Kerry Cooper (chief executive of Choose Energy) in “The Corner Office”

CooperAdam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Kerry Cooper, chief executive of Choose Energy, an energy marketplace, says that earlier in her career, “I became good at something I really didn’t love doing, so I had to get myself out of that corner.”

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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Bryant: Were you in leadership roles when you were a child?

Cooper: I was captain of the swim team and some other roles. But it wasn’t high on my list to be a C.E.O. when I grew up. I was blessed with parents who let me explore various things. I remember, when I was 6, telling my mom I was going to be a flight attendant. She said, “That’s an interesting career, because you get to travel the world.” There was never any judgment, and it was really lovely to have that freedom growing up.

Bryant: What did you study in college?

Cooper: Mechanical engineering. I spent one summer on a chemical plant in northeast Texas, and there were 59 men and me. But after college, I decided to take a different path and worked for McKinsey.

Bryant: What are some lessons you learned during your time there?

Cooper: One of McKinsey’s values is that you have an obligation to dissent. And that is very freeing for a 21-year-old — not only should you have an opinion but you should speak it. It’s intimidating at first, but also very much part of who I am. When you’re told at 21 that you need to have an opinion and you should express it, you do. It’s good training.

Bryant: You went to Harvard Business School. Tell me about that experience.

Cooper: I never opened my grades. I decided that a Harvard M.B.A. was a Harvard M.B.A. I had spent a lot of years worrying about getting good grades and I just wanted to have the experience and the learning. It took a lot of the pressure off feeling that I had to participate X number of times. It was just much more about the experience.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.comthat he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here.

His more recent book, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation, was also also published by Times Books (January 2014). To contact him, please click here.

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