8 to Watch Under 40

You’re about to meet an exciting group of Business Badgers. Get to know eight Wisconsin School of Business graduates making an impact on their industries.

Rodney Lynk (BBA ’09)
WSB has made me a dynamic force in the educational landscape and a great manager. My business background gives me a one-up on other leaders.

RODNEY LYNK JR.
Chief academic officer, Milwaukee Excellence Charter School

Rodney Lynk Jr. (BBA ’09)

Title: Chief academic officer, Milwaukee Excellence Charter School

Previous Jobs: Principal, Rocketship Education; teacher, Teach For America

Why he’s among the 8 to Watch: Lynk devotes his life to making education more accessible and bridging the academic achievement gap between white and black students in Wisconsin. After two years, his school has nearly closed the achievement gap, with math scores triple the state average and reading scores double the state average for black students.

His guiding mission: “I aim to create pathways and experiences for all students to get the education they deserve. My role is to design and execute our instructional approach, which is based on business concepts like incorporating data-driven systems, listening to the student/customer voice, and applying measurable results.”

Steps to success: Lynk, who grew up in inner-city Milwaukee, knew from a young age that he wanted to go to the Wisconsin School of Business and have access to the courses and learning opportunities it offers. In ninth grade, Lynk was admitted into UW–Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE), which aims to provide opportunities and increase college enrollment for Wisconsin students of color. Through the PEOPLE program, he visited the UW–Madison campus regularly. Lynk says that exposure was pivotal in affirming his path to education.

Key career moment: Despite having several corporate jobs lined up after graduation, Lynk went a different route. Reflecting on the state of the educational landscape and how it affected him growing up, he decided to apply for Teach For America and became a math teacher.

The impact of a WSB degree: “It was isolating sometimes, being the only black person in some of my classes at WSB, but professors were very welcoming and willing to help—that kept me going.

“The School gave me skills that assist me to do what I’m doing now with a business mindset. WSB has made me a dynamic force in the educational landscape and a great manager. My business background gives me a one-up on other leaders.”

Advice to students and young professionals: “Be open to learning and be open to failure.”

What inspires him: Education and learning. “There are a lot of analytical minds that we nourish and want to help grow at my school now. I think a lot of our students could do well at the Wisconsin School of Business if they had the right guidance. That motivates me.”

Kristen Berman (BBA ’06)

Title: Co-founder, Irrational Labs

Previous Jobs: Co-founder and principal, Common Cents Lab; product manager, Intuit

Why she’s among the 8 to Watch: Berman is a leader in the field of behavioral science and studies how people act in the marketplace. She co-founded Irrational Labs, a behavioral product design company that helps organizations understand and leverage behavioral economics to benefit their users.

Key career moment: While working at Intuit, Berman heard a talk by Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. She eventually landed an apprenticeship with Ariely through which she explored the craft of behavioral science.

Steps to success: Berman quit her job at Intuit and, together with Ariely, went on to co-found Irrational Labs and start the behavioral science group at Google. The two continued their collaboration and started Common Cents Lab, a behavioral science initiative out of Duke focused on improving the financial lives of low- to moderate-income Americans.

The impact of a WSB degree: As a sophomore, Berman started an IT customer service company called Net Nerds, which sparked her interest in entrepreneurship. “I didn’t have any business background, but I saw that there were entrepreneurship classes offered, so I petitioned Jon Eckhardt, the instructor, to get into one of the classes. I wasn’t yet admitted into WSB, but I needed to take this class because I was starting a company. It was great because I got to learn and apply the principles in the same breath.”

Advice to students and young professionals: “Ask for what you want. If you don’t know what you want, ask someone how you can help them.”

What inspires her: Alternative life design, people who challenge the status quo.

Favorite part of her field: “Most of the time, people believe that if we can only change our minds, our beliefs, our attitudes, that it’s the best way to change our behavior—but actually the behavioral science hypothesis says that we should change the system. In this field, we have the opportunity to design a better system for us and for others.”

Kristen Berman (BBA ’06)
Ask for what you want. If you don’t know what you want, ask someone how you can help them.

KRISTEN BERMAN
Co-founder, Irrational Labs

Katie Hensel (BBA ’06)

Katie Hensel (BBA ’06)

Title: Executive director, Tri 4 Schools

Previous Job: Project manager, Epic

Why she’s among the 8 to Watch: By starting her own nonprofit, Hensel helps combat childhood obesity by making health, sports, and fitness more accessible to children at more than 200 schools in Dane County.

Key career moment: While working at Epic implementing surgical software, Hensel had a firsthand glimpse into the obesity epidemic. This inspired her passion to help fight childhood obesity by bringing sports to kids.

Steps to success: After leaving Epic in 2011 and investing $5,000 of her own money, Hensel set out to start her own nonprofit. To date, more than 10,000 children have participated in Tri 4 Schools events.

Trying out triathlon: Hensel’s first weekend on campus was the first time the Ironman Triathlon took place in Madison. Though she had no background in swimming, biking, or running, she was so inspired that she set a goal to do an Ironman someday. Hensel joined the triathlon club and learned how to swim, bike, and run. Her senior year of college, she finished her first Ironman. “Through that process, I totally changed my life in terms of eating, stress, sleep, and exercise. It had worked for me, so when I started seeing all these things around me about the obesity epidemic and budgets getting cut for physical education, I thought maybe I could use triathlon to make a difference for the health of kids in my community.”

The impact of a WSB degree: “At WSB, so much of the work we did was in teams, so I learned how to get along with a lot of different personalities and skill sets. Forming those skills and relationships was my most important takeaway from my time at the Wisconsin School of Business because much of what I do now requires that I work with different groups of people.”

Favorite part of her job: Empowering kids, schools, and communities to be healthy and happy.

What inspires her: Teachers, educators, and playing a role in kids’ success.

At WSB, so much of the work we did was in teams, so I learned how to get along with a lot of different personalities and skill sets.

KATIE HENSEL
Executive director, Tri 4 Schools

Cody Candee (BBA ’11)

People spend too much time planning their lives around the things that they own. Bounce will be cloud computing for the physical world so that you can access your things wherever you are.

CODY CANDEE
CEO and co-founder, Bounce

Cody Candee (BBA ’11)

Title: CEO and co-founder, Bounce

Previous Job: Global product manager, Intuit

Why he’s among the 8 to Watch: Candee started Bounce, a venture-backed startup that helps people find a place to leave their belongings anywhere in a city. The company’s locations—more than 100 across New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—have been used to store tens of thousands of personal items.

The vision for his company: “The big vision for Bounce is to be the interface between you and everything you own,” says Candee. “People spend too much time planning their lives around the things that they own. So much time is wasted commuting out of your way because of your things. Bounce will be cloud computing for the physical world so that you can access your things wherever you are.”

Steps to success: After graduating, Candee spent four months backpacking through South America, lived and worked in India for a brief time, and traveled around Southeast Asia. His time abroad helped inspire the idea for Bounce.

Key career moment: “I had the idea for Bounce brewing in my head forever. I decided to try it out. My co-founder came to New York where I was living at the time and we formally started building the company in October 2017. Now we have over 100 retail locations and over $1 million in angel investment.”

Number of countries visited: 50

The impact of a WSB degree: Candee wasn’t admitted to UW–Madison at first. In fact, he formally appealed his admission decision. Eventually, he was the last student admitted to the freshman class in 2007. Determined to prove he was a chance worth taking, Candee studied hard his freshman year and earned close to a 4.0 GPA. He also started Delta Sigma Pi, a co-ed business fraternity. The challenge and subsequent reward of getting admitted imbued Candee with a special appreciation for the power of persistence—something he says he employs regularly in his career now.

Advice to students and young professionals: “The more you can define where you want to be in 10 years, the better. Plan backwards. Get started; do stuff.”

Dan Sarbacker (MBA ’11)
Our company’s role is helping people manage risk, and you can define risk in our lives in many ways.

DAN SARBACKER
Digital transformation portfolio director, American Family Insurance

Dan Sarbacker (MBA ’11)

Title: Digital transformation portfolio director, American Family Insurance

Previous Jobs: Project manager, Oculus, Inc.; business strategist, Design Concepts; previous innovation and design positions, American Family Insurance

Why he’s among the 8 to Watch: Sarbacker uses human-centered design—a creative, empathetic approach to problem-solving—to help drive value and innovation for products, services, and internal processes. He’s been interested in easing user experience through thoughtful design since he studied and worked in architecture.

Key career move: His first job after earning his MBA was with Design Concepts, a Madison-based new product consulting firm. “It was my first chance to bring business and design together and use both my MBA and my architecture degrees.”

Design thinking in a corporate environment: It might not seem obvious to bring skills of design or entrepreneurship to a large company, but that’s the enjoyable challenge, Sarbacker says. Finding and addressing pain points that customers or internal users have with products or processes adds value. He helped launch a new enterprise within American Family, Moonrise, which connects qualified workers with temporary shift work as needed. “Our company’s role is helping people manage risk, and you can define risk in our lives in many ways.”

Representing the U.S.: While living in St. Louis in the early 2000s, Sarbacker started playing Australian rules football to stay in shape. He took to the game, and earned a spot on the U.S. team that competed internationally. “It was a pretty surreal experience, flying all over the world to represent the U.S. in a sport I’d never heard of until I was 23.” He combined his career and the sport by creating his own internship experience during the summer between the first and second year of his MBA degree, playing for a club in Australia and finding consulting work with local small businesses and the city council. He retired after 12 years as a player and now is a coach on the U.S. squad.

The impact of a WSB degree: Sarbacker earned his MBA in entrepreneurial management and found it an “invigorating” space in which to work. Working with entrepreneurs while honing his business skills helped him chart a course for his long-held ideas about building value for companies through better design. “My wife is thrilled I have been able to monetize how weird I am.”

Anne Norman (BA ’03, MBA ’17)

Title: Senior vice president and chief marketing officer, UW Credit Union

Previous Jobs: Brand manager and director roles, American Family Insurance; brand manager, Culver’s

Why she’s among the 8 to Watch: Norman’s creative approaches to brand marketing have helped some of Wisconsin’s most visible companies find new ways to engage with their customers.

Key career moment: While at American Family, Norman and another colleague developed the company’s DreamBank. Building on the company’s mission of protecting dreams, they wanted to explore ways for people to pursue their dreams. “We created a community space where we brought in a number of experts to help people, be it with entrepreneurship or with creativity. It was about strengthening community.”

Steps to success: Norman has built upon all her job experiences to get where she is today. “Everything I did at Culver’s or American Family, combined with my MBA and life coaching, has set me up for this job and experience. I love to study what consumers want next and then make it come to life.” Most recently, she led a branding relaunch at UW Credit Union.

The impact of a WSB degree: While working with DreamBank, Norman stated that her dream was to get an MBA and enrolled in the Wisconsin Executive MBA Program. She absorbed the opportunity to collaborate with peers from a variety of fields and learn how they problem-solve. She brought that into her work and was soon promoted to enterprise brand strategy director at American Family. “I started to create all these relationships across the organization. Company leadership saw me as someone who was able to get things done.”

Working with locally iconic brands: At her desk, Norman has a photo of the Kohl Center hockey rink with three advertisements side by side: Culver’s, American Family, and UW Credit Union. “I saw that at a Badgers’ hockey game and thought, ‘There’s my résumé!’”

Advice to students and young professionals: Patience. “I’m proud of my career because I worked for it and grew step by step. I didn’t get my undergraduate degree and become a vice president. I haven’t always been an executive. If you have a strong work ethic and a desire to have fun, what you can achieve is limitless.”

Anne Norman (BA ’03, MBA ’17)
If you have a strong work ethic and a desire to have fun, what you can achieve is limitless.

ANNE NORMAN
Senior vice president and chief marketing officer, UW Credit Union

Evan Sengbusch (MS ’09, MBA ’11, PhD ’12)

Evan Sengbusch (MS ’09, MBA ’11, PhD ’12)

Title: President, Phoenix

Previous Job: Venture fellow, DJF Mercury; research positions, UW–Madison and the University of Iowa

Why he’s among the 8 to Watch: A scientist and business executive, Sengbusch joined the nuclear technology company Phoenix as its sixth employee and has increased its revenue sources, expanded its market reach, and helped it grow to 80 employees. He has helped the company raise more than $20 million from investors and secure customers such as the U.S. Army and General Electric.

Putting science to work: While pursuing a PhD in medical physics at UW–Madison, Sengbusch worked with a startup company in medical research, and it solidified his desire to apply his scientific knowledge beyond research. “Through that experience, I realized I wanted to work in an environment where we develop products that make it to the field,” he says. That led to pursuing an MBA while also earning his PhD to build a business foundation and feed his entrepreneurial spirit.

Making connections: As an MBA student, Sengbusch was assigned a consulting project for Phoenix, then a new startup just beginning to build its business and find applications for its technology in the fields of medicine, aerospace, and defense. He worked with the founder to revamp the company’s business plan and provide a market analysis. After completing his PhD, Sengbusch got back in touch with Phoenix and was hired as vice president.

The impact of a WSB degree: Diving into finance and accounting was key, Sengbusch says, as was a contest where he learned to pitch to would-be investors. A required management class he originally wasn’t excited to take continues to pay dividends, he says. “Now that I’ve been helping to grow a company, a huge part of my job involves how you deal with people.”

Scientist or businessman? Sengbusch sees himself somewhere in the middle. He is still passionate about cutting-edge science, but most of his work involves the business side of Phoenix—meeting with customers, would-be customers, and investors. “If you had told me when I started college that this was where I was going to end up, I would have been really surprised.”

Now that I’ve been helping to grow a company, a huge part of my job involves how you deal with people.

EVAN SENGBUSCH
President, Phoenix

Cherie Leonard (MBA ’12)

The passion and authenticity of the School is instilled in the students, and it’s still with me today.

CHERIE LEONARD
Senior group manager, global oral care insights, Colgate-Palmolive

Cherie Leonard (MBA ’12)

Title: Senior group manager, global oral care insights, Colgate-Palmolive

Previous Jobs: Consumer and market insights positions in North America, Colgate-Palmolive; manager of market analysis, Vi (formerly Classic Residence by Hyatt)

Why she’s among the 8 to Watch: In a global role with Colgate-Palmolive, Leonard builds strategy and leads initiatives throughout the world for some of the company’s key brands and categories.

The appeal of market research: Leonard loves how her work lets her flex her analytical side and her human side. “You can slice numbers a hundred different ways, but there can be a misconception that research is all numbers. It’s also a lot about understanding people.”

Key career move: Moving into a global position two years ago opened Leonard’s eyes to different points of view. “I started seeing the business from a very different perspective. We’re a North American company but 78 percent of our sales are from beyond North America. It’s a challenge to understand where we can find synergies and what we have to be aware of culturally.”

Working around the world: Leonard’s travels pique her curiosity and she loves learning cultural differences. “How different are shopping environments? How do people interact with their neighbors?” She was intrigued to learn that in some places, such as Latin America, one of the brands she works with is so universal that people just say “Colgate” any time they mean “toothpaste.”

The impact of a WSB degree: Access to industry leaders through the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research made a huge impression on Leonard, but the overall WSB experience has had a lasting impact, too. “The passion and authenticity of the School is instilled in the students, and it’s still with me today. It’s hard to put that into rankings, but it’s a tangible part of the Wisconsin experience.”

Advice to fellow Business Badgers: Build a network and work to maintain it. “Have the courage to set up informal introductory conversations to build connections. Personally it’s very fulfilling, but professionally it also builds your influence. You’re keeping an eye on different parts of your organization and industry.”

Catch up on fellow Wisconsin School of Business alumni. View Now »

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Tim Hotchandani (BBA ’04)

was recently named one of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Forward under 40. Hotchandani counsels companies through Rothschild & Co., one of the world’s largest financial advisory firms. His Wall Street career has also included roles at Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, and Thomas Weisel Partners. Hotchandani stays involved with the School by mentoring students in the Investment Banking Club, an organization he co-founded during his time at WSB.More Class Notes »

Mark Burns (BBA ’09)

joined fellow UW–Madison alums at The Onion after graduation and later became a producer at The Second City comedy theater. The unique combination of these three institutions has sculpted his strange, dynamic skill set. He has now started his own company, Punch Up Creative, which uses its comedic expertise to help corporate clients tell their stories in a more entertaining fashion.More Class Notes »

Catherine Quinlan (BBA ’13)

was named a 2018 Rising Young Professional by the Minneapolis business publication Finance and Commerce. Nominated by her peers, Quinlan, a commercial banker at BMO Harris Bank, was among a small group of Twin Cities professionals chosen to receive the award that recognizes the honorees’ professional achievements and their community involvement and contributions. More Class Notes »