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The View From Here

Written by Niki Kapsambelis

Jane Allred

Jane Allred

Walking through the jammed and hectic streets of Tokyo, Jane Allred inhaled the scents of a city that she thought of as “New York on steroids,” home to restaurants that offered a modest lunch for about $75 in U.S. currency and to department stores where the saleswomen wore white gloves to present beautifully wrapped packages.

She had just finished giving a presentation to the leaders of a 60-year-old Japanese company, including its marketing board and overseas affiliates. The company’s executives were thinking about buying into Allred’s proposal involving global Web marketing.They were attracted by the strength of her experience in high-tech marketing, which may surprise those who knew her as an English literature major during her time at the University of Pittsburgh.

As she strolled through the Tokyo streets, she thought to herself: “How did this happen?” How did a self-described “little Ukrainian girl from Carnegie, Pennsylvania” end up in a Tokyo office suite on the verge of profiting big-time from the success of a company she founded? Walking and reflecting, she took a deep breath; she swore she could see the Cathedral of Learning.

The road from her childhood home in Carnegie to the board room in Tokyo was a curious one, a route Allred never would have predicted when she stepped onto the campus that her dad, a Ukrainian immigrant, had loved for its football teams.

“When I was a student at Pitt, I can remember thinking that the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel were the two most beautiful buildings I had seen in my life,” says Allred (A&S ’71). “For people from blue-collar families, Pitt was an education that I think was far above what I could have gotten from a number of other opportunities that were available to me in the area.”

She graduated in 1971 with an undergraduate degree that might not have seemed like ideal training for a job in technology. Yet, it set her up for future success. “Looking back, I think the ability to communicate was what led me down the path I eventually took,” says Allred. “Through the liberal arts, I was taught how to understand things that were perhaps not in my field of study. I used those analytical abilities to adapt to a field where I had not been functionally trained.”

After receiving her Pitt undergraduate degree, Allred attended Kent State in Ohio, where she earned a master’s degree in personnel administration and worked as director of fraternity affairs. She later joined Marshall University in West Virginia to serve as an associate dean of students before returning to Pitt for her doctorate in educational administration. During the research phase of her dissertation, through a connection with a Pitt adviser, Allred took a job with a company that managed technological trade associations. She was hired to help develop educational programs for the technologies involved, and she acquired industrial engineering knowledge, absorbing information about clients’ international products and processes so she could prepare their promotional materials. Later, she moved to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and worked in tech business development for a large advertising agency.

In 1985, flush with experience and confident in her ability to develop strategies on her own, she founded Allred Marketing. The firm integrated principles of marketing with Allred’s knowledge about how people learn. The firm also incorporated new technologies, as they developed, to advance marketing and communications programs—for instance, quickly integrating the Internet and Web sites into marketing strategies as those tools became available.

Nearly two decades later, in 2004, Allred traveled to Tokyo to make her presentation to international executives. Soon after, the Japanese firm made an offer to purchase her digital business, and she decided to take it. Today, she works as an independent marketing

consultant.

Saying she is “addicted to my own adrenaline,” Allred, who now lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz., seeks diversion in fishing, a passion she shares with her husband, Jim. Together, the two have traveled the world in pursuit of the sport, whether stalking bone fish on Christmas Island or landing sea-running brown trout in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. Allred speaks with equal enthusiasm about the rainbow trout in Russia’s Lost World of Kamchatka and the couple’s summer home on the Bitterroot River in Montana, where she can practically cast a fly from the deck. “It doesn’t matter what river you’re on,” she says. “All the sights and sounds of the river, the sound of water, the beautiful surroundings—there are usually mountains in the distance—it’s sensory overload.”

Throughout her career, Allred says, she has relied heavily on the foundation she built at Pitt. Each time she flew to western Pennsylvania to visit family, she would crane her neck to see the Cathedral of Learning through the airplane window; it became her touchstone, not to mention a running family joke. Whenever Allred would find herself up high, such as during a helicopter ride through the mountains in Mongolia, she would turn to her husband and say, “You know, Jim, I can see the Cathedral from here.”

She was only half-kidding. “The funny thing is that I can see the Cathedral in almost everything I do,” says Allred. “Without it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had,” she says. “I see it all the time. The wide-eyed wonderment has never gone away. I don’t care how much travel and cultural experience I may have had in my life, I see every day as a new opportunity to learn, to do, and to serve others.”

Thinking more on the subject, she adds: “So, in fact, I’ve seen that Cathedral of Learning everywhere.”

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