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2256, 30 Oct 14

Deconstructing Mary Burke’s Resume

In light of the recent news that Mary Burke was fired from Trek, it is worthwhile to evaluate her resume in more depth. I briefly examined her job history in a column last month, but let’s take a closer look from the perspective of a potential future employer.

After graduating with an MBA from Harvard, Burke was a consultant for a couple of companies for a couple of years. This is a relatively common and easy path for a newly-minted Harvard grad to take. After a short tenure with no notable achievements, Burke was hired by her father’s company to run their European operations in 1993. After three years in this position, Burke left the company for a two-year snowboarding sabbatical.

This is an interesting event in Burke’s job history. Burke originally claimed that after doing a remarkable job and growing sales from $3 million to $50 million, she was burnt out (after a whopping 5 years in the job force) and decided to take some time off. ¬†In recent reports, two former executives – including her boss’ boss – shared with news outlets that Burke was fired for poor performance. Since that revelation, Burke has changed her story and now says that her position was eliminated after the company restructured.

Let’s examine that… let’s pretend for a moment that we believe Burke’s new story. Does it make sense? She has claimed that she grew sales from $3 million to $50 million in three years. If true, that is an incredible achievement. Unfortunately, she has never backed up that claim with any proof. We are supposed to take her at her word despite some news stories from the period that appear to make her claim almost impossible. So we are supposed to believe that after this remarkable success, she was restructured out of a job at her family’s own company? If she was so good, why wasn’t she promoted? Or snapped up by another company? Good executives are difficult to come by and a successful one should have been able to find a new position quickly.

But she didn’t. She went snowboarding for two years.

What is more likely closer to the truth? An amazingly talented and successful executive quits to take two years off after three years of work? Or that she was failing and we eased out of the company before she could do more damage?

The rest of her resume begins to answer that question. After Burke’s time away, she returned to Trek in a non-management position where she worked for another 9 years. She neither claims, nor does anyone note, any particularly impressive achievements during that period. It appears to have been a job to give her something to do where she could contribute, get paid, and generally stay out of the way. What is also worth noting is that after her self-celebrated remarkable achievements during her previous stint at Trek, she was not put in an upper-management position. It is not what one would call a promising career progression for someone who claimed to be a talented executive.

After 9 years of mediocrity at Trek, she was appointed as Commerce Secretary for Governor Doyle. As a rich lefty donor with a private sector history, it was a sensible appointment for Doyle. Her short, two-year tenure in government was not marked with any notable¬†achievements. She again quit, or was squeezed out, with different stories for why. Her predecessor labeled her performance a “disaster.”

Mary Burke spent the next 7 years unemployed. She dropped over $100k to be elected to the Madison School Board. And now she wants to be governor.

If you were on a Board of Directors looking at resumes for a potential CEO for a $25 billion organization, would you hire her? What I see is a person who started out her career in a promising fashion. She is highly educated and quickly took a high-level job – even though it was with her family’s company. After three years where she claims to have been successful, but can’t document that success, she left and took two years off. She claims she was downsized, but her former boss’ boss and the head of HR at the time say she was let go for poor performance. After two years off, she returned to her family’s company and pushed paper for almost a decade before getting a job in politics. Since then she’s been unemployed.

Is she qualified to run a $25 billion organization with tens of thousands of employees?

I think not.


2256, 30 October 2014


  1. Steve Austin

    The Dan O’Donnell radio interview with former Trek President Albers should be a must listen for Wisconsin voters. They can make their own conclusions. He calmly states what happened from his perspective and as a result, Burke has already changed her story yet again on what happened.

    I’m more intrigued by her disdain for German culture and needing to move the euro operations to Amsterdam. That and the comment on Sykes show today by another former Trek employee that he wasn’t able to get to know much about Burke because she spent much of her day sequestered in her office with her dog.

  2. Pat

    I’d agree that Mary Burke’s resume is not good and I would have a hard time hiring her based on her past experience. At the same time having made the promis of creating 250,000 jobs, wanting to be held accountable for that promise, stating that the people around him will be held accountable with their jobs on the line if the promise is not kept, and surrounding himself with individuals that have resulted in six convictions,I would have a hard time hiring Scott Walker based on his managerial skills.

    I just wish the people we elect would be held accountable. There should always be someone within their own party who would run against them in order to keep them accountable. But that’s not what happens.

  3. Kevin Scheunemann


    So when will you hold Democrats accountable for blocking the mining jobs up north? (which includes the mining manufacturing jobs in SE WI.)

    Democrats stand in the way of Walker creating jobs and then complain he didn’t create enough jobs?

  4. Pat


    I hold all politicians accountable regardless of party affiliation.
    Do you?

  5. Pat


    The mining bill isn’t blocked. The bill was passed and signed into law in March 2013. There are currently 10 people working up there.

  6. Kevin Scheunemann


    I have a bias to hold politicians…mainly Democrats, sometimes Republicans like Mary Panzer and Dale Schultz, MORE accountable that assault my small business with regulation, headaches, and predatory tax audits (Jim Doyle).

    In other words politicians that punch me in the gut with their policies tend to see more accountability demand from me.

    You would be lying if you don’t think the same.

    On the mining bill….Democrats still protest, pursue legal means, and any other means at their disposal to scare the company’s off interested in mining. Democrats have been hostile and destructive to mining jobs.

    They deserve to be accountable for their destruction.

  7. Steve Austin

    I’d say Scott Walker’s managerial skills are outstanding. All I know is that he told me he’d fix the budget problem and stop my taxes from skyrocketing as they did under Doyle. He’s done both.

    My taxes are lower and my level of government services are the same or better.

  8. Owen

    Accountability is great and we should hold politicians accountable. Accountability does not necessarily mean firing. In this case, Walker missed the mark on his jobs pledge. The state added 110,000 jobs or so, but not the 250,000 he promised. Meanwhile he did live up to dozens of other commitments like lowering taxes, fixing the budget deficit, signing concealed carry, reduced regulations, etc.

    What Pat is suggesting is that we take an employee who has delivered on virtually every commitment made during the interview process and fire him. And then replace him with a person who has had trouble articulating key details of their job history, has poor references with several people telling us that she was not good at her job (in both Trek and state government), has demonstrably plagiarized key components of her business plan, and has been unemployed since 2005 despite being seemingly able to work.

    That is what we would call a stupid management decision.

  9. Pat

    “What Pat is suggesting is that we take an employee who has delivered on virtually every commitment made during the interview process and fire him. And then replace him with a person who has had trouble articulating key details of their job history……”

    Owen, you’re misrepresenting what I said. No where did I say Mary Burke should be elected over Scott Walker.

  10. Owen

    No, you suggested it. But fair enough. I’m glad that you agree that Walker should be re-elected. I hope you already voted.

  11. Pat

    No, I didn’t suggest it, and I didn’t say Walker should be re-elected. I said politicians should be held accountable for things they said they wanted be held accountable for.

    The only way to do that is for someone within their own party to run against them to make sure they are held accountable. This should always happen. There should have been a Democrat that would have run against Obama. Politics is corrupt enough and one of the ways to clean it up is to make sure there is accountability for what one promises.

  12. steveegg

    Pat, so I take it you’ll be writing in Brett Hulsey? Thanks.

  13. Pat


    No. Possibly Robert Burke.

  14. Kevin Scheunemann


    A vote for Robert Burke=a vote for Scott Walker.

    So you might as well vote for Scott, and write him a letter that you want 120,000 more jobs as an expectation for next term.

  15. Pat

    Kevin, I’m sorry you don’t understand what I’m talking about.

  16. Kevin Scheunemann


    I understood perfectly. You wanted a primary challenge to Walker. That did not happen, so you have to dela with choices today.

    There are several reasons Walker did not have a primary challenge:

    1.) He is the greatest leader state has ever had.

    2.) Conservatives across the nation really like him, he stands for hope and reform in other states, even deep blue states.

    3.) The only Republicans whining about Walker are RINO republicans, who just don’t realize they are Democrats. So the only, remotely, reasonable, primary challenge for you could have been from Dale Schultz. What will he say? “Vote for me, I’m Scott Walker light?”

    Its the same reason Democrats voted for Obama and not Hillary in the primary.

    Weak leaders, who don’t take a stand, in either party, are out.

    The only debate in my mind is (yes, I know its originally a sarcastic Colbert line, but I like it without the sarcasm): Scott Walker, great gov? or thee greatest gov.?

  17. Pat


    Thanks for your reply confirming that you really don’t understand what I’m saying. And from your reply, you never will.

  18. Kevin Scheunemann


    You clearly you want to see more primary challenges to hold politicians accountable.

    We are talking about the Walke-Burke race.

    Scott Walker had no primary opponent and I stated the obvious reasons why.

    What would be your point? (just because I’m curious.)

    I suuggest it is not just about accountability, but also leadership.

    You can have a poor leader with great accountability.

    Walker is a great leader and that counts a lot more than missing a jobs goal he is on his way to accomplishing. (A goal he may have accomplished had it not been for the disruptive Democrat recall of walker and other Democrat obstructionism like standing in the way of mining jobs.)

    Its only halftime, Walker deserves to be thee guy on the field for the second half, to score another 120,000 jobs.

    The other choice is to give the ball to a party that throws interceptions when it comes to job creation for WI.

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