Ann Drake '84
Kellogg offered 'a world of leadership' to Ann Drake and today the CEO helps expand the horizon for others
By Aubrey Henretty
When Ann Drake '84 graduated from the University of Iowa with a dual degree in English and psychology, she did what many of her highly educated female peers did. She became a teacher.
"There weren't as many choices open to women as there are today," says Drake, chuckling as she recalls the other two choices available at the time: nursing and dental hygiene.
Now the chief executive officer of DSC Logistics, a Chicago-based supply chain management company, Drake works to increase opportunities for women and ensure that women know how to take advantage of those opportunities. The Women's Business Enterprise National Council recently certified DSC Logistics, a distinction that means, among other things, at least 51 percent of the business is owned and controlled by one or more women. Drake is also a member of the board of governors for the Committee of 200, a 25-year-old organization dedicated to the professional development and advancement of women in business.
But this transformation from high school teacher to high-powered executive did not happen overnight. Stifled by an inefficient school system that she felt powerless to streamline, Drake quit teaching, pursued a graduate degree in design and started her own design business. Still hungry for knowledge and new skills, she chose to attend the Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program.
"It was the most defining moment of my career," she says. As she studied with the likes of Jeanne Brett, the Kellogg School's DeWitt W. Buchanan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Dispute Resolution and Organizations, and Alice Tybout, the Harold T. Martin Professor of Marketing, a lifelong career in business seemed to Drake not only attainable, but full of promise. "Suddenly it seemed not just to be a world where accountants did things," she says. "It was a world of leadership."
Though Drake still considers herself a "student of leadership," she spends much of her time — in the office and in the community — sharing her knowledge with others. "I'm really interested in Chicago and Chicago's success," she says, particularly with respect to improving the city's transportation systems. To that end, she co-chairs the transportation committee for the Metropolitan Planning Council and is vice chairman of the business advisory council for the Northwestern University Transportation Center.
Drake says her personal interests and values are closely aligned with her professional ones: "I'm very lucky, because it all runs together for me." Through DSC Logistics, which she describes as "a thinking, learning organization," Drake encourages up-and-coming female leaders as she works closely with diverse suppliers (including women-owned companies) and sees that her employees and clients learn from each other. "We're taking the collaborative, networking piece that I've enjoyed and that I learned at Kellogg and carrying it forward."
Though the stated mission of DSC Logistics is to help companies achieve goals through effective supply chain management, Drake says the company has a higher purpose: "More than that, we help them with growth and change."
Drake traces much of her own professional growth — which included the realization that business can be much more than long hours spent number-crunching in a stuffy office — back to her Kellogg experience. "It absolutely transforms people," she says. "Myself included."
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Kellogg World alumni magazine.