feature

The Innovator

A digital countdown clock sits atop a giant flat-screen monitor in Tyson Foods’ Innovation Lab. It reads 11 days, 0 hours, 1 minute and 14 seconds—and counting. The lab’s brain trust—led by Sally Grimes, ’97, Tyson’s group president, prepared foods—sit comfortably dispersed around the room. Today Grimes is getting the rundown on the Innovation Lab’s latest snack-food creation ¡Yappah! from her handpicked team, many of whom have colorful, self-appointed titles, such as culinary ninja and experimental brand dreamer. Grimes herself doesn’t really need a distinguishing sobriquet—she’s well-known around the halls of Tyson as not only a food innovation guru, but a key leader helping position the company for growth. She runs about $10 billion of Tyson’s $40 billion business worldwide, guides operations for 45 of the company’s 100-plus plants and facilities, and leads 20,000 team members, whom she readily admits are the backbone of the business. Despite her executive-level responsibilities, she has been intimately involved in many of the company’s biggest successes. Grimes is pleased with everything she’s hearing from the team. As promised, ¡Yappah! will be in stores within 11 days, a mere six months after the countdown clock began and the assorted flavors of the chicken-based snack now displayed before us were just an idea. <br/>

feature

Pioneers in Education

Booth graduates eager to make an impact are finding new ways to apply their MBA—by taking on one of the toughest challenges in the United States today. A growing cadre of Booth alumni are gravitating toward the education sector and applying their business background in a variety of roles, all with the goal of making a difference in the lives of students. It’s an area that badly needs more innovation. In the United States just 59 percent of students who enter a four-year college graduate within six years, according to data from the US Department of Education. And in 2015, 46 percent of scientists rated STEM education for grades K through 12 as being below average, according to the Pew Research Center. For some alumni this less-than-stellar data offers an opportunity to take their careers to different corners of the education landscape—from nonprofit management and school leadership to consulting, investing, and edtech, to name just a few. The combination of addressing some of the nation’s most pressing problems while doing work that’s meaningful on a daily basis is a powerful draw. Meet six alumni advancing bold ideas and envisioning new solutions for the classroom and beyond.

conversation

What Is the Business Potential of Blockchain?

Eric Budish is professor of economics and a director of the Initiative on Global Markets at Chicago Booth, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His recent paper on cryptocurrency, titled “The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain,” was published in June: "I’m skeptical that Bitcoin—or other similar cryptocurrencies—will become what cryptocurrency believers fantasize about. Some fantasize it will become the global currency or a global store of value like gold. Some imagine it will become an important part of the global financial system, another currency alongside dollars and euros that moves around the world in serious quantities. My paper is trying to make an argument that’s quite skeptical of these possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, came up with an ingenious way of creating trust in a database without a centralized, trusted party. I respect it as a computer science innovation, but my research shows it’s a really expensive way to generate trust because it’s only as trustworthy as the cost of attacking it. That cost is within the reach of eccentric billionaires, and certainly within the reach of a nation. Elon Musk could not attack the US Federal Reserve system, but he could attack Bitcoin. <br/>

conversation

The View From Mumbai

Mumbai’s Booth alumni network is as large, diverse, and energetic as the city itself. Through events such as impromptu beer-and-chat sessions and the annual Pan-India Booth Alumni Retreat (PIBAR), Mumbai’s more than 150 Booth graduates stay connected and serve as the first port of call in India for any Boothie looking for help. Although Mumbai is India’s financial center, Booth alumni here work not only in the financial services sector but also in retail, healthcare, technology, and even the Hindi film industry, with one graduate having started a film training school. Many Boothies run family businesses, foundations, consultancies, or startups, and some work in the development sector.

conversation

Worth the Risk

The Challenge: For most homeowners, buying insurance isn’t a customer-friendly experience. It takes time working with an agent and finding answers to numerous detailed questions. Filing claims can be arduous, and agents might not keep up with clients’ life changes, potentially leaving them underinsured. “They don’t even call you a customer; they call you a policy holder,” said Assaf Wand, cofounder and CEO of insurtech company Hippo. The Solution: Wand wanted to use technology to streamline the customer experience, but first he needed to learn the industry. Starting in 2015, Wand used his Booth training to break down insurance regulations and compliance into their smallest parts in order to understand how to build Hippo’s customer-centric model from scratch. “Basically we locked ourselves in the office for two years to figure this thing out,” he said.

perspective

This is Working for Me: Arnold Donald, ’80

After Arnold Donald, ’80, retired at 51 from a long and successful career spent largely at agricultural giant Monsanto, he followed his passions: He bought a minor league basketball team. He indulged his love for dancing. And he joined boards, including that of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company. Fast-forward eight years to 2013, and Carnival Corporation’s founders and board were calling him out of retirement to lead a turnaround of the profitable but tarnished brand. Donald hesitated—He was retired! Dancing with the stars!—but he ultimately accepted. “It felt like the right thing to do,” said Donald. “I’d been on the board 13 years. I knew the company, the state of its business, and its strong foundation. It wasn’t like I was walking into failure,” he said. The founders and board chose well: in the five years since Donald took the helm, Carnival Corporation’s stock price has doubled and its market cap has soared 74 percent, to $47 billion—even though, worldwide, there’s only a small number of shipyards capable of building new cruise ships, limiting capacity growth, and ever-changing but ever-present geopolitical hot spots that close popular routes.

perspective

In Search of the New Economy

Day in and day out for four years, Elatia Abate, AB ’99, MBA ’08, interviewed people who were going through the motions. As a senior human resources executive in the corporate world, she met with candidates applying for a position, but whom she suspected weren’t actually interested in the job. <br/><br/>It’s a problem that cuts across industries: a survey conducted of 17,000 American workers in 19 industries by the nonprofit groups Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation found that 71 percent of respondents didn’t like their jobs. Their passions—and, as Abate would come to realize, her passions—lay elsewhere.<br/>“I was tired of meeting people who were fabulous but not interested in the work they were doing,” said Abate, quietly admitting out loud that she wasn’t interested in her work either.<br/><br/>So she did what many people dream of doing but few people actually do: she jumped ship. Abate launched her own freelance executive coaching business. Then, in January 2017, she hit the road, embarking on a year of remote work to get a firsthand perspective on the changing nature of today’s economy. She packed her entire life into a storage unit, with the exception of a carry-on bag and a suitcase, and set off.

In this issue
feature

Pioneers in Education

Booth graduates eager to make an impact are finding new ways to apply their MBA—by taking on one of the toughest challenges in the United States today. A growing cadre of Booth alumni are gravitating toward the education sector and applying their business background in a variety of roles, all with the goal of making a difference in the lives of students. It’s an area that badly needs more innovation. In the United States just 59 percent of students who enter a four-year college graduate within six years, according to data from the US Department of Education. And in 2015, 46 percent of scientists rated STEM education for grades K through 12 as being below average, according to the Pew Research Center. For some alumni this less-than-stellar data offers an opportunity to take their careers to different corners of the education landscape—from nonprofit management and school leadership to consulting, investing, and edtech, to name just a few. The combination of addressing some of the nation’s most pressing problems while doing work that’s meaningful on a daily basis is a powerful draw. Meet six alumni advancing bold ideas and envisioning new solutions for the classroom and beyond.

feature

Reconnect Revisited

Reconnect encapsulates the Booth experience: heart-warming, laughter-filled moments with old friends, classmates, professors, and staff. A recharge of the rigorous Chicago Approach in Back to the Classroom sessions with brilliant faculty—and no exams to worry about! Cutting-edge business insights at Management Conference. It’s an enriching weekend that strengthens the bonds across Booth generations. This year’s reunion welcomed more than 2,000 attendees from across the country and around the world, facilitated by enthusiastic alumni volunteers. Boothies reconnected over Chicago’s world-class cuisine at Friday night class dinners sprinkled all around the Windy City. Saturday’s homecoming, a family-friendly BBQ, brought together Booth graduates at Harper Center and on the quad. Alumni clamored to get back in touch with the Booth spirit of inquiry at Back to the Classroom sessions on topics ranging from blockchain technology with Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and Charles M. Harper Faculty Fellow Luigi Zingales, to innovation and entrepreneurship with adjunct professor of entrepreneurship Ellen A. Rudnick, ’73, and Polsky Center executive director Starr Marcello, MA ’04, MBA ’17. At Management Conference, Chicago Cubs executive chairman Tom Ricketts, AB ’88, MBA ’93, not only celebrated his 25-year Booth reunion; he also gave the conference’s keynote address—and may well have been the only Reconnect attendee with a World Series ring. <br/>

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A Quantifiable Impact

Steve Czech, ’98, is a quant. That’s how he ended up in an underappreciated but lucrative corner of the alternative-investments market, lending money directly to companies who are no longer attractive to commercial banks (for regulatory or strategic reasons) and who don’t want to issue equity or mezzanine debt. Since inception, his firm Czech Asset Management, LP, based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, has managed approximately $4.5 billion of committed capital, which it loans to medium-sized companies that generate annual revenue between $75 million and $500 million and annual EBITDA of $7.5 million to $50 million. This business used to be the purview of commercial banks, which maintained long-term relationships with corporate executives. But industry consolidation and regulatory changes drove banks to push these loans off their balance sheets, creating an opportunity for Czech and a host of other Booth graduates who are his colleagues and competitors.

perspectives

This is Working for Me: Arnold Donald, ’80

After Arnold Donald, ’80, retired at 51 from a long and successful career spent largely at agricultural giant Monsanto, he followed his passions: He bought a minor league basketball team. He indulged his love for dancing. And he joined boards, including that of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company. Fast-forward eight years to 2013, and Carnival Corporation’s founders and board were calling him out of retirement to lead a turnaround of the profitable but tarnished brand. Donald hesitated—He was retired! Dancing with the stars!—but he ultimately accepted. “It felt like the right thing to do,” said Donald. “I’d been on the board 13 years. I knew the company, the state of its business, and its strong foundation. It wasn’t like I was walking into failure,” he said. The founders and board chose well: in the five years since Donald took the helm, Carnival Corporation’s stock price has doubled and its market cap has soared 74 percent, to $47 billion—even though, worldwide, there’s only a small number of shipyards capable of building new cruise ships, limiting capacity growth, and ever-changing but ever-present geopolitical hot spots that close popular routes.

perspectives

Game On!

Sergey Yun, MBA ’18, MS ’18, was one of the first to participate in a new joint-degree program that allows Booth MBA students to simultaneously earn a master’s degree in computer science through the University of Chicago. Yun graduated earlier this year, and shares his experience in the program here: Technology and computers have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I disassembled a cartridge for my video-game console. I was really interested in how this little microchip could produce my experience of playing a game. This is how I became a geek. I never got a chance to learn computer science formally. I always saw it as more of a hobby and not a serious career trajectory. I studied economics and financial management and worked in consulting. Initially when I came to Booth, I thought I might pursue investment banking or another career in finance. But I soon realized I wanted to pursue something I felt more passionate about, and I began to consider a career in technology. So when we got an email announcing a new joint-degree program with the computer science department, it came at exactly the right moment in my life. I knew it would be a perfect fit for me given my interests and my new direction.

perspectives

Call of the Wild

Patrick Wallace, ’12 (AXP-11), wasn’t quite sure what he was getting into when he and his wife, Pamela Wallace, drove down a long dirt road with miles of forest on either side in the heart of the Nova Scotia wilderness. When they finally emerged at Trout Point Lodge, however, the property was a revelation. “It is this incredible log structure where otherwise there would be nothing,” Wallace said. Around the lodge itself stretched 125 acres of densely forested landscape with only the chirping of birds and the rushing course of the Tusket River to break the silence. “It was an island of luxury in the middle of the wilderness.”

perspectives

In Search of the New Economy

Day in and day out for four years, Elatia Abate, AB ’99, MBA ’08, interviewed people who were going through the motions. As a senior human resources executive in the corporate world, she met with candidates applying for a position, but whom she suspected weren’t actually interested in the job. <br/><br/>It’s a problem that cuts across industries: a survey conducted of 17,000 American workers in 19 industries by the nonprofit groups Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation found that 71 percent of respondents didn’t like their jobs. Their passions—and, as Abate would come to realize, her passions—lay elsewhere.<br/>“I was tired of meeting people who were fabulous but not interested in the work they were doing,” said Abate, quietly admitting out loud that she wasn’t interested in her work either.<br/><br/>So she did what many people dream of doing but few people actually do: she jumped ship. Abate launched her own freelance executive coaching business. Then, in January 2017, she hit the road, embarking on a year of remote work to get a firsthand perspective on the changing nature of today’s economy. She packed her entire life into a storage unit, with the exception of a carry-on bag and a suitcase, and set off.

conversations

What Is the Business Potential of Blockchain?

Eric Budish is professor of economics and a director of the Initiative on Global Markets at Chicago Booth, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His recent paper on cryptocurrency, titled “The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain,” was published in June: "I’m skeptical that Bitcoin—or other similar cryptocurrencies—will become what cryptocurrency believers fantasize about. Some fantasize it will become the global currency or a global store of value like gold. Some imagine it will become an important part of the global financial system, another currency alongside dollars and euros that moves around the world in serious quantities. My paper is trying to make an argument that’s quite skeptical of these possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, came up with an ingenious way of creating trust in a database without a centralized, trusted party. I respect it as a computer science innovation, but my research shows it’s a really expensive way to generate trust because it’s only as trustworthy as the cost of attacking it. That cost is within the reach of eccentric billionaires, and certainly within the reach of a nation. Elon Musk could not attack the US Federal Reserve system, but he could attack Bitcoin. <br/>

conversations

The View From Mumbai

Mumbai’s Booth alumni network is as large, diverse, and energetic as the city itself. Through events such as impromptu beer-and-chat sessions and the annual Pan-India Booth Alumni Retreat (PIBAR), Mumbai’s more than 150 Booth graduates stay connected and serve as the first port of call in India for any Boothie looking for help. Although Mumbai is India’s financial center, Booth alumni here work not only in the financial services sector but also in retail, healthcare, technology, and even the Hindi film industry, with one graduate having started a film training school. Many Boothies run family businesses, foundations, consultancies, or startups, and some work in the development sector.

conversations

The Media and Nonmarket Forces

Booth students in growing numbers are interested in taking the entrepreneurial route, setting up their own companies. I did that myself. Eighteen years ago, after being a financial journalist and editor for 12 years, I founded TheMarker, which quickly became the leading financial and economics newspaper in Israel. After five years, Haaretz, which is like the New York Times of Israel, terminated its business section and launched TheMarker as a daily print newspaper. Most of media is going from print to digital, but we started as an online outlet and expanded to also include a daily print newspaper. We were able to buck the trend and grow revenues and circulation through a more innovative approach at a time when established, quality newspapers were suffering greatly all over the world. The second part of my entrepreneurial story is that I spent a great deal of energy and time encouraging ideas and policies having to do with promoting competition in Israel and reforming the capital markets, which suffered from a concentration of a few large holding companies and monopolies. In my teaching I blend my experience in the political economy of regulation and my knowledge of the business model of the news media with the economic literature and frameworks. All these come together in my class, Reputation, Regulation, and Communications—How Media Influences Business.