Saint Louis University

Michael Vladkov

Michael VladkovMichael Vladkov
Senior Business Analyst, Data & Analytics Team
Global Vegetable IT Organization, Monsanto
St. Louis, Missouri

When most people think about sustainability, they think about waste management, energy issues, or food security. Although all three are valid present-day challenges—with my background in economics, engineering, and mathematics—I define sustainability differently. It isn't a specific activity or skill but an improved understanding of the complex challenges of the world.

Thinking in sustainable terms gives us a clearer vision of how the world works, which in turn helps us refocus our strengths and reprioritize our goals in a more sustainable framework of thought.

Economics is fundamentally a study of human behavior, and the core of engineering is problem solving. So in the sustainability program, I used my analytical and problem-solving skills to understand and think about solutions to difficult sustainability problems. I discovered that I could translate complex issues into concepts people can understand using principles of economics.

During my time at SLU, I also learned that one of the keys to solving complex sustainability challenges is having effective supply chain management skills, which at their core revolve around our ability to build long-lasting relationships with others.

In my current role as a Senior Business Analyst at Monsanto, I often have to rely on my problem-solving, analytical, and relationship-building skills when I experiment with new ideas and come up with IT solutions for various business needs. My goals are to increase process efficiency and automation and help people make informed business decisions.

In my previous position, I helped develop a reporting strategy focused on measuring, and ultimately reducing, freshwater consumption of major seed production plants around the globe. Earlier in my career, I helped manage a project focused on improving energy efficiency and increasing output efficacy of electrochemical fuel cells.

Anyone can solve a problem, but not everyone can solve it sustainably—that is, solve it in a way that will prevent future occurrences and minimize adverse impacts. Asking methodical, focused questions helps reveal the whole picture, and people with an understanding of sustainability know that the only real solutions are those that are socially acceptable, economically viable, and environmentally responsible. To achieve them we need to approach problems critically and solve them efficiently in a vibrant, thought-provoking environment that promotes and builds upon the strength of individual relationships.

My personal philosophy includes two statements:

  1. Never be the person who presents the problem. Instead, strive to be the person who offers the solution. 
  2. Under promise and over deliver, always!
Higher purpose. Greater good.
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