2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Luke Elder, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Luke Elder

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“A bold and inspired leader with a passion for driving change and growth.”

Hometown: Naperville, Illinois

Fun fact about yourself: I played in tournaments for my high school’s chess team.

Undergraduate School and Degree: For undergrad, I went to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and majored in Finance, with Distinction.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to Kellogg, I worked in private equity at Wind Point Partners as an Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? As a 1Y student, we do not complete Summer internships, but I I did pursue an internship opportunity at Longshore Capital Partners during the Fall quarter.

Where will you be working after graduation? Post-Kellogg, I will be returning to private equity at Periscope Equity as a Vice President in Chicago, IL.

 Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
Genesys Works, Executive Counsel Membership Chair
RefugeeOne, Volunteer
Kellogg Dean’s List
Investment Banking Workshop, Graduate Mentor
Kellogg Private Equity Club, Member
Kellogg Venture Capital & Entrepreneurship Club, Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
I am most proud of being able to leverage my professional experience to help my peers, particularly international students, navigate the complex waters of private equity and investment banking recruiting. Recruiting for these industries without prior experience and relationships is very challenging. Knowing that, I wanted to make myself a resource. In short, my goal was to make IB and PE recruiting more approachable by demystifying the processes, sharing best practices, and providing access to my network. Thankfully, most of the people I have worked with have already found a post-Kellogg role; being able to live vicariously through their excitement and success is deeply rewarding.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As an associate at Wind Point Partners, I had the unique opportunity to step into an “acting” Vice President role during my first year at the firm. This meant I needed to operate as a VP while also maintaining my associate-level responsibilities. In this role, I worked directly with the investment team’s managing director as well as with the portfolio company’s C-Suite and Board of Directors. This was an exciting but stressful opportunity, as my performance would have meaningful implications for the company as well as my career trajectory. As such, I invested significantly in building my professional toolkit, network, and credibility as a senior member of the investment team.

During my time at Wind Point, the team and I were able to successfully complete three add-on acquisitions, establish market access across the entirety of North America, introduce two new product categories, and enhance the company’s supply chain, resulting in an astonishing ~300% increase in earnings. My contributions to the team and stronger-than-expected financial results enabled Wind Point to exit its investment ahead of schedule, a process which I was also able to lead, and resulted in a highly attractive outcome for shareholders. Altogether, this experience taught me about the value of pushing my comfort zone in pursuit of professional growth.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was evaluating Kellogg, I was very impressed by its academic rigor, job placement statistics, and alumni success stories. What truly differentiated Kellogg from its peers were its people and culture.

During my application process, I spent considerable time networking with students and professors. Our conversations spanned a variety of topics from academics to future career paths. What resonated most deeply to me was the positive energy I felt during every interaction; their excitement was palpable. Kellogg’s students and faculty are passionate about their careers, their contributions, and their ability to make a meaningful and lasting impact on society. The warmth and enthusiasm I felt gave me a true sense of belonging, even before I applied. That connection assured me that Kellogg was where I wanted to call home.

What has impressed me most since beginning my journey at Kellogg is the school’s embodiment of its mantra “low ego, high impact.” Living that mantra is difficult, but Kellogg does a tremendous job of balancing successes with humility.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: Top business schools lack diversity of thought, demographics, and exposure.

Reality: I have found those claims to be patently false. Kellogg does a remarkable job of bringing the best and brightest global business talent together around an all-encompassing curriculum and experience. It is a rarity if I do not interact with someone from every continent on a daily basis, and it is even rarer if I do not have classroom discussions about unique issues and challenges across every facet of the business ecosystem (e.g., for-profit, nonprofit, education, healthcare, etc.). Kellogg’s culture of teamwork and collaboration truly supports inclusion and diversity because we are encouraged to interact frequently and share ideas so that we can all broaden our minds by understanding others’ experiences and perspectives. For the skeptics, I would suggest visiting Kellogg to see practice in action!

What surprised you the most about business school? This might seem like a trope, but the value of “the network” is what surprised me most about business school. Prior to Kellogg, I had heard most business school graduates mention the network, but the concept was nebulous and overused so it did not mean much. However, after going through recruiting, I am convinced that the network is more than just a cliché as Kellogg alumni were extremely supportive of my recruiting efforts and more than willing to go the extra mile for me. Going forward, having access to the network will be instrumental in further developing my career as well as in supporting our shared professional ambitions.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? In short, it was doing my “homework” on Kellogg ahead of applying. Specifically, I took a deep dive into Kellogg’s professors, course catalog, extracurriculars, and more to give myself a real-life picture of Kellogg as well as to understand the types of prospective students that Kellogg was interested in admitting. When I understood that my values and interests matched, I was able to position myself and my essays accordingly. As such, I highlighted experiences, values, and post-grad ambitions that aligned with Kellogg’s mission and my interests. Further, this “homework” allowed me to refer to specific professors and programs that were of particular interest to me. Ultimately, I wanted Kellogg’s admissions team to know that I wanted to come to Kellogg for a reason and why I thought my admittance would be additive to the community. I believe this approach added significant value to my application, and I would strongly recommend it to others.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate and fellow 1Y, Shobhit Gupta. Shobhit is one of the most intelligent people I have met; he is intellectually curious, quick on his feet, and quite creative. Clearly, his mental acuity is impressive, but what really strikes me is his ability to connect with everyone. He has a unique way of getting to know others at a deeper level by being incredibly approachable, showing sincere interest in what you have to say, and connecting with you. Shobhit embodies what a Kellogg student should be: well-rounded, engaged, and someone who contributes to the Kellogg experience. Shobhit is a great member of the community, and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My entire family supported me in my decision to pursue an MBA, but none were as influential as my grandfather. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in the 1961, with nothing more than a fifth-grade education, construction experience, and ambition. Over the course of his career, he ascended from performing manual labor at John Caretti & Co. to owning and very successfully operating that same company. I was always impressed by his success, stories, and wisdom. Like most other grandfathers, mine is known for a handful of recurring quotes, with his favorite being, “Education, education, education.” In other words, my grandfather meant knowledge is opportunity with boundless potential. That message stayed with me and inspired me to reach for an MBA. Without my grandfather and the value of education he instilled, I might not be at Kellogg today. For him, I am very grateful.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My bucket list is rather simple in that when I look back on my career, I want to be able to say that first, I helped contribute to the growth of an organization I believed in, and second, I made a lasting and meaningful impact on society.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has not changed my view of a career much, if at all. That said, the pandemic has reinforced the value of enjoying the little things in life in and outside of the office. After having lived through the pandemic for two years, it is much easier for me to appreciate office camaraderie, getting dinner with friends after work, or simply taking small trips. Post-pandemic, I will make a concerted effort never to take the little things for granted; they are all part of the exciting journey of life.

What made Luke such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“My first impression of Luke Elder came from his pre-class assignment asking for his point of view on “selling himself and his ideas.” Words that came to mind as I read his shockingly meticulous, thorough, and confidently plotted POV argument were, well: meticulous, thorough, and confident. In fact, as I told him later in the quarter, I had never seen a POV assignment quite like his. This was because Luke isn’t quite like any other of the more than 1000 students I’ve had over the years at Kellogg.

Luke Elder is a student whose desire for growth and learning takes place in real-time. He enters the classroom each week with a true desire to absorb all that he can to improve himself as a person and professional. He is deeply committed to his purpose and beliefs and is to use his expertise in banking and financial analysis for the greater social good through impact investing. Yet, he realizes that the pursuit of that career path requires more—more knowledge, more skills, more discipline. Luke doesn’t expect short cuts to acquire those tools. He is willing to put in the hard work whether that means going the extra mile to read more, ask hard questions, or engage deeply with his peers.

I also learned that Luke has a great desire to improve those around him. He received high regards from his small group, who found him to be incredibly generous and accessible, which can’t be easy for a 1Y student. I genuinely believe that Luke is committed to Kellogg’s values and will use his degree to the benefit of society. Perhaps his own words summarize this best: I appreciated seeing how others viewed social concepts, motivations for work and how they approached their daily interactions in a business setting. Finance is very much a one-size-fits-all model, and most people are carbon copies of one another, so this [class] was a unique opportunity to get closer to a new side of the world and appreciate where they are coming from. I will keep these perspectives in mind going forward so that when I make business decisions, I understand the broader implications for others who are not in finance / my role. I think this will not only make me a better manager, but a better citizen.”

Suzanne Muchin
Clinical Associate Professor in Leadership Development and Communications

DON’T MISS: THE 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST MBA GRADUATES OF 2022

 

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