Photos By Paul L. Newby II
You’re about to meet an exciting group of Business Badgers. These eight individuals have already made an obvious difference in their companies, their industries, and the world—and all before the age of 40. Each individual is innovative, accomplished, and sure to solve complex business challenges in the years to come.
Photo by Jim Newberry
Jason Kreuziger knows that some people might call him a “deal junkie.”
“I just like investing in exciting companies,” he says.
It’s something he’s done a lot of since earning his MBA from Harvard in 2008. He does it as vice president at Goldman Sachs, leading private equity investments into rapidly growing businesses in the areas of software, tech-enabled business services, and health care IT. On his own, he’s an angel investor and advisor for another five companies, mostly in the tech sector.
“I like the investment process, but also enjoy spending time with management teams after a deal closes, aiming to add real value either through my network or my knowledge,” says Kreuziger, who is based in the Bay Area. “I get to be very entrepreneurial day to day, while still operating with the resources of a big institution—it’s getting the best of both worlds.”
Kreuziger was an undergrad during the post-9/11 economic downturn, something he says taught him perseverance and how to look for opportunities that may arise. He double-majored in finance and information systems.
“I got a lot of practical knowledge and skill sets that I could take into the workforce,” he says of his time at the Wisconsin School of Business. “I’m probably one of the few double majors 15 years out of undergrad who still uses both majors every day.”
It’s Kreuziger’s job to think long term and long distance, an approach that serves him well away from work, too. He has run 13 marathons, has completed one Ironman triathlon, and takes 100-mile bike rides for fun.
“Good things come to those who are patient with their investments,” he says. “And it’s the same thing with distance running. A marathon sounds crazy to some, but it’s just 26 one-mile runs in succession. Anybody can run a mile. You can think short term, but you have to recognize your goals are long term.”
Kreuziger says he feeds off the energy of the entrepreneurs the way he feeds off competition, and their energy inspires him every day.
“I get to meet 100 CEOs of young, enterprising companies every year,” he says. “It’s exciting to be around them, and I fly all over the country to visit these folks on site. It is a dream job, and to have an institution like Goldman Sachs behind me, that’s a pretty powerful thing.”
S. Omar Jobe has a vision of how business and science can work together, and that vision set him on a unique career path to bring life-saving products to the market.
Jobe is principal medical affairs manager for Boston Scientific, a worldwide developer, manufacturer, and marketer of medical devices. His Ph.D. in endocrinology and physiology from UW–Madison complements his Wisconsin MBA in marketing research, helping him not only understand the functionality of medical devices, but how these products perform in the market.
“I wanted to have a niche for myself,” he says. “If you can use the management part of your skill set with your scientific acumen, you can serve a medical organization better.”
Before completing his degrees, Jobe worked as a consultant and researcher in various industries. But he wanted to use his knowledge to make a difference, and the products he helps develop and market at Boston Scientific do just that, he says.
“I go to the hospitals, and patients tell me about their lives,” says Jobe, who is based in Minneapolis but travels all over the U.S. and globally for work. “They say they couldn’t walk up the stairs without having to stop halfway, and now with our devices, they are riding bikes and chasing after grandchildren. It’s fantastic to hear that.”
At Boston Scientific, Jobe serves as a liaison between the company’s clinical and marketing sides. With his unique role, he offers input on designing the product itself, clinical trials, and the commercial strategy to market it.
“We have to figure out how to put the best messages out there, the best product, the best clinical information,” he says. “Doctors, patients, administrators, payers, regulatory bodies—all of these groups speak a different language. We need to speak everybody’s language.”
Jobe’s work is helping transform options for heart patients. He works on the devices currently in clinical trials that can accommodate transcatheter aortic valve replacement or implementation (TAVR or TAVI), a new, minimally invasive procedure to replace a heart valve. The procedure makes heart valve replacement possible for patients who can’t have open heart surgery.
“When you see yourself on the cutting edge of medical technology, it absolutely gives you a rush,” he says.
—S. Omar Jobe,
Principal Medical Affairs Manager, Boston Scientific
If Andrew Ferenci has his way, his next big idea will be a big deal for a lot of people.
That’s the goal Ferenci, a self-described “serial opportunist,” set for himself after selling two companies and being a part of launching, consulting, or investing in more than 25 others. It’s a nice position to be in, he says, particularly after coming to New York after college and living in a run-down studio apartment.
“I’m looking for companies that can make money and have a viable business model, but can have a positive impact,” says Ferenci, who was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in New York Tech in 2011 and earned the Wisconsin School of Business’s Young Business Alumni Award in 2012. “I’m not interested in starting the next social media craze or doing something that helps big companies get bigger. I want to do something that is providing a positive impact on people’s lives in some capacity.”
Ferenci’s first business was The College Shack, an online retailer of collegiate apparel, which he co-founded while still a student at the Wisconsin School of Business and sold four years later. Shortly after graduating, he and two friends, Corey Capasso (BBA ’09) and Dan Reich (B.S. ’09), launched Spinback. Ferenci was CEO of the social commerce and analytics company, which was sold a year later.
Wisconsin proved to be the right launching pad for him and his friends, Ferenci says.
“It’s a great place to exchange ideas and be around other areas of thought, bounce ideas off professors and other people connected to the university.”
Now he is running Delorean Labs, a New York City-based startup development lab. He’s assembled a team that launches new products, services, and applications. Working with so many companies helps Ferenci make connections in areas beyond his niches of consumer goods and e-commerce. He’s fascinated by big data and artificial intelligence, and looks for ways to harness them for the next steps in his career.
Most importantly, Ferenci wants to find a project that makes the world a better place.
“You see that trend now with younger entrepreneurs. They realize there’s so much technology out there,” he says. “People are driving toward something with more meaning.”
Kendra Armstrong has a unique talent for bringing people together in pursuit of a common goal.
Early in her career and as a student, much of that work was as a volunteer, yet this was perfect preparation for her work in human resources, says Armstrong, now vice president and human resources manager at Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“When I think about HR, one of the reasons I went into the field is because people are such a vital part of any organization,” she says. “In HR, your customers or clients are generally your colleagues at your place of employment. My job is to help make the company a great place to work.”
Armstrong majored in communications and Spanish as an undergrad at Wake Forest, uncertain where that would take her in her career. A business class for non-majors that explored organizational behavior piqued her interest. Her first job out of school was with a financial software company, and her passion for client training and coaching inspired her to pursue a career in HR.
She chose the Wisconsin MBA Program at the Wisconsin School of Business because she wanted to specialize in strategic human resources management while getting a core business education. She was busy away from the classroom, too, volunteering for many extracurricular activities such as Graduate Women in Business and the MBA Commencement Campaign.
“It was a chance to flex other skills—leadership, project management,” she says. “In orientation, Professor (Kenneth) Kavajecz told our class, ‘When you approach your time at Wisconsin, ask for more than you think you deserve and give more than you think you owe.’ That just really resonated with me.”
Armstrong remains actively involved with the School. She is the incoming vice chair of the Wisconsin Business Alumni Board and serves as vice president of the WAA Charlotte chapter, her local UW alumni club. With former Badger basketball star Frank Kaminsky playing his rookie year with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, alums there have had a new reason to get together.
The importance of building relationships was a key takeaway from her Wisconsin experience, Armstrong says, and one that serves her well at work and away from it. It’s always been that way, and she doesn’t expect it to change.
“I’ve always been involved with people, wherever I am, since grade school,” she says.
Photo by Tyrus Ortega Gaines
Vice President and Human Resources Manager, Bank of America
President and CEO, United Way of Dane County
Renee Moe went to college with a career goal of seeing the world. Instead, she earned a leadership position working to change it.
In 2015, Moe was named president and CEO of United Way of Dane County, the nationally recognized Madison-based chapter with more than $25 million in assets. It was a pinnacle moment for the woman who started at United Way as an intern while still an undergrad at UW–Madison.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to use strategic collaboration and charitable dollars to solve human problems in Dane County,” Moe says.
Moe’s goal had been to become a reporter in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times, but the chance to create change in the community pulled her in.
“Seeing people accomplish more than they ever thought possible, this is what I love,” she says.
As she moved up at United Way, Moe says, the thought of earning an executive MBA became more appealing.
“I had access to dozens of CEOs and their staff teams in the community and thought I’d be much more equipped to speak their language and lead my own department if I had a business degree,” she says.
Through studying change management, organizational development, and other core courses at the Wisconsin School of Business, Moe was able to weather the 2008 economic downturn, which had a huge impact on United Way. The demand for social services and job training went up at a time when donors were cutting back. With new skills, confidence, and an expanded network, Moe and her team developed plans that kept revenue generation flat, even as workforce numbers declined.
“Donors want to know their money will get results," she says. “Because of our nimbleness and effective community problem-solving model, we were one of the few chapters across the country that maintained its revenue until the turnaround came. Maintaining our organizational health is key to our ability to help different entities come together to measurably solve problems and change lives.”
Helping United Way of Dane County navigate the challenges of the economic downturn and evolve to a community-impact organization helped Moe emerge as the organization’s new leader after a nationwide search. And while the early dream of an international career never happened, the opportunity to be at the only community organization that works holistically across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to most effectively create change is an exciting blend of Moe’s passion for community and business skills.
“This is exactly where I’m supposed to be,” she says.
Being open to new challenges has served Mafaz Maharoof well. It’s what took him to Wisconsin from his native Sri Lanka, made him adjust his career path as opportunities arose, and helped him be part of a team making huge adjustments to compete in the changing retail landscape.
Maharoof is director of finance-real estate for Best Buy in Richfield, Minn. He leads the team that is responsible for the company’s store valuation, capital planning, and real estate financial planning and analysis.
“When I look at my career, I realize I was someone who benefited from being at the right place at the right time,” he says. “In order to be able to take advantage of a situation like that, you have to be open to new opportunities.”
Maharoof came to the Wisconsin School of Business with a plan for a career in investment banking. He took a position on Best Buy’s corporate development team upon completing his Wisconsin MBA in corporate finance.
“I got to do the same things an investment banker would get to do, but with a better work-life balance,” he says.
He became curious about other aspects of the company, working in enterprise labor and real estate finance. In 2008 he helped the company make acquisitions and plan for new stores, but two years later a changing economy had him involved in closing stores and helping the company chart new strategies instead.
“The entire retail landscape was changing, and we were getting a lot of competition from online retailers,” he says. “We had to come up with new ways of attracting customers and create a presence in the market without all the large stores.”
He was part of the team that closed unprofitable large stores, but also opened smaller Best Buy Mobile stores that were located inside malls.
Through it all, Maharoof says, he has been guided by curiosity that made veering from his original career path appealing and makes him continue to dig deep to find answers that others might not even be seeking.
“Sometimes you have to trust your team and move on,” he says. “But sometimes, from an intellectual standpoint, it’s good to question things.”
Director of Finance-Real Estate, Best Buy
Photo by Jim Newberry
Growing up a dreamer turned out to be a very good thing for Lindsey Mueller. She’d get lost in her favorite movies or TV shows and fantasize about working in Hollywood one day.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. Mueller is now director of integrated marketing at MTV, part of Viacom Media Networks. A combination of promoting films while an undergrad and making Wisconsin connections upon arriving in Hollywood put her on the path to achieving her dream.
“I think all of the positions in the entertainment industry aren’t well known, and we don’t realize it takes an army to create what we see on TV or film,” Mueller says. “It’s cool to know I’m part of that.”
Mueller works closely with several internal departments to come up with creative concepts that meet the needs and objectives of channel advertisers, which includes in-show integrations into scripted programs. If a plot point has a character in “Teen Wolf” driving a Toyota or dialing a Samsung phone, she’s done her job.
Mueller didn’t know what her position in the entertainment industry might be until she volunteered for the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) film committee and discovered her passion for promoting films.
“We had to figure out a way to market the programs we had to students,” she says. “It was a great test run for entertainment marketing.”
After graduation, she worked as a business consultant in Los Angeles, then used Wisconsin connections to get into the entertainment industry. Her first job, at Yari Film Group, was as an executive assistant to the company’s chief operating officer Bill Immerman (B.S. ’59), a UW–Madison grad and former member of the WUD’s film committee. As a student, Mueller met Immerman when he came to speak on campus, and then a UW–Madison friend sent him Mueller’s résumé when a position opened in the Yari office.
A connection Mueller made while at Yari introduced her to entertainment marketers at Sony Pictures Entertainment, facilitating her move to SPE, where she managed international promotions and licensing for properties including The Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania.
Being active with the Hollywood Badgers, a local networking group of UW–Madison alumni, led Mueller to her role at Viacom. One of the group’s founders, Lesley Kantor (B.A. ’03), introduced Mueller to her current boss at the company.
“A lot of people have made amazing connections and gotten their start as a result of it,” Mueller says of Hollywood Badgers. “It’s definitely played a role in my career.”
Mathew Odigie II makes things happen, a quality that serves him well as a senior brand manager for Red Bull.
The top-selling energy drink in the world is familiar not just for the product but for its presence in the world of sports, particularly extreme sports.
“We want to take all of the fans who know our brand or love our brand and turn them into people who want to drink Red Bull,” says Odigie, who is based in Chicago and responsible for a 16-state territory that is made up primarily of Midwestern states.
It takes a lot of energy for Odigie to pull that off, especially as he maintains his personal brand that provides product reviews on football equipment. Odigie’s “I Know Football” YouTube channel launched in 2012 and produces more than 100 videos annually, rating products from helmets to cleats. Odigie has attracted nearly 150,000 subscribers for the video blog and shares its content and product reviews across a variety of social media platforms.
Odigie does know football. After earning his Wisconsin MBA in brand and product management in 2010, he played professional indoor and semipro football while launching his postgraduate business career at Kraft Foods. One day he was shopping for a new helmet and discovered there wasn’t a lot of information out there for consumers.
It took Odigie back to the time when he was a high school football player who needed equipment. His parents, Nigerian immigrants who didn’t know much about the sport, found it a challenge to choose the right product in a market that offered many specialized ones. Odigie’s teammates teased him when he had the wrong gear, and now he wants to help other young athletes avoid going through the same thing when they purchase their equipment.
“That was the inspiration for my YouTube channel,” he says. “I do it to help parents and kids. Hearing the positive impact I have on them is what keeps me going.”
Odigie’s work at Red Bull and his entrepreneurial efforts complement each other, he says. Insights from Red Bull’s performance are sometimes relevant to his own business, and the small scale of “I Know Football” helps him quickly see the effectiveness of new tactics in social media or marketing strategies.
“Growth and innovation are at the heart of what I do,” he says. “I’m always trying to do something new, something better.”
—Mathew Odigie II,
Senior Brand Manager, Red Bull
retired as vice president of credit union system relations at CUNA Mutual Group in 2010. He joined The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin as a youth mentor and worked through board chairs to become chairman in 2015. The First Tee is a leading nonprofit that teaches youth life skills using the game of golf. The First Tee recently opened its first Learning Center in Madison, providing at-risk youth after-school education and recreation to address the achievement gap. More Class Notes »
was recently promoted to supervising video producer at BuzzFeed, managing teams of producers overseas and in Los Angeles. Her videos have been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, the “Today” show, and at United Nations conferences, with more than 500 million views cumulatively. More Class Notes »
opened Red Wing Shoes in Delafield, Wis., in February 2016. Red Wing Shoes is a full-service retailer with a great selection of purpose-built footwear, carrying a wide assortment of Red Wing, Irish Setter, and Vasque boots and shoes. He has dreamed of owning his own business and says he couldn’t have done it without his UW education. More Class Notes »