Biola Board of Trustees member and Biola parent Dean VandeKamp believes his career taught him one lesson, first and foremost: Take chances when others won’t.
“Raise your hand, even if nobody else does,” said VandeKamp. “Our first company laptop weighed about 70 pounds, big as a suitcase, and management said, ‘Hey, who wants to haul this new computer around and learn how to use it?’ I raised my hand. Then came insurance and no one wanted to do insurance, so I did that. Then someone said, ‘we lost a bunch of people in consulting...anyone want to learn consulting?’ I raised my hand and did some IT strategic consulting. By the time I retired, I had run all those areas on a national level.”
VandeKamp spoke at the Crowell Distinguished Speaker Series event on March 8. After 27 years at Ernst & Young — where he led national practices, including cybersecurity — VandeKamp retired as a partner, becoming a general partner at Cultivation Capital in St. Louis and a strategic advisor at Kingdom Capital. His experience with startup companies has given him insights into fostering innovation and understanding disruptive risks associated with advanced and emerging technologies. VandeKamp joined the Biola Board of Trustees in 2014.
Two of VandeKamp’s children are Crowell School of Business alumni and joined him in speaking at the event — Kayla Croskrey (’12) and Kevin VandeKamp (B.S. ’15, M.A. ’16). Croskey was a management major and is now a human resources manager for a Department of Energy national lab in eastern Washington, which utilizes classified science and technology in support of national security. Kevin is a Biola accounting graduate who recently left Deloitte to join a hedge-fund in New York City and also does consulting.
Raise Your Hand!
Kayla Croskey concurs with her father’s view on taking chances, but she didn’t hear it only from him:
“One of the best pieces of advice I got at Biola came from Dr. Nick Sherwin, when he told us to always look for that next opportunity, to not stay in your comfort zone, to look for what's next. That really stuck with me,” said Croskey. “So I'm always the first to raise my hand, even if I don’t feel completely comfortable.”
“Six years ago,” Croskey continued, “I signed on to roll out a telework program, which at the time meant working from home once or twice a week. So now, with most people working from home, I'm still very heavily involved in future-of-work questions: Can my data scientists, engineers and analysts work remotely and securely? How can we protect people's mental health? All of these things came out of me just raising my hand at that opportunity.”
Croskey’s brother, Kevin says having a risk-taking problem-solving mindset as a Christian is not just about personal fulfillment and accomplishment.
“Hopefully it'll lead to the church being on the cutting edge, where it used to be,” he said. “If you look at a lot of the major changes across society and industry back in the day, it was the church and clergymen who were making a lot of those innovations. So I'm excited to see innovation and ideas coming out of Biola and other Christian institutions.”
Croskey concurred on the importance of innovation and fearlessness:
“One of my favorite things that I’ve heard from leadership here at PNNL,” she said, “was ‘you know, 95% of the ideas brought to the cybersecurity group are just terrible. But the 5% that are not terrible are now making huge differences in the world.’ So don't be afraid to bring up your ideas. Maybe most of them won’t work, but some may change the world.”
Business and the Kingdom
When the founder of Kingdom Capital, David Steward, asked VandeKamp to be his chief investment officer, Steward gave him Ephesians 3:20-21 as a key verse:
“Now to him, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”
“Immediately after that,” VandeKamp said, “Dave told me that his goal is to return a billion dollars to the kingdom. That sounds like a lot of money, because it is, and that was a big step of faith for me. It truly was immeasurably more.”
“But what we truly believe at Kingdom Capital,” VandeKamp continued, “is that ‘values drive valuation.’ So we focus on two types of return, ERR and IRR. IRR is the internal rate of return, the rate of growth an investment is expected to generate. But ERR is the eternal rate of return. So we only invest in companies where the leadership follows what we call our SHIELD values: Service, Humility, Integrity, Excellence, Love, and Diversity in both thought and ethnicity.”
Spiritual Growth Requires Resources
VandeKamp advised those in attendance at the speaker series event to make use of the rich and abundant resources at Biola, including opportunities for mentoring and accountability, and the Biola podcasts, which have had an impact on him — Think Biblically with Dr. Scott Rae and Dr. Sean McDowell, Winsome Conviction with Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and Dr. Rick Langer, and The Art of Relationships with Muehlhoff and Dr. Chris Grace.
“The Advent and Lent devotions are daily food for me during those spiritual times. And the Biola Israel and Greece trips opened my eyes, and I now read the Bible in such a different way after visiting those sacred places,” said VandeKamp. “Biola has been a rock in my spiritual growth, especially during this pandemic. It's become my virtual church.”
The Crowell Distinguished Speaker Series brings a selection of accomplished business leaders to campus to share their varied professional and personal insights and provides the opportunity to network with fellow attendees including alumni, MBA mentors, faculty, and current and prospective MBA students. The event is always free and open to all; registration is requested. Future events can be found on the Crowell events calendar.
To learn more about and apply to Crowell’s business program, visit the website.