Autographed with excellence

In 2013, Elizabeth Ivers, MBA ’84, capped off a 43-year business career that she began at the bottom of the corporate ladder, and ended as a director at one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas companies in the U.S.

Ivers’ first job was as an accounts receivable clerk at Twin Fair, a discount department store chain based in Buffalo. Eight years later, thanks to her completion of accounting night classes and pursuit of an MBA from the UB School of Management, she was named Twin Fair’s corporate accounting manager.

“I look back now and appreciate the tremendous overall business experience that this company and its employees gave me,” says Ivers. “It was certainly a critical initial step, not only in my career but in my ultimate life’s direction.”

Her next role took her to Houston to work at BFI, one of the largest waste services providers in the U.S. There, she began as a regional controller but eventually moved to an operations role when she was promoted to divisional vice president, Southeast Texas, the company’s largest operation in the U.S.

Ivers says having experience in both operations and finance was key to landing her next position as vice president, investor relations for BFI’s corporate office.

“I understood the business both from a field and financial perspective, which helped me communicate to our investors,” she says. “In this position, it was my responsibility to keep BFI’s major shareholders and the financial community informed of the company’s business performance, and to generate new shareholder interest.”

When BFI was sold in 1999, Ivers moved to vice president, investor relations at the headquarters of water services provider Azurix Corp. in Houston. Two years later, she was appointed director, investor and public relations at EOG Resources, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas companies in the U.S., where she served until her retirement in 2013.

“EOG was a tremendous company to work for,” says Ivers. “It’s a member of the S&P 500 with a market cap exceeding $60 billion and 2,600 employees, and for several years during my tenure was named one of the Fortune ‘100 Best Companies to Work For,’ a well-deserved recognition.”

Looking back on her career and education, Ivers recalls visiting the UB School of Management in 1998 to speak to the class of 2002. She shared with them a list of advice she would have liked to have at the start of her career, which she says is still applicable today:

  1. Don’t just look at getting your ticket punched. Go out of your way to meet and engage interesting people. Take classes that will stretch you and introduce you to new areas.
  2. Take time to smell the roses — both while getting your degree and after. Become involved in your community.
  3. Develop the importance of working as a team. Build relationships.
  4. Work hard on communication skills — it takes practice. Don’t avoid it.
  5. Listen to your employees. Tell them when they’ve done a good job. Give them your feedback. 
  6. Choose your company wisely; it’s like being married to someone. You should be able to say that you enjoy getting up and going to work each day.
  7. Be bold about your choices. Get out of your comfort zone. Set goals that don’t come easy for you.
  8. If you start off in a certain field, such as finance as I did, strive to get operations experience. Enhance your value to the company — that’s what leads to promotions.
  9. Always autograph your work with excellence.  
  10. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Since retiring, Ivers hasn’t slowed down. These days, she travels as much as she can, volunteers for a number of community organizations, including a reading program for second graders, takes classes for fun and is part of three different book clubs.

“My greatest joy is spending time with my only grandchild, who was born six months after I retired,” says Ivers. “He keeps me very busy!”

Written by Kevin Manne