Knippen takes fast track from BGSU to Silicon Valley; Business program ‘better positioned’ him with valuable skillset

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BGSU’s College of Business goes beyond business as usual to prepare graduates for successful careers and James “Jimmy” Knippen is one of those outstanding examples who received a valuable business skillset which landed him a job in Silicon Valley where he is already making a positive impact.  

The finance graduate left the small-town atmosphere of Bowling Green to jet across the country to the high-tech mecca of Silicon Valley near San Francisco.  He works as a financial analyst at Maxim Integrated, an analog semiconductor company that primarily specializes in power management and invents highly integrated solutions that make technology seamless.

When Knippen was getting ready to graduate in December, he was not focused on finding a job in Silicon Valley; in fact, he was surprised when he received a phone call for an interview after applying to Maxim through LinkedIn. Three phone interviews later, he was flying to the Valley for an in-person interview.  “Within hours after the interview I was offered a job I could not refuse,” states Knippen. After working there since January, Knippen says, “I honestly cannot think of a better company to have started my career at.”

According to Knippen, his role at Maxim involves supporting the sales and marketing departments “with all things finance and analytics, striving towards operational excellence and identifying and targeting profitable growth. My team and I manage the whole budget for the sales and marketing teams, which includes multiple business partners around the globe. I work on a team of 5 people. My manager and I are located here in California and our other members are located in Dublin, Ireland, and near Manila in the Philippines.  

My business partners that I support are customer operations and the regional sales vice presidents in Europe, China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. So it is not uncommon for me to be in communication with all parts of the globe in a given day.”

Shortly after joining Maxim Integrated, Knippen made a great first impression.  He “dove into customer data, historic numbers, financials, and a myriad of other sources to help paint a better picture of our sales environment.”  He says, “Fundamentally I was looking for places where resources could be better utilized or better allocated across regions and among customers to obtain profitable growth for years to come. The analysis was very well received as it allowed executives to see our execution of strategy and operation from a new viewpoint that had never been shown at the company prior to my analysis. As a result of that project, numerous actions are being taken.”

A cool perk of the job,” according to Knippen, “is to see some of the next generation products our customers are working on, some of which will be announced and released in the next year and others that won’t come out for 5-10 years.”

The 2015 graduate describes Silicon Valley as full of excitement and passion, and it has a high level of human intellect. It also has “small world” characteristics as well.  “One of the things I first learned about the Valley is how small it really is. Everyone knows someone at this company or that, or has worked with them before, regardless if it is Google, Apple, Facebook, or the newest and hottest start up.”

Knippen adds that the Valley also feels huge because of the extensive cultural differences. “One of the greatest things about the Valley is the diversity. People of all walks of life can be found in the Valley. Companies here do whatever it takes to obtain the top talent regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or background. It is truly a melting pot of all world cultures.”

The perks companies use to recruit top talent are attractive to Knippen. The dress is not a typical suit and tie, nor are the hours 8 to 5.  “Many of the people I know wear shorts and flip flops to work and head into the office around 11am. Some of the companies around here have generous perks. For example, many people do not own cars around here because their companies pay for shuttles to pick them up from home or employers pay for their employees’ food including breakfast, lunch, and dinner with unlimited snacks.”  

When looking back at how BGSU successfully prepared Knippen for his career, he praises his educational journey. “Overall, I think it is the balance of the business program that prepared me for this career. Employers are not looking for people that are single minded with very specialized skills. They want young professionals with a very solid base that can be molded for how they see fit but yet offer different viewpoints from their past experiences.  I think this is exactly what the business program at BGSU prepares us for. They want students with analytical skills, who can work in groups or by themselves, and can critically think.”  

The material about the integration of globalization he learned in business classes, especially from his BA 2030 (Business Communications) class, proved to be very beneficial in his position.  “Now, daily, I interact with people all over the world where communication is a constant challenge. How I phrase something in an email is completely taken into a different context in Germany and Korea. Also, just understanding the impact of international law and the impact it has on a globalized company’s operation and structure has been interesting.”  Knippen says he reaches for his college textbooks and class notes when he can’t remember things.

“Overall, I have felt very prepared in starting my new role here at Maxim, and would even consider myself better positioned than some of my peers throughout the Valley on the skillset I developed in my undergraduate studies at BGSU.”

The finance grad says he had many influential academic mentors at BGSU, but Dr. Sung Bae, chair of the finance department, was the most influential as a teacher and a mentor. Knippen acknowledges he underperformed in Dr. Bae’s finance class, but learned the most in it. “Not only did I learn all the technical knowledge I needed to know about corporate finance, but I truly learned how to think.  Dr. Bae is notorious for challenging your answers regardless if you are right or wrong. He pokes and prods at your answers and forces you to defend your reasoning. The greatest thing about Dr. Bae is that he truly cares about his students’ success.”

As an undergrad at BGSU, Knippen received several honors including the 2015 Financial Executive of the Year Student Award, the 2015 Graduating Senior of the Year in Finance, and was a team member placing 3rd in the National Financial Service Professionals competition in 2015.  After less than a year at Maxim, the BGSU alum is already receiving recognition. He was presented the Finance MVP Award in June. This award is given to one individual every quarter in appreciation of their leadership and contribution to Maxim Integrated. “I was in complete shock that I was given this recognition and award in just my first quarter with the company. It truly is meaningful to work with colleagues and for a company which appreciates your hardwork.”  

Knippen would agree that BGSU’s business program goes beyond business as usual in preparing students for their careers. He is a great example of how our alums are also going beyond business as usual with a bright future of accomplishments.