Banks Baker speaks

Executive Insights

Banks Baker Offers Real-Life Answers to Student Questions


“When selecting classes, should I focus on building my strengths or shoring up weaknesses?” “How did you build relationships with mentors within the Booth network?” “What was a mistake you made and what did you learn from it?”

The incoming Class of 2017 posed these questions and more to alumni at Booth 20/20, an annual event that invites graduates back to campus to share their successes and challenges with current students. In several small panel discussions, small groups of alumni offered reflections on their time at Booth and gave candid answers to new students’ questions.

We caught up with four first-year students who attended Booth 20/20, each with a burning question as they start their MBA journeys, and the goal to connect with alumni to learn from their experiences.

Banks Baker, ’05, head of publisher solutions and innovations, Asia Pacific, at Google here gives his best answers to questions our students' questions.

Natalia Botia, from Colombia. Interests: Energy, operations

Baker: I entered Booth married with children, and holding strong convictions about what skills I wanted to get out of the program. As a result, I devoted much of my time to my family and my studies with the belief that the “network” was something I would leverage after school. What I did not understand well enough was the value of networking within the Booth community (students, faculty, alumni) during my tenure at school. Only in hindsight did I fully understand how much more rich my learning would have been had I more deeply engaged the faculty and alumni while I was a student. Booth provides an extraordinary pool of talent for students to tap into, learn from and build relationships with. Not leveraging this network fully while I was in school is one of the largest misses of my time at Booth.

Nathan Matare, from Slovakia. Interest: Management consulting

Baker: While at Booth I took a wide selection of classes in a number of concentration areas with an eye toward building a broad skill base that could be leveraged more generally as a business leader. While all classes had impact, perhaps the class that resonated the most was Strategy & Structure during my second year. The course pulled together threads from many first-year classes ranging from accounting and marketing to finance and strategy, and explored how the structure and organization of a company influences its ability to successfully act on its strategy and reach market success. Lessons learned here have been consistently used as I've helped companies and teams navigate change throughout my career.

Brittany Henry, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Interest: Entrepreneurship

Baker: I’d ask more questions without fear of looking foolish. I would be less afraid that I was the only one who was a bit unsure or did not know the answers. This is your education and your own personal journey where it is safe to fail, safe to say, "I don’t know," and safe to lean on those around you to become stronger. Getting less from it because you are afraid that you will look uninformed is a disservice to yourself and a poor use of your time and money.

Joe Raudabaugh, from Chicago, Illinois. Interest: Analytic and strategic management

Baker: While I’m sure there are a number of approaches and opinions on this topic, I have found it easier to strike a balance between the near and long-term by starting first with a guiding view of the outcome we are looking to achieve. (In my mind “outcome” is inclusive of shorter-term attributes such as hard business goals as well as more foundational elements such as what we stand for, what we want team members to get out of working on the team, what our culture should be and what reputation we want to have in the market.)

With these elements in place, I have found that our teams tend to have a very clear working framework by which to respond to short-term requirements and settle on complex decisions. This speeds decision-making and ensures that efforts expended and choices made on the team are largely moving us to our goal. Without this, I feel you slow decision making, lose clarity of intent and risk becoming inefficient.

This is not just a business thing. I feel having this clear vision for yourself or your family is important as well. It makes decisions easier and ensures that the efforts and choices you make are in support of your longer term goals and align with what you want to get out of this life.

—By LeeAnn Shelton
January 17, 2016