Every Booth student gets something different out of their two-year MBA experience. For Erik Underwood, '17, the time was pivotal to advance his career in the energy industry and make the move back to the US after living abroad in Santiago, Chile. Here’s what he had to say in response to a few candid questions.
You were living in another country when you decided to pursue your MBA. Why did you decide to go to an American school?
EU: I actually did look at business schools both in the US and in Europe, but in my B-school research, I really got excited about Booth. Looking at the flexible curriculum, the diversity of the student body, and the prospect of living in Chicago were really exciting aspects to me.
What student groups were you involved with on campus?
EU: I was part of both social and professional student groups at Booth. One that I enjoyed the most was the Energy Club, which is for students interested in getting into energy, either in traditional oil and gas fields, or in clean tech and renewables. Having had that experience myself, I was excited about helping other students learn more about these industries. So there's a huge educational aspect, but there's also a really strong networking aspect for companies in Chicago, throughout the US, and internationally.
As part of the Booth student body, what were you most passionate about?
EU: Diversity's a really big thing at Booth, and it's nice to see that all of the different affinity groups really get together in supporting each other's missions. OUTreach is the student group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students as well as allies. We worked to connect the population of Booth students that identify as LGBTQ with our greater ally community and create opportunities for people to understand what it means to be LGBTQ in the workplace and how to create a safe environment for that. We did a lot of programming around education for ally support as well as had fun social activities. We also had amazing faculty participation and support for events like the annual Booth Pink Party, which drew over 300 Booth students.
You were at Tesla this summer. How did you land that internship?
EU: I did a lot of recruiting on campus for tech, and I had a couple offers from major tech firms, but the opportunity to spend the summer at Tesla was the one I was most excited about. Earlier in the year, I had reached out to a second-year student who had interned at Tesla over the previous summer, just to hear about his experience and what recruiting was like for that company. He actually introduced me to the right contacts to arrange a visit with five other Booth students to Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto over the winter. We got to meet people firsthand and make the connections that led to my internship working on the New Markets Entry team for Tesla's energy products.
Knowing that you wanted to stay in the energy field, what Booth resources did you take advantage of?
EU: For those of us pursuing careers in the energy industry, Booth has great resources including the Polsky Center, which was founded by Michael Polsky's investment. He's CEO of the biggest wind energy company in Chicago, so although it might not be highly publicized, there are a lot of connections. I took the Energy and Clean Tech Lab course, which was focused on emerging technologies in the energy industry and renewables. So as a student, I was able to work with partners in the real world on getting their technologies into the market through business plans and other fundraising opportunities and investment proposals. While I had my own energy experience, I was looking forward to the ability to understand other areas of the market as well as the opportunity to really engage with other industries.
What aspect of Booth culture do you appreciate most?
EU: One of the most exciting things I’ve seen is the pay-it-forward culture that we have at Booth. Students are really eager to support each other in their career transitions or accelerations within their industries. Not a day went by when I didn't see a classmate looking for ways to help out someone else. Or reaching out to a prospective student who wants to know more about a really specific career shift and the resources Booth has to help them do it. People are really supportive with their time and energy in helping others make these adaptations.
Personally, what was it like to come to Chicago for school?
EU: Moving across the world with a partner to start your business school experience is a huge, exciting adventure and I'm fortunate that my partner not only came with me, but that we got married at the end of my first year. I actually lived in Chicago for two years after college, but a lot of things had changed and the city is constantly growing. There's a plethora of different restaurants and neighborhoods that you can try out something new every weekend. I had so much fun re-exploring Chicago with him and having a great community of other partners and students that were excited to learn about Chicago.
Erik Underwood graduated from Chicago Booth in 2017. He lives in Chicago and works at Marathon Capital, a leading investment bank and financial advisory firm focused on delivering financial products and services to the global energy and infrastructure markets. Watch Erik’s student story »