Faculty Spotlight: Taryn Stanko

Taryn Stanko, assistant professor of management
Specialties: negotiations

What attracted you to Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo?
Too many things to list! I love the friendliness of the community within the Orfalea College of Business and was very struck by the level of collegiality within my own area. I also was very drawn to the Learn by Doing emphasis that permeates Cal Poly’s culture because I feel it aligns with my own teaching style and approach. These factors combined with the natural beauty of San Luis Obispo meant I was sold after my first visit!

What industry positions have you held?
I have worked for two companies at opposite ends of the size spectrum: Paramount Pictures and a startup called Berland Technologies. In both jobs I developed customized business solution software, among other things, and learned a great deal about the differences between working for a large corporation vs. a small startup.

How has your subject changed in the last five years?
Some organizations are moving more toward self-managed teams (see Zappos’ evolution in becoming a “holocracy”) and more entrepreneurial self-starting cultures. This puts greater responsibility on each employee to lead, motivate, and otherwise deeply understand organizational behavior and negotiation to be successful.

What are your favorite parts about teaching at Cal Poly?
My favorite part about teaching at Cal Poly is the emphasis on Learn by Doing and the enthusiasm.

How have you Learned by Doing personally?
I tackled computer programming by learning on the job.

How have you challenged your students?
I do a number of simulations that put students in high-pressure competitive situations to challenge their ability to think on their feet and make decisions in the context of ambiguous information. In doing so, I try to push students outside their comfort zone so that they can better understand what their strengths and limitations are and thus help them grow.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
The biggest challenge I continually face is striving for balance. Life is a balancing act in dividing my time between the different parts of my job: working on research projects, going through the publication process, teaching in the classroom, and working with students on projects outside the classroom. This juggling act amounts to what I refer to as a high-class problem – too many things that I enjoy doing and always wishing there was a little more time available for each!

Who is your go-to for faculty collaboration at Cal Poly?
Over the last few months, I’ve been enjoying working with Professor Jim Sena on new research projects exploring employee attitudes toward information technology use in organizations.

How have your students changed in the last five years?
Students have become more technologically savvy in the last five years and have become increasingly skilled at harnessing online resources as part of their daily life at work and school.

What has been your favorite moment from this last year of teaching?
I’ve had students say that they asked for things in the context of a salary/job offer negotiation that they might not have had the courage or the foresight to ask for before taking the negotiations course. Obviously messages like that are the sort that make my job very meaningful.

What is your hidden talent or hobby?
Over the years I’ve actually taken quite a few classes in an effort to learn Spanish and would like to lead a group of students on a Spanish study abroad and do a sabbatical in Spain in the future.

What’s your favorite thing about San Luis Obispo?
My favorite thing about San Luis Obispo so far is its amazing natural beauty. Every day as I drive to and from work, I admire the breathtaking and dramatic views of the coastline and am reminded just how lucky I am to live here.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was working on my Ph.D. I was told by a senior professor to break down any large task, like a dissertation, into its smallest component. If you take challenges that seem insurmountable one day (or one piece) at a time, you can make it through almost anything.