Meet Tim Carter, University Of Michigan Ross School Of Business

Michigan Ross MBA & McKinsey Associate Tim Carter had spent seven years in East Africa to provide humanitarian relief for refugees and their communities

Name: Tim Carter

Birthplace: Royal Oak, Michigan

Place of residence: Detroit, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: My middle name is just the letter H, which was my dad’s first name. He passed away from cancer a couple of months ago, but I am forever grateful for his example and legacy he engrained in me of striving to leave the world a better place.

Business School program: MBA – University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Concentration in Sustainability)

Current Professional position: Associate at McKinsey & Company

Can you tell us about your background working with refugees and what it has entailed?

Before returning to business school to pursue my MBA, I spent seven years in East Africa working with Samaritan’s Purse to provide humanitarian relief for refugees and the communities that host them. The first three years were in Kenya, where I led a team in providing water, food, and agriculture support during the East African drought crisis. The 2011 famine in the horn of Africa resulted in a major influx of refugees from Southern Somalia into Kenya, making Dadaab the largest refugee camp in the world at the time. The influx put a significant strain on water resources in the host community, which we sought to alleviate via rainwater harvesting systems, well rehabilitation, irrigation, and emergency water trucking. I then transferred to South Sudan where I held a number of roles supporting refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). When civil war erupted in South Sudan six months after I arrived, I coordinated our emergency response programs across a number of IDP camps, including taking emergency supplies to people stranded on islands in the Nile River due to the fighting. I also spent time living in Yida Refugee Camp where I oversaw our programs to provide clean water, food, treatment for malnourished children, and livelihoods support for more than 100,000 refugees living in Yida, Ajuong Thok, and Pamir refugee camps. I was then promoted to Deputy Country Director (and later Acting Country Director) where I led a team of ~1,130 full-time staff in providing support for 1,000,000+ refugees and IDPs across the country who had been displaced from their homes due to war. Our programs included well drilling and rehabilitation, food distribution, shelter, agriculture and livelihoods programs, treatment for malnourished children, and running a hospital.

What was your motivation behind working in this role?

I initially traveled to Africa with Engineers Without Borders during my undergraduate studies and fell in love both with the people and the opportunity to use my education and background to make a positive difference in the world. My faith inspires me to use my talents and resources to serve others wherever possible. I have been blessed far more than I deserve and want to use every chance to fight for the rights of those who haven’t had the same opportunities. You never know the domino effect that can happen every time you positively impact even one life. Through it all, I am sure I learned much more from the refugees I served than they ever learned from me.

How does the company you work for contribute to social impact?

At McKinsey & Company, our purpose is to help create positive, enduring change in the world. Our approach to social responsibility includes empowering our people to give back to their communities, operating our firm in ways that are socially responsible and environmentally sustainable, and working with our clients to intentionally address societal challenges. Through my role at McKinsey, I have had the opportunity to contribute to social impact by helping support small businesses in navigating the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I have also mobilized colleagues from our Detroit office to get involved through coaching and mentoring programs and hosting various events. I was recently selected as one of 12 delegates from McKinsey to attend the One Young World summit in Munich where I will learn from other leaders across the globe who are committed to social impact. After the summit, I will have the opportunity to further scale our pro bono efforts to help change the trajectory of minority-owned small businesses in Detroit. As a firm, we are also working behind the scenes to support governments, nongovernmental organizations, and not for profits in many parts of the world in responding to refugee crises. I hope to get more involved in this work in the coming months as well.

What skills have you used from your MBA in your current role?

My MBA has been essential in preparing me for my current role, both from the knowledge gained through core business coursework (e.g. strategy, finance, operations, etc.) and the practical experience that Michigan Ross provided. My Multidisciplinary Action Project at Ross provided real-world consulting experience in which we worked with the Peruvian government to develop a business model for increasing income of Amazonian hunters while improving conservation efforts. With support from the Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross, I had the opportunity to help launch a startup that manufactures ventilators for infants in low resource settings. As Co-President of the Emerging Markets Club, we conducted a number of consulting engagements for companies working in Emerging Markets. These experiences, among others, helped me gain core business consulting experience in building business plans, developing marketing strategies, streamlining operations, and more.

Do you believe more b-school graduates can use their knowledge and skills to help refugees?

There are many opportunities for b-school graduates to leverage their knowledge and skills to support refugees. B-school graduates can start to get plugged in by joining non-profit boards that support refugees or offering their services on a pro-bono basis. There are also opportunities for b-school graduates to join organizations working with refugees directly, whether that be governments, non-profits, or social enterprises. The principles learned in b-school have wide applicability for refugee programs, such as designing new education models, streamlining registration and service delivery processes, and coming up with innovative methods to improve livelihoods.

How can businesses help NGOs and others in tackling this crisis?

There are three key ways businesses can support NGOs and others in tackling the refugee crisis: 1. They can provide opportunities and incentives for their employees to leverage their professional knowledge and skills to help organizations working with refugees. 2. They can support NGOs directly either via financial contributions or even co-creating products / services that can facilitate their work (e.g. design of low-cost, high quality shelters for refugee camps). 3. They can work to create training, development, and job opportunities specifically for refugees.

What advice would you give other graduates who want to help in this area, whether it be through community initiatives or a full-time professional position? My advice would be to just start doing. You have to start somewhere, so you can begin by volunteering your time, knowledge, and skills. Find an organization you are passionate about or where you have a connection and offer to support for a few hours each week. Share your skill sets and professional experience to see if there is a project you are best positioned to offer advice. You never know what it might turn into – additional volunteering, a board position, maybe even a full-time role.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I returned home to pursue my MBA because I believe business is the most powerful force for positive change in the world. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had at McKinsey & Company to make a difference and am looking forward to continued opportunities in the years ahead. I haven’t put a time limit on it, but at some point I hope to run my own business that is focused on improving the quality of life for marginalized people groups globally.


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