A Creative Path
Paula Bookidis, Eller MBA ’98
Partner, Sense Corp
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Back in high school, Paula Bookidis was the classic overachiever, ambitious and involved with student government. “I wanted to organize and lead things,” she said. “At the time, I’d never heard of consulting, but it was certainly the path I was heading down.”
The Austin native entered the University of Texas at Austin to study architecture. “Sometimes, you have to do what isn’t the right fit, to find the right path,” she said.
Bookidis graduated from the architecture program disillusioned. “I didn’t do an internship, and the program was very theoretical,” she said. Still, the skills she developed in graphics led to a job after graduation. “I was developing training materials and documentation,” she said. “That was when I saw the business side for the first time, and how I could fit into it.”
Bookidis began exploring MBA programs. “I was looking for strong MIS programs, so UT Austin and Eller were the two places I applied.” She was accepted into both programs, but the smaller size of the Eller MBA program appealed to her.
“When I came out of the MBA in 1998, the economy was booming,” she said. “There were recruiters everywhere.” By this time, she’d narrowed her focus to consulting, but then she connected with Gallo. ”Once again, I was drawn to the smaller environment, and the fact that Gallo was doing interesting stuff with data, tracking the entire lifecycle of the product from grape to consumer,” she said. It was a focus that meshed well with the work she’d been doing in quantitative marketing at the Eller College.
“It was a great experience, but then the economy collapsed and my husband needed to work somewhere other than the Bay Area,” she said. They returned to Austin and started a family.
In Austin, Bookidis heard about a dynamic consulting company. “At the time, Sense Corp had 30 to 35 employees,” she said. “I started as a consultant, where I was able to take advantage of my Gallo experience in business intelligence and analytics.”
Ten years on, Bookidis is a partner and oversees Sense Corp’s client projects and is responsible for client satisfaction and business development. “I love it,” she said. “It’s satisfying to contribute to the growth of the company, and we have a unique culture where I feel like I am able to make a difference in people’s lives.” Bookidis heads up a key culture-building initiative — a company-wide trip for employees and their families. Next year, the entire firm is going to Aspen in February.
She’s also creating a new practice within the company designed to help clients solve problems — which harkens back to her undergraduate experience in architecture. “I think that experience really fed my creative side and my ability to solve problems,” she said. “The idea there is to start the problem-solving process from a place of inspiration.” She described the conceptual framework of designing a structure: “You call on a context of things that you’ve seen and visited,” she said. “You pull out the piece you’re inspired by and mold it into something new. You’re never starting from scratch — and that methodology can apply to everything.”
She likens this creative process of making connections to an evolution versus a revolution. “Nothing is more fun in a creative process than seeing those connective sparks fly in a team,” she said.