Siegfried Behrens, the president of global sales at Blackboard, answered questions presented by students and staff at Liberty University’s School of Business Convocation Monday, March 18.
The Convocation, held at the tower level of Williams Stadium, was co-hosted by the information technology department and the School of Engineering.
Behrens spoke about the experiences that shaped his career, made him who he is and helped him get to where he is today.
Despite his current success in the business realm, Behrens said that he endured many failures with his ever-changing career choices. At one point or another, Behrens pursued careers in aviation, engineering, international business and politics before finding his niche in business.
“The hardest challenge for me was constantly picking myself back up and not getting discouraged,” Behrens said.
However, Behrens said that failure is not exactly a bad thing.
“You are going to fail if you haven’t failed,” Behrens said. “You want to have failures — you are going to learn from your failures.”
Behrens said that he started working for Microsoft Corporation at the age of 25. After working his way up through the business, Microsoft asked him to be the leader of education. When he had worked in education for six months, he knew it was the field for him.
According to Behrens, he took the job at Blackboard because he wanted to be part of leadership in education technology.
“At Blackboard … focusing on students’ success is absolutely the most important mission for us,” Behrens said.
According to the company website, Blackboard was founded in 1997 and has since accumulated more than 160 partnerships and has 21 locations with eight global data centers.
“Blackboard has been a very accomplished education technology company, but we’re just getting started,” Behrens said.
While Blackboard currently has roughly 950 education, corporate and government clients worldwide, according to its website, Behrens said that it is his wish to see the good reputation of Blackboard significantly increase in the future.
“I would like Blackboard to be more prominent in the mainstream opinion of companies that matter,” Behrens said. “Our CEO always talks about good, great and important companies. An important company is a company that is benefiting the nation or the world’s education in the process. Being an important company is top-of-the-line for us.”
Behrens also spoke about how businesses, such as his own, become successful.
“What makes a great company great is a company that believes in a higher purpose and serves a higher purpose than its own personal self-interest,” Behrens said.
For a company to believe in and serve a higher purpose, Behrens claimed that it has to have a clear and focused mission statement that people want to follow. Companies fail when they focus on their profits and lose sight of the long-term goals.
According to Dean of the School of Business Scott Hicks, this idea is in line with what Liberty teaches.
“When we bring in somebody from the outside that says the same things, it tends to sink in and you tend to respect it more because (of) the person — it’s their position in the business world,” Hicks said.
Students took away many positive lessons from Behrens. Bethany Green, a business communications major, discovered the importance of learning from experiences.
“He really appreciates the values of the companies he works for and that was a big deal for me to hear,” Green said. “The company I work for in the future should also reflect my values, too.”
Behrens left students with words of encouragement that he took from his parents as a child.
“If you believe in yourself, you can be anything you want to be in life. If you are focusing on a goal that has an importance to you, then you will be happy and you will be fulfilled.”