Friday, June 25, 2010

Vlerick MBA Worked on Obama's Presidential Campaign

For Reggie Hubbard, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a turning point, taking him on a road that led to the election of the President Barack Obama in November 2008.
At the time of the invasion, Hubbard, was in Brazil on a personal sabbatical after handing in his letter of resignation to a software company.
“I went to the carnivals in Rio and Recife and just had a blast,” recalls Hubbard, who is currently studying for a MBA on the International Management Program at the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium.
“But when I was there the Iraq war started [...] I saw it through Brazilian media and it just horrified me. I thought it was a terrible decision and I still think that it was a terrible decision,” says Hubbard.
Unable to shake off the images of the Iraq war, Hubbard returned home resolving to “do something in the next election.” Back home, a chance encounter with a friend at a party led to Hubbard becoming a campaign volunteer in Atlanta, Georgia for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. During the Atlanta campaign, Hubbard’s responsibilities involved constituent outreach in the African -American and young Democrat communities.
As Kerry’s campaign gathered momentum, the Vlerick student was promoted first to the National Advance Team, which looks after the logistics of a campaign, and then became ground logistics coordinator travelling with Kerry and his then vice presidential candidate, senator John Edwards, visiting 4 to 5 states a day over a six month period.
Over a year later, Hubbard was on the road again, this time as a senior travel aide for Jim Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor for the state of Florida. When the campaign ended in 2006, Hubbard took a deserved break from the political rat-race and recharged his batteries.
Around the same time, the movers-and-shakers in American politics began whispering about a certain Hawaii born senator with an unconventional past. It was not until 2007 that the mainstream media picked up on him and Hubbard’s skills were back in demand.
“Some friends in ‘Obama-land’ called me [to assist on] a product launch. It was the first time the senator had been [to Las Vegas] in advance of the Nevada caucuses,” says Hubbard.

Working as a freelance advance consultant for the ‘Obama for America’ campaign, Hubbard orchestrated the logistics for a 2,500-person rally, a mammoth task which Hubbard compares to a Mission Impossible challenge.
“You’ve got to do everything from work with politicians to volunteers. You need to be mindful of how that event is going to be broadcast so as you are setting it up you have to have a mental picture of what the candidate looks like [...] who’s going to be in the backdrop you need to run the program, all this stuff is happening simultaneously,” says Hubbard.
“You work with the field staff to make sure people come to the event. When they get to the event you work with the volunteers to make sure all the people are taken care of, because if the people aren’t happy then it’s a bad event and that’s bad press. So that’s just the events aspect of it.”
Then there’s the overall political aspect, continues Hubbard.
“When the candidate is there [...] you are basically responsible for every aspect every minute of the schedule when they are on your site, tak[ing] them to meetings and work[ing] with their travel aides.”
“So if you are an adrenaline junkie and love attention to detail advance is for you,” adds Hubbard.

As for those wanting to enter into advance management, Hubbard says focus is the key:
“You’ve got to be extremely focused and just aware of everything [...] if you succeed no one cares because you are supposed to. If you fail, then it’s all your fault.”

Describing president Obama as “laid back and real mellow” Hubbard derives inspiration from Obama’s story and sees similarities between the two of them.
“He wasn’t the first in his family to go to [university] but he was in an unfamiliar environment attending an Ivy League school,” says Reggie, a Yale Philosophy graduate, commenting on the comparatively low numbers of African-Americans in Ivy League colleges compared with other minority groups.
He also credits Obama for improving the image of America beyond its borders. Something that Reggie saw first-hand working as an advance consultant for Joe Biden and accompanying the vice president on a visit to the Czech Republic in October 2009.
After the successful nomination of Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention Committee in 2008, Hubbard began manoeuvring to change careers from politics to business.
Given the recent outcry from business leaders to Obama’s financial reforms, it would seem that politics and business make for awkward bedfellows. Hubbard thinks otherwise:
“Politics and business need each other [...] business needs to thrive in order for politicians to benefit, but politicians set the laws, but business has to play by them,” says the former Obama aide.
Humble, modest and quite the Southern gent – Hubbard is from Virginia - the 35-year-old’s ideal job would involve blending his political and business capital to become a trade representative.
But, is he still tempted to return to his political roots and launch a Hubbard for America campaign?
“No,” he responds emphatically with a chuckle.
“I saw the intensity [and] had to keep the schedule in many ways.
“To be honest I don’t want that at the moment. I want to relax for a while [... and] work 13 hour days and not 20!” adds Hubbard who now has time to indulge his love of jazz and art.
Reflecting on his involvement in the campaign, Hubbard has fond memories of his colleagues and playing a “small part” in transforming history.
As for his personal success, Reggie Hubbard puts it down to a simple motto: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity in life.”


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