Image of the Fall 2017 cover

Features

Personalities, characters, visionaries, trends, emerging ideas, industry insight, history, evolution and more. Features explore the topics that matter most to the Chicago Booth community with memorable storytelling and insightful reporting.

feature

Kernels of Wisdom

Chicago Booth was founded in 1898. When it comes to longevity, however, Tokyo-based Japan Corn Starch Co.—a privately held comprehensive corn starch manufacturer founded in 1867—has even the second-oldest business school in the United States beat. This July at the beautiful Hotel Okura Tokyo, the company’s president and CEO, Soichiro “Sean” Kurachi, ’85, hosted a celebration for the 150th anniversary of his family-owned business. The guest list for the event evidenced the company’s global reach—it has strong ties to the United States, sourcing all its corn from US farms and partnering with US academic institutions for research and development, and serves as the corn starch provider throughout Asia for many major companies, including Coca-Cola. Kurachi welcomed guests from around the world: representatives of suppliers, buyers, associations, farms, corporate partners, and academic institutions that have had partnerships with JCS, many of whom have had long-standing, close relationships with both the company and the Kurachi family.

feature

Stepping Back In

It was time for Susan Hopkinson, ’97, to stop apologizing for taking a break from her career. After graduating from Chicago Booth, she excelled professionally with the internet boom of the late 1990s. Hopkinson joined J. P. Morgan’s investment-banking program as an associate. Then, she joined the Japanese investment bank Nomura International as a principal late-stage technology investor. When her fiancé was transferred to San Francisco, where her employer had plans to open an office, the couple moved to the Bay Area. Then came 9/11. At the time, Nomura had its New York office in the World Financial Center, and it decided to consolidate its employees in London. Hopkinson didn’t want to uproot her new life on the West Coast, so that left her amid a lot of out-of-work MBAs, stranded in a city where she had few professional connections. After a short stint consulting with a small secondary fund, in 2002, she earned a position as a fund-of-funds investment manager at Paul Capital Partners, known for its pioneering of the secondary market. A self-proclaimed finance geek, Hopkinson loved the work. “It was very technical but also focused on relationship building with venture-capital firms, so I was really qualified, and I felt very lucky,” she said.

feature

From Fail to Prevail

When Lotika Pai, ’08, arrived for her first day on the job, she was told to leave. Her role had been eliminated. It wasn’t personal; Pai’s start date was September 15, 2008—the same day that Lehman Brothers, her would-be employer, filed for bankruptcy. After enduring a competitive recruiting process and graduating from business school, Pai looked forward to switching into the fast-paced world of investment banking. The setback was understandably terrifying. “It was the sense of being overwhelmed by something that I had no control over,” she recalled. “I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” In the next few years, Pai got valuable experience as an investment banker at Barclays (which acquired Lehman Brothers days later), but she never forgot the anxiety she felt during the turmoil. “That situation was pivotal for me, in terms of wanting to change the trajectory of my career,” said Pai. That first setback with Lehman inspired Pai to consider entrepreneurship once she had finance experience under her belt. Last year, she cofounded Powwful, a Chicago-based women’s activewear brand that aims to change the conversation around fitness and empowerment. “Ultimately,” Pai said, “I wanted to be more in control of what happened to my career.”

feature

Meet the Dean

Incoming dean Madhav V. Rajan shares his personal story and lays out his vision for Chicago Booth’s future—including the critical role that Booth’s global alumni network plays in building on the school’s successes. Chicago Booth Magazine: You’ve called yourself a “lifelong learner.” Can you take us back and share an anecdote about a moment in your childhood or school years that sparked your interest in business and/or academia? How can Booth instill a similar love for learning in future generations? Dean Rajan: Steve Jobs famously noted that you can only connect the dots looking backward, and that is certainly true in my case. I did not think through or plan out my career. My decision to study business for my undergraduate degree was based purely on the fact that my older brothers were engineers and I wanted to learn something different. I then moved to pursue a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, for the simple reason that my father worked in Pittsburgh. I did well in my first-year courses and was approached by a faculty member, who asked whether I had considered doing a PhD. I had not, but he persuaded me by noting that I would get paid to study, which seemed an amazing concept! This particular professor was in accounting, and that’s how I ended up in that field. However, Carnegie was unique in not having an economics department separate from the business school. Every student in accounting, economics, and finance did virtually the same coursework. Looking back, I have benefited immensely from the breadth of study and interdisciplinary training I received at Carnegie. Even then I wasn’t sure I would become an academic. Many of my PhD friends ended up in consulting, and I always thought the same would happen to me. But I liked academic research and teaching and was successful at it, so when I got a job offer from Wharton, it was an opportunity to keep going. Coming to Booth, I am firmly of the view that the school should support lifelong learning for its alumni. Two years ago, the school launched Back to Booth, which are short, nondegree classes for alumni. These courses provide opportunities to relive the Booth classroom experience with fellow alumni, and to learn about the latest ideas from faculty across the school. I cannot imagine a better way for alumni to keep connected with the school and to continue to learn from our great instructors and the latest ideas they are working on.