Eller MBA ’94
Senior Product Manager, Northwest Evaluation Association
By Liz Warren-Pederson
As an undergraduate, Kelly Goodrich aimed for a career in academic publishing, and though she started out on that path, rapid change in the business of education found her crossing sectors and building broad expertise in the K-12 marketplace.
It was during her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that an influential professor got Goodrich thinking about the business of learning. “I loved the idea of information sharing and knowledge sharing,” she said.
She sought out an internship at a small academic publisher and began to prepare for a career in the industry. Out of college, she took a job as a sales rep in textbook publishing with a territory that crossed five Western states. “The company was acquired,” she said. It was the first time she encountered a pattern that would become all too familiar over the course of her career.
Goodrich was hired by the University of Wisconsin Press, and then eventually moved to Washington, D.C. to join the Smithsonian Institution Press. “I was well on my way in academic publishing,” she said.
Then her husband got funding to complete his doctoral studies in hydrology at the institution of his choice. He chose the University of Arizona, and they made the move to Tucson. “It turned out to be a frustrating time for me, professionally,” Goodrich said. She worked for a variety of organizations, but, she said, “As soon as my husband finished his program, I started my MBA.”
Goodrich wanted to challenge herself and to brush up on technology and statistical analysis. “I had had a lot of success in marketing, but I never taken a marketing course,” she said. “I wanted to assess my strengths and weaknesses.”
After she had her first child, she began consulting, including for a start-up web development company. She was recruited by RightFAX (now OpenText) as channel marketing manager, and then learning company Pearson Education came calling. It was her entre back into the business of education.
Goodrich started with Pearson Digital Learning, where she led the company’s first marketing group and eventually moved to work with Pearson Assessment in Phoenix. “It was a huge learning experience — it was fun,” she said.
Goodrich was recruited by Harcourt Assessment in San Antonio Texas. “They wanted me to help them move their customers from paper to online assessments.” At that time, the company was managing a lot of acquisitions. “There was all kinds of radical change,” she said. “We had three different CEOs during my time there . . . I rode the rollercoaster.”
Goodrich launched the company’s professional services business, building the division from one to 40 people. “Then Pearson acquired Harcourt Assessment and eventually, the whole department was eliminated,” she said. By this time, Goodrich and her family were living in San Antonio, Texas. Meanwhile, her young son became seriously ill, and she needed workplace flexibility. She founded her own consulting company, working with Pearson corporate and other entities, including those trying to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Fund.
Then last year, as her son’s health began to stabilize, the non-profit Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) found her. “I made a really conscious choice when I joined them,” she said. “I came here because it is a rock-solid organization that’s getting ready for major change.” Goodrich and her family have relocated to Portland, Ore. and she’s now working as a senior product manager on the launch of a new product for the established provider of learning assessment tools.
“The frustrating thing about corporate life was the constant upheaval of acquisitions and leadership,” she said. “I didn’t often get to see all the hard work come to fruition. The best projects could just be gone tomorrow.”
At NWEA, she is excited to be a part of a mission driven organization that is also financially solid. The product launch she is working on is designed to help teachers acquire the skills to help kids drive their own learning. “I hope I can make a difference,” Goodrich said. “I’m really looking forward to being a part of something new and delivering on a really good idea.”