Sandra Cochrane was a new resident of Kalamazoo when she participated in the 1999 class of Leadership Kalamazoo. Now, as an Assistant Dean at the WMed Innovation Center, Sandra said the program provided her important context and connections with the business community.
“The program really gave me an opportunity to understand a lot of different aspects about the community and how the leadership around the community interacted—who was who, what was what, and who the players were.”
As Sandra supports businesses in the region, she still utilizes some of the skills and knowledge about resources she developed in Leadership Kalamazoo. “As well as understanding leadership and business, the program gave me the ability to help guide some of my clients towards appropriate resources that can help them.”
The WMed Innovation Center, the technology incubator in our area’s SmartZone, helps life science, technology, or engineering ventures grow. For the first time in the center’s history, the space is at full capacity.
“We’re managing a lot of really promising clients, including several startups that recently joined us that are growing and expanding,” said Sandra. “The goal is that these companies grow up and leave, so I’m also keeping the pipeline open for future companies.”
In addition to her focus at the WMed Innovation Center, Sandra also works to support the region’s greater entrepreneurial ecosystem. “We’ve got a very collaborative network of service providers. So, that’s keeping me busy as well—just being a good partner to the other folks in the ecosystem, doing what I can to help them succeed as well.”
For current or future participants of Leadership Kalamazoo, Sandra recommends that leaders prioritize the program and its assignments. “Really spend the time to dive deep and get in there,” said Sandra. “Attend all of the meetings, read everything that you’re asked to read. The more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it.”
Leadership Kalamazoo, powered by Southwest Michigan First, is Southwest Michigan’s premier civic leadership development program that helps professionals build strengths, talents, knowledge, and relationships to succeed in ever-changing environments. This feature is part of FIRST & 42’s Leadership Kalamazoo Alumni in Action series brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.