The 15th annual Sharpen the Saw day hosted by Saunders College of Business offered professional and personal advice to graduates of RIT's Executive MBA program. More than 75 participants attended the daylong event on March 16.

"Sharpen the Saw was created for RIT's Executive MBA graduates as a way for them to spend a day continuing to learn together," said Peter Parts, president of Peter Parts Electronics in Ontario, N.Y., and a 1998 graduate of the Saunders Executive MBA program. "They are here to learn from the best and take something home from each speaker that they can implement in their personal or work lives."

This year's speakers included Colin Paran, an engineer and data scientist who presented a talk on Bitcoin and its impact on businesses; Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, who talked about the changing small-business climate and managing a family business through three generations; Don Baptiste, CEO of Trax Technologies Inc. and former head of Bloomberg Finance L.P., who is an expert in growth strategy, new product development and organization improvement; and Mike Mandina, president of Optimax Systems Inc., and Gregg Sadwick, president of Premier Surfaces, who discussed their experiences selling and buying businesses.

Naomi Silver, president and CEO of the Rochester Red Wings, talked about her "hits and misses" as head of Rochester's baseball league.

"From a business perspective, we run a pretty cool venue," she said. "But as times change, so do the fans and their expectations. Consumers have much greater demands than they used to. Where people were happy with hot dogs and peanuts before, they now want sushi and margaritas. We have to be sure that regardless of the game outcome, our consumers leave feeling like they've had a good time. This business has allowed us to become a true community partner, and we've been able to do more for the area than we ever imagined we could. We do it because that's the culture of our organization."

Jenine Hallings, a compliance manager at Paychex and a 2017 EMBA graduate, said Sharpen the Saw gives business people like herself the opportunity to learn about and hear from industry professionals.

"We are able to find out what their experiences are, how they got to where they are today and what they learned along the way," she said. "An event like this is really valuable as you're building your career and your network. And having a line of sight for that is just perfect."

According to Marty Lawlor, director of RIT's EMBA program, one of the best parts of the annual event is that it is completely alumni-driven. 

"The Executive MBA group hosts it and arranges the logistics, but the alumni themselves line up the speakers, craft the agenda and provide the animating spirit that keeps folks coming back year after year."

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