A Helping Hand
At what seemed like it should have been a stable point in his career, Todd Pilcher (MBA ’14) found himself out of a job. The company he worked for went bankrupt, and his position was eliminated. With his future uncertain and his wife expecting their second child, Pilcher and his family moved from California to Wisconsin to live with his in-laws and begin a new life.
Uncertainty has always motivated Pilcher to figure things out. Despite the impending end of his job in California, Pilcher used the uncertainty as an opportunity to make the most out of what he had to work with, shepherding both colleagues and customers through the company’s bankruptcy. His efforts at the time earned him praise and support that he believes later helped him gain admission to the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Program.
“I thought I was this hotshot doing really well in my career, but then suddenly the tires blew out from under me and the company I thought I’d work at for the rest of my life went bankrupt,” he says. “What it showed me was the strength of the support around me. My in-laws were able to take us in, my family was able to move, and I was able to reinvent myself and go to the Wisconsin School of Business. It meant that I could start over.”
After moving to Madison, Pilcher once again sought out silver linings by seeing uncertainty as an opportunity to make a career change. He received a merit-based full scholarship to attend WSB in the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management.
“The scholarship afforded me the time to focus on my degree and get involved in extracurricular activities, which really differentiated the program for me and made it more of an experience than just a learning point in my life,” he says. “Without it, I’d have had to grind out a nine-to-five job while pursuing my MBA at night and raising a family. There’s no way we could have made it.”
The extra time allowed Pilcher to get involved with the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, through which he and a fellow classmate, Todd Hamilton (MBA ’14), started their own business, Tod’s Natural Cocktail Mix. Though they consider it more of a side hobby, Pilcher and Hamilton still maintain an online storefront for their cocktail mix and make weekly check-in business calls. Pilcher says it exercises his marketing skills and keeps him connected to his fellow Business Badger.
Pilcher knows his resourcefulness and determination helped get him through tough times, but he also knows the support he had along the way has had a lasting impact. He looks back on it now and sees how every helping hand has allowed him to focus on that which is most important to him: his family.
It’s one of the reasons why Pilcher now prioritizes giving back to WSB.
“I could have taken out a ton of student loans, gotten a job, and completed my MBA part time,” he says. “But WSB saw something in me that told them I was worth the gamble to receive this incredible gift of an education; the School didn’t have to do that for me. Because of that I was able to have this wonderful experience.”
For Pilcher, giving back to the School isn’t just about repaying his scholarship—it’s also about easing the load off someone else’s shoulders who might also be dealing with uncertain times.
“From a giving back standpoint, I think about helping one person who might be in an unfortunate situation like I was,” he says. “My biggest drive is knowing that I can help alleviate other students’ stress and financial burden.”
Pilcher now lives in Indianapolis with his wife and four children and works for Corteva, the agricultural division of DowDuPont that resulted from a merger between Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer. As a global visibility leader, Pilcher helps address challenges the company faces as it integrates both its systems and its cultures.
The uncertainty that comes with a company merger doesn’t faze Pilcher, however. He is once more finding motivation and creative solutions in uncharted waters.
— Todd Pilcher,
“What I really like about it is that it’s allowed me to have exposure to all the different divisions of the company,” he says. “In this merger, I’m in charge of identifying the ways to make sure we have visibility of all our products throughout the value chain. That means I’m able to work with our sales and marketing team, our operations team, our procurement and manufacturing team—that’s really fun for me.
“We’re literally feeding the world,” he says. “We’re creating new crops to be able to help nourish the entire globe and we help protect the crops that are grown. Without us, people wouldn’t be able to eat—that’s what’s amazing about the company that I work for.”
Between feeding the world and feeding his own family of six, Pilcher makes sure to set aside savings each year that he puts toward philanthropic causes.
“It doesn’t have to be a huge, groundbreaking thing,” he says, “but my wife and I have identified a percentage of our income that we contribute to charity, and we are committed to that.”
Pilcher sees himself as the beneficiary of others’ generosity and feels a personal responsibility to give back. Through all the uncertainty, he has learned that when life throws you curveballs, take the helping hands. And then turn around and hold out your hand to support someone else.