Stanford encourages students to hold off on declaring a major until their junior year, a practice that made all the sense in the world to Paul Segre.
Segre arrived at Stanford thinking about a pre-med track with a focus on chemistry. He then changed to chemical engineering before settling on a path to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences and a master’s degree in operations research.
“Had I not had the freedom to experiment during my introduction to Stanford, I could have easily ended up in the wrong career,” Segre says. “This flexibility sets a great mindset which encourages exploration and discovery. Very few 18-year-olds know exactly what they want to do or what they are good at and many incoming students have not been exposed to the opportunities available until after they arrive on campus.”
Segre appears to have found the right career at Genesys, where he serves as the company’s president and CEO. The company is a leading provider of customer experience and contact center solutions. The company reported 2014 revenue of $850 million, up 15 percent from 2013.
And while Stanford has built a reputation for launching the career of entrepreneurs, Segre says the university’s liberal arts program was one of the best parts of his education at the school.
“In today’s world, where so much innovation is multi- or cross-disciplinary, where collaboration and communication is critical and where diversity is a strategic advantage, having a strong base in the liberal arts has proven to be a constant benefit to me in my role as CEO,” Segre says.
Networking is another key component to Segre’s growth as a leader. He says the school’s proximity to Silicon Valley is a great benefit, but plenty of perspective can be gained on the campus in Palo Alto.
“Students are taught and see for themselves that it is OK to try and fail,” Segre says. “They learn to write a business plan as well as a resume and they see that entrepreneurism isn’t just an accepted path. It can be really cool and fulfilling.”
In order for a university to produce great leaders, it needs to instill a culture and a curriculum that focuses on leadership and the tools that are needed to be a great leader, he says.
“You need thought leadership in a given field, excellent communication and collaboration skills, an appreciation for diversity and a multidisciplinary mindset,” he says. “Students need space to find their passion, and the constant cultivation of sharing and being open to new ideas.”
Segre stays in touch with what’s happening at Stanford through friends and family and has a brother and sister.
“When you add this to my many fraternity brothers and friends who have graduated from Stanford, my network is pretty big,” he says.
He is particularly proud of a fact he learned at the graduation of his niece from his alma mater.
“One of the speakers pointed out that the Stanford Computer Science Department graduated more women in 2015 than it graduated students in 2010,” he says. “That is astounding and will help unlock a lot of entrepreneurship, as well as diversity in the business community.” ●