2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Theodore Lim, University of Chicago (Booth)

Theodore Lim

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“I’m a creative, ambitious leader who creates impact through empowering others.”

Hometown: Vancouver, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: While in undergrad, I worked on architecture projects with Andrew Luck, who would go on to become the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. He’s a talented designer and I look forward to seeing his future home in Architectural Digest.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Stanford University, B. Sc. Civil Engineering, Minors in Urban Studies and Architectural Design

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Product Manager at Buildout, Inc. (Saas startup in commercial real estate)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Bain & Company, Chicago office

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain & Company, Chicago office

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Graduate Business Council: Elected by 60 of my peers in my cohort to represent them on student council. GBC is a crucial part of the student community, responsible for allocating $500k in funding, advocating for class-wide Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, running major social and educational events, and setting class-wide policies such as Grade Non-disclosure.

Chair of the COVID-19 Response Committee: Led advocacy and organization to rapidly respond to the pandemic and create COVID-19 related resources for Booth students to maintain safety, educational quality, and community morale. We successfully partnered with the Booth administration to secure over $100k in funds to help students access free COVID-19 testing. We also built a student-run texting service that regularly checked in on students’ health and well-being during the height of the COVID crisis.

Co-chair of Management Consulting Group: Co-led the largest professional group on campus with a membership of over 450 students that guides students through the consulting recruiting process. We hosted over 20 events.

South Side Free Music Program: Volunteered as a piano teacher for low-income children from Chicago’s South Side. Sharing the joy of music with others is challenging, but so rewarding.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As one of the Management Consulting Group (MCG) co-chairs this past year, I led efforts which increased our 1st-year consulting internship offers by over 20%. Our team revamped interview prep resources, expanded the Consulting Family peer mentorship program, hosted over 20 events that had to be radically redesigned to be delivered virtually, and facilitated over 1,000 practice case opportunities. In spite of the numerous challenges that the pandemic brought about and a difficult economic climate, I’m proud of the resources and experiences we were able to provide; I’m even more proud of the Booth Class of 2022 for their perseverance and amazing results. I’m also proud of the one-on-one mentorship I gave to students from underrepresented backgrounds, and I feel happy to have advocated for these students in my conversations with firm reps.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to Booth I spent 6 years in the Commercial Real Estate sector. My biggest achievement was leading high-profile projects for Microsoft’s new campus in Redmond, Washington, including the design of the largest pedestrian bridge in the Puget Sound region, building treehouse conference rooms, and overhauling wayfinding design for employees with disabilities. Each of these projects required working closely with designers, builders, Microsoft clients, as well as local authorities to turn this incredible vision into a reality. As well, I’m proud of the impact that I’ve made through these projects: encouraging sustainable transportation habits, adding delight to employees’ work days, and helping empower people with disabilities to navigate the physical space of the Microsoft campus.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Booth for the incredible pay-it-forward culture. From the Boothie executive at Buildout who mentored me, to 2Ys who reached out to help with mock interviews, to the alums who met with me to help figure out my career direction, I was already surrounded by Boothies who proactively reached out to help even before I got to campus. Then, while at Booth, I have been inundated with support, from Random Walk leaders, LEAD facilitators, the amazing LGBTQ+ members of Outreach, the incredible cadre of 2Ys who taught me how to case, the AudioBooth community, alums, and so many more sources. I’ve benefited immensely from the generous help of other Boothies, and I look forward to continuing to give back to this amazing community.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The vast majority of Booth students live in downtown Chicago in a few apartment buildings and commute down to the Hyde Park Harper Center campus on the train. One memory I miss from the pre-COVID days was getting on the train and running into dozens of other Boothies on the way to class. The 20 minutes of unstructured networking during the commute really helped to strengthen community bonds and bring the class together.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would spend more time getting to know professors and Ph.D. students outside of the classroom. So many professors and Ph.D. students are conducting research at the forefront of their fields and have such a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. In addition, many professors have significant experience in the private sector and getting to know them can yield useful connections.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into business school, I was concerned I wouldn’t fit in – coming from a non-traditional background, as an international student, and as someone who identifies as queer. When I started at Booth, I was surprised to meet such a diverse and welcoming group of people. I remember attending a Booth Voices event for Coming Out Day and being blown away by my peers’ willingness to share their own stories. The courage of my classmates to speak out caused me to consider taking my own risks. I ran for cohort elections, something I tend to shy away from, and actively sought out leadership opportunities with the Management Consulting Group. The welcoming atmosphere and the environment of my peers taking risks surely motivated me to seek out my own opportunities to try new things.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The year before I applied to Booth, I moved to Chicago with my partner and joined a growth-stage company. The finance executive for the company I joined happened to be a Booth grad, and I intentionally reached out to him for mentorship. Throughout the year I worked at the startup, he encouraged me to apply to Booth, connected me with the director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, and was happy to recommend me to the school. His guidance and support during the application process surely gave me an edge.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Santiago Vazquez (Urrutia Aldana) has been a force of inclusion and social cohesion, keeping our community together formally through his role as Executive VP of student government, and informally through his involvement with many student events. He’s not afraid to advocate for his principles, yet is adept at navigating the politics and intricacies of the large Booth community. I’ve also admired his willingness to take risks, like singing to represent AudioBooth for an event with prospective students. We are also good friends: a fun memory I have with Santiago is going sledding outside Soldier Field after a recent snowstorm.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Why? The shift to a hybrid environment was tough for everyone. Without a strong cohort or residential college system, the Booth community thrives on informal interactions at large social events, in-between classes, and via student clubs. With social interaction severely limited especially during the cold winter months, many of these community ties were weakened. I’ve found that I’ve been spending the most time with my closer circle of friends and done less branching out to others. However, many student clubs have done excellent jobs in adapting content to the online world, with virtual lecture series, wine tastings, speed dating, and other social events taking place daily. On the academic side, the Booth administration has successfully navigated the world of virtual classes. After a few hiccups in 2020, most classes are now fairly successful in an online or hybrid format. Some of my favorite classes have actually been taught on Zoom.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? While I was working at Microsoft, my mentor, Bill Lee, brought me through a “Design Your Life” exercise. During this exercise, I realized that pursuing an MBA was a common thread among many of my life plans because it would give me the tools, network, and experience to have a significant impact in the business world. I really admired Bill’s dynamic personality and incisive questions. He was also one of the first Asian-Americans I ever met who had successfully navigated the corporate world to a position of leadership. He helped me see how I could use my engineering background as a foundation for making more strategic decisions, rather than remaining an engineer for the rest of my career.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Owning a shellfish farm on the shores of Hood Canal in Washington State.
  • Speaking at a TED talk, SXSW, or a similar stage of thought leadership on the role of the private sector in shaping a future of healthy, inclusive cities.

What made Theo such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“I am pleased to recommend Theo Lim as one of Poets and Quants Best and Brightest MBAs. I have worked and interacted with hundreds of prospective and current MBA students over the past 20 years. Theo’s character, skills, and leadership potential is on par with the top 2% of those students.  Theo is inquisitive, thoughtful, creative, and genuinely respected by the Booth community.

Theo has served as a co-chair for the Management Consulting Group (the largest and most active student organization at Booth), is an active member on our Graduate Business Council, and the group-appointed leader of our student COVID-19 committee.  Theo is a trusted mentor, student advocate, dedicated partner to the Booth administration, and is always willing to volunteer his time, talents, and energy to support our community.

In a time when it would have been perfectly understandable to step back, Theo stepped up as a leader and community builder. His efforts to support his fellow students during a prolonged crisis are truly unprecedented and will leave a legacy for years to come.”

Jessica Jaggers
Dean of Students and Associate Dean, Student Life


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