The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has presented challenges nationwide. In the interest of safety, on March 11 Michigan State University moved all face-to-face classes online. Many events on campus have been postponed or canceled altogether.
In true “Spartans Will” style, the Pung Executive Speaker Series adapted to the challenge. Despite the uncertainty, this semester’s remaining lectures shifted to an online format, including the fifth speaker, Joel Clum (B.A. Finance ’08) who presented to students virtually on March 19.
Clum began his talk on a much-needed positive note: “I think these moments of adversity bring out the best in companies and in people.” This optimistic spirit was present throughout Clum’s lecture, which he focused on the value of knowing what’s important in one’s career.
Time well spent at MSU
Clum came to MSU to pursue a degree in general management; however, after befriending Ryan Sullivan (B.A. Finance ’06) and Kevin Smith (B.A. Finance ’07), he pivoted to a degree in finance.
Throughout his years as a Broad Spartan, Clum undertook a variety of roles and experiences, including study abroad in Tianjin, China, serving as president of Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations and an internship with P&M Corporate Finance. These experiences were catalysts for his journey toward a career in logistics, he said. Clum explained that he had a desire to know how business functioned as a whole rather than just transactionally.
From consulting to logistics
Upon graduation, Clum joined Accenture Strategy in 2008 as a consultant, working in a variety of industries such as utilities, pharmaceutical, tech and consumer packaged goods. “I was very fortunate to get to work for a company where I could get exposure to a lot of different things,” Clum said. Through Accenture, Clum was given the opportunity to work in Shanghai and in Brussels.
He emphasized in his presentation that experiences like his at Accenture at the start of his career can be so critical. “Worry about what you’re learning and the experiences you’re acquiring,” Clum said. “I know you have to make ends meet, but in the end, you’ll gain so much more from meaningful experiences than an extra 20 grand a year.”
In 2011, after several years of consulting, Clum realized he was ready for a change in career path. For the next few years, he founded several logistics-based start-ups, which provided him an expert understanding of the industry.
In 2015, Clum joined Worldwide Express, a third-party logistics company, where he now serves as chief operations officer. “I really just believed in their culture and strategy and couldn’t stop thinking about how exciting it would be,” he said.
Maintaining confidence during the crisis
The ongoing global health crisis of COVID-19 has affected many aspects of business, and Clum’s organization is no different. “It’s been an exceptionally interesting two weeks. We thought we had the entire year figured out, and then coronavirus happened,” he said.
Clum still has the Spartan grit and determination, explaining that this crisis forces the world of transportation to change plans and adapt at a moment’s notice: “I go to bed at 10 p.m., wake up at 6 a.m. and look into all the major news stories to make decisions about how we should move forward in that moment.”
Clum noted that this situation presents many difficulties for every industry, but he has nothing but confidence in Worldwide Express. He referenced the 2008 financial crisis and how the company persevered. “Having been through a world-altering scenario before, we know that the sun will still shine tomorrow,” he said.