10 Apr 2012
A Winning FormulaTopics:
A veteran of Nortel and IBM, Dave Ramos (MBA 1989) is the CEO of the Dashboard Group, a northern Virginia–based management consulting firm he founded in 2008. On its website, Dashboard features a quotation from Ramos that says a lot about what drives his company: “Life is too short to work in a dysfunctional organization.”
Dashboard specializes in analyzing why an organization’s growth may have slowed, and then works with management to institute change and boost performance. Explained Ramos, “Our clients are primarily the innovative leaders of midmarket, high-growth firms looking to take their organizations to the next level.” Ramos, who sees these innovators as being just as entrepreneurial as start-up founders, enjoys the diversity of entrepreneurship—nonprofits, associations, professional services, and others—that he finds in northern Virginia and Washington DC. Because the area is not as tech-focused or as awash in VC funding as Silicon Valley, he said, “Our entrepreneurs have to be scrappier.”
Ramos, who grew up in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post (November 7, 2011), “I was taught to be self-reliant, work hard, and accept responsibility for my actions.” He recalls cutting lawns for neighbors as his first job; later, as a college sophomore at Drexel University, he landed a job with IBM through Drexel’s co-op program. Then, he told the Post, “I set my sights on HBS and, miraculously, I got in. My classmates were brilliant and quite intimidating.” Though he felt unprepared for the academic rigor of HBS, Ramos kept up through tenacity and determination, graduating “in the part of the class that makes the top half possible,” he says with a smile.
“Harvard gave me a breadth of knowledge that became the foundation for the rest of my career,” Ramos observed. “I was exposed to ideas and people that totally changed my life. I left with a portfolio of tools that I still use to this day.” But back in the workforce after HBS, Ramos discovered that he was lacking in the human-relations skills and perspective he felt he needed to excel in the corporate environment. “I found the answers on how to manage and lead,” he said, “in a most unexpected place—the Bible. I came to believe that people were created in the image of God, and that changed everything for me.”
Asked whether education or having street smarts is more important in achieving success, Ramos replied, “The winning formula starts with hustle, tenacity, and drive. But that is not enough. To this, you must add a deep educational framework. Again, this was enormously helpful but still not enough. Once I added a people-centric worldview to the mix, great things really started to happen.”
Class of MBA 1989, Section F