The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Alumnus, Chicago Campus
Kevin Willer

Kevin spent a decade growing a small tech company called Google into the multinational powerhouse it is today before coming to Booth, where his career took an exciting and unexpected new path.

Kevin's Videos:
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The impact of Chicago Booth’s reputation
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The power of the international community and its impact on business development
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Kevin

The impact Chicago Booth has on every aspect of a student’s life
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The vibrant community keeps alumni coming back to collaborate and learn
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I’d always planned on getting my MBA at some point in my career, but I kept putting it off because I was a part of a small company called Google that had begun to grow, exponentially, over the course of 10 years. So by the time I was in a place to go back and get my MBA, an executive program seemed like a better fit with my age and experience.

For me, Chicago Booth was definitely worth the investment. As soon as people hear that you studied and earned your MBA from one of the top schools in the world, they immediately hold you in a higher regard. The Booth brand is extremely strong, and the school’s data-driven approach was very important for me. Having come from an organization like Google, where everything - all decision making - is driven by data, I found it helpful to be in that kind of environment when I came to Booth.

But with that said, I think Booth doesn’t get enough credit for its nonquantitative value. It has this reputation as being a quant-jock school that’s all about finance. And, yes it’s strong in those areas, but I’m definitely here to say that Booth is really becoming the place for entrepreneurship, too. They’re supporting the next generation of start-ups, and I hope that they’re finally starting to get the recognition that they deserve in other areas of business as well.

The faculty was definitely one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Chicago. I knew that I would learn a great deal from the world-renowned professors and researchers that they have here, but it was a little intimidating for me, too. Once I got here, though, I realized that they’re very approachable and wonderful to be around. They emphasize that they have something to learn from you, too, which is a really refreshing perspective.

And they’re committed to making their theories practical and applicable. I remember in his macroeconomics class, during my first year, David Altig really drove that home. This was 2008, and David was second-in-command at the Atlanta Fed. With everything happening that fall, he would literally come into class and just say, “OK, we’re not going to teach anything right now, just ask me any questions you have because the world is changing very dramatically right now, and I may have a good perspective for you and you may have a lot of questions.” And the resulting discussions and debate that we had as a class, about what was going on with Lehman Brothers and the other banks, was just the most powerful experience I’ve ever had in a classroom. And it’s only possible at a place like Chicago Booth.

It’s been exciting to see our community continue to connect even after graduation. There are so many ways in which Booth alumni continue to come together and help one another start new initiatives. Programs like the New Venture Challenge that Booth puts on every year always bring together the alumni community to offer their advice and to mentor and provide feedback on new companies and ideas that are coming out of Chicago. I’m also a part of the Hyde Park Angels, which is a group of 100 or so of us who make investments in early-stage companies in the Chicago area. I keep coming back to the school because it’s such a great community to plug into. There are so many entrepreneurial companies like GrubHub, Braintree, and ProOnGo that have all come out of Chicago Booth. The school creates great thinkers and business leaders who are creating the next generation of companies.

Chicago Booth changed my life because it set me on a new path. It planted the seed in me to look for different opportunities, which led me to running an entrepreneurial nonprofit. It opened me up to so many new opportunities and gave me the tools that I needed to embark on a new direction in my career. And it’s been the best experience of my life.

About

  • Current Position
    President and CEO
  • Current Employer
    Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center
  • Current City
    Chicago
  • Citizenship
    United States
  • Campus and Commute to Booth
    Chicago, 0.8 km