David Kenny ‘84 still learning as CEO of The Weather Company
“The important thing to know is that learning doesn’t stop on graduation day. You learn how to learn in school and you learn on the job,” Kenny said.
David Kenny was not the most famous person at Lansing Public Schools in the late 1970s – that title belonged to the likes Earvin “Magic Johnson and his basketball rival Jay Vincent – but he did have a life-altering experience in high school that dramatically transformed his career path.
David Kenny ‘84
Kenny was a self-proclaimed “nerd” who in his junior year of high school at Lansing Eastern in 1978 knew that he wanted to be a doctor. He pursued his doctoral career early by entering a science fair with a project examining the effect of hydrocortisone on white mice. He won the fair and the company that underwrote the prize explained how he could apply his work to other fields like engineering. The company was General Motors (GM) and the conversation propelled Kenny to enroll at Kettering University (then known as General Motors Institute) in the fall of 1979.
“I would say it was more well-rounded than I expected,” said Kenny about his education at Kettering. “I expected there to be a good math and science curriculum but was pleased by the marketing and humanities courses. It’s not a pure liberal arts school by any means. I thought the whole program was well rounded.”
Kenny graduated in 1984 with an industrial administration (IA) degree from Kettering while completing his co-op experience at his hometown Oldsmobile Plant in Lansing. In 1982, amidst the oil crisis, Kenny had the opportunity to work in Athens, Greece, for the overseas division of GM that covered Europe and the Middle East, the latter being an emerging market for luxury vehicles at the time.
“The important thing to know is that learning doesn’t stop on graduation day. You learn how to learn in school and you learn on the job,” Kenny said. “You are doing both for five years (at Kettering). I always view the workplace as a place to learn.”
Upon graduation, Kenny enrolled at Harvard Business School in pursuit of his Masters in Business Administration.
“Very few people go directly from undergrad to Harvard but they considered my experience to be equivalent to business experience. So it was helpful to have been at a co-op school,” Kenny said. “Kettering is a very practical school and that was helpful at a business school that taught a case method. The fundamentals were there from the IA program. I found myself well prepared.”
David Kenny ‘84 (center) with Mike Seidel and Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel.
In January 2012, Kenny was named the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Weather Company, where he oversees the portfolio of consumer and business-to-business weather brands and businesses including The Weather Channel, weather.com, wunderground.com, intellicast.com and WSI.
Kenny admits that it wasn’t his lifelong dream to run The Weather Company but his constant pursuit of learning and new experiences has led him on many adventures in the professional and corporate world.
“What you get at Kettering is a good foundation of learning and you continue to learn every day,” Kenny said. “When I find out that I’m not learning anymore, that’s when I switched jobs. If you feel like you are repeating it every day and not learning, then it’s time to switch jobs.”
Kenny currently manages an operation at The Weather Company that includes more than 200 meteorologists, many whom are doctoral graduates in a variety of the fields including engineering, mathematics, creativity and design. When hiring new employees in a diverse array of fields, work experience plays a key factor in the decision-making process, which provides Kettering students with a distinct advantage, according to Kenny.
“We hire a lot of college graduates at The Weather Company. It’s always important to see what their work experience is. Sometimes an internship can’t go as deep as you can go in a co-op,” Kenny said. “I find graduates with co-op experience to be very well prepared and maybe a year or two ahead of others. I would also say their grasp of the content is important because you’re always applying real-time work to your school.”