ALUMNI PROFILE: Rob Kelly MBA/Engineering ’03
Published: August 26, 2014 / Author: Christine Cox
Home football game days haven’t been the same for Rob Kelly MBA/Engineering ’03 since he became the assistant athletics director for
ticketing & technology with the Notre Dame Department of Athletics in July
“There’s no glory in being the ticket manager on game day,”
he says with a laugh.
On home game Saturday mornings, Kelly arrives at the box
office by 7 — just about the time the fanatic tailgaters start showing up. He and
his team prepare the box office for its first customers of the day, ready to
address any surprise issues that come up overnight. “Our office handles special
ticket requests among other issues,” Kelly says. “You’d be surprised at how
often and how many things pop up.”
The crew of 15 full-time and 10 on-call staff stays hopping until
the office closes after halftime. Then they are able to enjoy the rest of the
game. “When you work in the ticket office, you can kiss tailgating and the
first half of the game goodbye,” he says.
He’s explaining, not complaining. “My job is wonderful. It’s
tremendously fulfilling,” he says. “For an Irish fan motivated by challenge
like I am, it’s been a fantastic experience.”
Fantastic, yet very unexpected, as he explains in this
Q: The joint
five-year MBA/engineering program is obviously extremely difficult. What made
you choose this path?
A: I grew up as
an Air Force brat enamored with aviation, flight and airplanes. So I came to
Notre Dame to pursue an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. Two or
three years in, I started realizing a
career in aerospace engineering wasn’t going to leverage all of my strengths —
I wanted to interact more with people and spend more time away from a computer
screen. So I applied to the dual-degree program my junior year.
For the program, you split the senior year of courses over
the last two years on top of a full MBA course load. So there were some crazy
semesters where I had a 23-hour course load. But I’m very glad I did it.
Q: You had a great
career before working at Notre Dame. What made you come back?
A: After I
graduated, I went to work for Honeywell International in supply chain
management. It was a great career. I was working with automotive aftermarket
suppliers, and we were managing top brands. Modern supply chains use complex
equations to manage inventories, and I felt my preparation in engineering and
business was a perfect fit. Eventually, two internal divisions merged, so my
job went global overnight. I started traveling 40 percent of the time.
During all this, my wife and I had the first of our five
children. We started having those conversations about what we really want for
our family. I was wondering what my legacy was going to be. I like to say
working at Honeywell was rewarding while working at Notre Dame is fulfilling. It
is easier for me to see my impact on the world through the mission of Notre
Q: What have your
career experiences been since returning to Notre Dame in 2006?
A: I was hired as a business manager for procurement
services. Within a year my boss left, we went through restructuring and I was
appointed the director. It was a great opportunity for me to lead a team of 15
people for a department that has responsibility for $400 million in University-wide
After five years with procurement, I entered the University’s
rotation program, an 18-month leadership development program that assigns you
to projects in departments across the university. I worked for the law school,
auxiliary operations and human resources. It was an outstanding experience.
As that program was nearing its end, the job in athletics
opened up and I was blessed to be selected. As well as overseeing an
exceptional team in the ticket office, I manage the department’s information
technology and serve as the athletics liaison for the Office of Continuous
Improvement. I’ve also served as the athletics lead in preparing the premium
seating concepts for the Campus Crossroads Project, the $400 million academic,
student life and stadium facilities project. That’s been exciting.
Q: What is one of
your goals, either personal or professional?
A: Professionally and personally, I want to
achieve better focus. That really means simplifying my life at work and at home
to what is truly important. I think I share that goal with many others these