2020 MBAs To Watch: Kaitlyn Wilchynski, University of Wisconsin

Kaitlyn Wilchynski   

The Wisconsin School of Business

“Optimistic, determined, a people-orientated person with a passion for uplifting others.”

Hometown: Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I keep bees in my backyard and my children and I harvest honey every year.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Arts English (honors), Bachelor of Arts History from University of Regina (Saskatchewan, Canada)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Government of Saskatchewan – Ministerial Assistant, Communications to the Minister of Environment

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Intuit, Mountain View CA

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ll be returning to Intuit as a Product Manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-President Joint-Venture Club
  • Vice-President Net Impact
  • Secretary Diversity in Business.
  • Wienert Entrepreneur Fellow
  • Recipient of the Women in Business Award of Excellence
  • I feel that a lot of the community work I am most proud of is the formal and informal mentoring I have done of fellow students, particularly first years. I always make sure that I am available for mock interviews, help with classes, or just work out problems. I try to make sure that all my classmates know I am available at any time if they need any support – academic or emotional.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I won best speaker at our Graduate Marketing Network Case Competition and I led our school’s case competition team for the Big Ten Case Competition where we came in second. Working as a team in a high-pressure environment is challenging – to be successful and become friends with my teammates is something I am proud of.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of successfully completing my internship project and converting my internship into a full-time offer. MBA programs involve a lot of self-discovery. By mid-Fall of my first year, I decided I wanted a huge career-pivot; I chose to pursue a career in software because of the fast-paced nature and ability to innovate. Given my background, I felt it was a stretch for me to even get an internship as a Product Manager, but was really excited to secure one at Intuit. I don’t come from a technical background and was completely overwhelmed for my first six weeks of being a Product Manager. I don’t know if I ever learned so much in such a short time and I am really proud that I had the grit to continue and figure it out. My team and I managed to ship my project on-time – which was a huge personal win, but also for the team with whom I worked. Proving to myself I could do a career pivot and be successful is what I am most proud of professionally.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Hart Posen, Strategy. Dr. Posen’s class is one of the more challenging but fun classes I’ve taken. He really engages the class and is excellent at facilitating debate. I found that I learned an exceptional amount while enjoying the class. It is also the class that I utilize the knowledge I gained the most. He teaches theory that is applicable in the real world.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was evaluating options, what made my decision easy was learning about the “Wisconsin Idea” – that the University exists as a public service and should benefit all of society. When I talked to students, faculty, and staff, I could see that it really underpinned the MBA Program. I thought this was somewhere I could learn about business, but also how to it can benefit society.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself and pick a specialization that fascinates you. Because it is a specialized program, you spend a lot of time with classes that provide deep learning

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that most of the students are from the Midwest and the opportunities are primarily in the Midwest. Our class has a lot of international students from all over the world and the companies that actively recruit from our program are from all over the United States.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? One thing I’d do differently is to take better notes! There is so much to learn in the MBA program that it can overwhelming and there have been a lot of times I wish I could refer to a concept I learned in the past semester. My classmates are always willing to help and I’ve gotten better, but I wish I had been more meticulous early on so I could refer to them even ten years from now.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Nimi Ehr – I met Nimi on my first day in the program and she has an amazing ability to make everyone feel comfortable being themselves. She’s also incredibly smart and organized, but I think what I admire most about her is her willingness to be vulnerable with people.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My husband, Justin. Going back to university full-time with two young children was a major decision. He encouraged me through the whole process and urged me to choose a school, and then internship, that supported my long-term goals. He has been the best partner and taken over the lead parent role while working full-time himself to ensure that I get the most out of the program.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would like to one day give a TED talk – I am not sure yet what the subject matter will be, but I would like to be enough of an expert and be comfortable enough presenting to do so. I would also like to lead the development of a product from insight or idea to MVP to full deployment.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like them to remember me as someone who encouraged and challenged them to pursue their goals.

Hobbies? I am a mother of two in a full-time MBA program – I don’t have time for hobbies! I’m a very social person so with any extra time I love to meet new people or spend time with friends (usually drinking wine).

What made Kaitlyn such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Everyone who returns to school for an MBA, after working for several years, faces a new set of challenges and demands. There are even more challenges for someone like Kaitlyn Wilchinski, who wanted to make a 180-degree career turn from the world of Canadian politics to the world of Silicon Valley and product management, while also being a full-time mother for two children.

Kaitlyn has been such an invaluable addition to our Class of 2020 because she has met all of her challenges with humility, cheerfulness, and aplomb; and in the process modeled how to do it to others. She has excelled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison full-time MBA program by taking her experience in the political field and marrying that with the education she has received as part of the Center for Brand and Product Management. In addition to the time she devotes to being a mother, she has dedicated significant time to mentoring first-year students for internship interviewing, as well as contributing to multiple graduate business clubs. Upon graduation, she will be moving to California and entering the tech world full-time as a product manager at Intuit.”

Mike Judge
Center Director for the Center for Brand and Product Management


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