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Pung Speaker Series: Leading through crisis and transformation

By Taylor Hindman, student writer
Thursday, October 19, 2023

Dalana Brand (B.A. Finance ’95, MBA Finance and Human Resources ’01) served as the first guest speaker in the 2023–24 Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series, now in its eighth year. As the chief people officer at Peloton, Brand was enthusiastic about returning to campus, calling it “home” and a place she holds near to her heart as her father was a professor in the Broad College for many years.

While studying at Michigan State, Brand found herself passionate about human resources and felt her MBA in HR gave her a broader business acumen that honed her strategic thinking. Even though Brand’s career path is rooted in this field, she credited her success as an HR professional to her footing in finance. She encouraged students to leverage different disciplines to enhance their skills and confidence.

Throughout her career, Brand has been a part of leading change at organizations such as Whirlpool Corporation, Boeing Corporation and EA, playing a great role in building new organizational cultures and facilitating company growth and expansion by leveraging talent and building high-performance teams. Brand described her most significant career challenge during her tenure as chief people officer and chief diversity officer at Twitter, now known as X; she said that she faced her most pivotal career moment during the acquisition of Twitter last year. Throughout this unprecedented time, she navigated a constant state of change and immense transformation.

Although this challenge was one of the biggest in Brand’s career thus far, it also offered many lessons to learn throughout the process. Brand touched upon many practices students could use to overcome obstacles when there is no playbook involved:

  • Embracing clear communication and transparency
  • Practicing empathy and active listening
  • Setting clear objectives and priorities
  • Focusing on speed over perfection
  • Promoting adaptability and innovation
  • Creating a culture of resilience

When asked by Full-Time MBA students about career burnout in the wake of such a profound corporate transition, Brand responded, “When you are doing work you love, it doesn’t feel emotionally draining. Your role is not your identity, but if you are passionate about what you do, you take it seriously.”

Applying these principles has also led Brand to play a key role on the executive leadership team at Peloton Interactive today. Her current strategy is focused on increasing talent density and developing people programs that equitably engage employees while also creating a high-performing and inclusive culture within the company. At Peloton, the company is helping support the transformation of the business and developing a new people strategy as well. As Brand brings this new strategy to life, she is leveraging the same leadership principles that have served her well in the past.

Throughout her career, Brand has been recognized for her work, including being honored as a top 100 diversity officer by the National Diversity Council in 2021, chosen as one of Diversity Woman Magazine’s 2021 Elite 100, named among Business Insider’s 2021 10 Most Influential Diversity Leaders and honored as a 2022 AACSB Influential Leader.

Brand is also extremely involved in her community, especially at MSU, speaking in 2021 at the Broad College’s fall Advancing Women in Business event and its inaugural Broad Teach-In: Be Bold. Be Broad. event. Beyond the banks of the Red Cedar, she takes pride in her personal community and has served as a board member for ColorComm, Compass Family Services and Enterprise for Youth. In her spare time Brand enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, camping and collecting art.

Launched in 2016, the Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series aims to engage Broad students with various MSU alumni speakers who share their expertise and professional experiences. The series has been made possible by an endowment from the Photo Marketing Association in Roy S. Pung’s name in honor of Glenn Omura, former associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs and associate professor of marketing. Pung (B.A. Business and Distribution — Teacher Education ’61) spent more than 30 years as the Photo Marketing Association’s CEO and worked closely with Omura throughout his career. Two of Pung’s children, Mark Pung (B.A. Supply Chain Management ’85) and Lisa Pung Francisco (B.A. Elementary Education ’88), often attend the series events.

More information on the upcoming 2023–24 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available via the Full-Time MBA program.

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