Prior to coming to Booth, Jen Yi, Class of 2022, was a Procurement Contracting Officer in the United States Air Force. This Veteran’s Day, we’re happy to spotlight Jen. She recently transitioned out of the military, is a member of Booth’s Armed Forces Group (AFG), and is now recruiting for investment banking. Let’s get started!
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? Where’d you go to college? Are you here with a partner?
I am originally from Lincoln, California. I went to the United States Air Force Academy for undergrad and majored in economics. I’m here with my husband Russell, who is a West Point, ’10 alum and Army veteran. He’s currently on terminal leave and is not a Boothie…yet!
What did you do in the military?
I was a Procurement Contracting Officer. I executed and negotiated government contracts in support of the F-35 and F-16 fighter jets mission and executed and managed over $40M in supply and service contracts in support of Special Operations in South and Central America. I was warranted under the Air Force and USSOCOM, meaning I was “licensed” to sign contracts on behalf of these organizations.
How did AFG support you during the application process?
Booth’s commitment to the veteran community is profoundly significant to me. I was helped tremendously by members of the Armed Forces Group, who displayed genuine interest in helping me understand the culture and unique qualities of Booth. Many students in AFG spoke with me, occasionally for hours, including a few members of Booth’s Class of 2021, Zach Capra, Graham Pitcairn, and Chris Jimenez. All of these individuals gave me tips and advice on completing my application and helped me prepare for my interview. I was very surprised about how willing they were to help me craft my story and support me in my candidacy.
Why did you choose Booth?
Most importantly I chose Booth for the pay-it-forward culture and strong network. The caliber of the people and the community, the servant leadership displayed in the student led clubs/organizations, and Booth’s values of teamwork and humanity all contribute to this emphasis on paying it forward. It seems that anyone with knowledge will help anyone who needs it. The second year students help the first year students get introduced to companies or internships by providing connections and helping with mock interviews. Recruiting prep is personalized and compassionate. That family environment and network is a large part of the value added from a Booth MBA and there is a lot of room for mentorship and leadership.
The professors are also rock stars who are very approachable. Even though Booth is second to none in faculty caliber—with Nobel Laureate economists on staff—they are yet another testament to Booth’s supportive culture. I have witnessed all of my professors’ willingness to champion and support students, myself included.
Another reason that makes Booth special to me, and the ideal place for me to pursue an MBA, is its flexible curriculum, which is vastly different than any other MBA program. It is a huge asset, especially for anyone who is a career switcher. There is no prescribed list of classes you must take, which means you can bolster your skills where you need to, and not take redundant classes that you may have covered elsewhere. In my case, I majored in economics, so taking introductory economics classes would not benefit me.
The last factor that attracted me to Booth was its location in Chicago, a city where my husband and I can set down roots once I leave the military. My husband’s family is from Midland, Michigan and although I’ve lived in so many places, I feel very comforted and at home by Midwestern niceness and sense of community. Chicago has everything that I want in a city; it’s close to family, has a great finance sector, great food, great architecture, and nice people. All these reasons contribute to why I chose Booth.
What student groups and activities are you involved with?
I’m a member of the Armed Forces Group, Investment Banking Group, Booth Analytics Group, and Korean Business Group.
What do you want to do post-Booth?
My first step post-MBA will be to gain experience as an investment banking associate at a Chicago-based firm that is globally-positioned and has a wide range of deals focused on the aerospace defense sector. I feel well poised to make that happen considering that many reputable banks have a track record of recruiting veterans from Booth.
How are Booth and AFG supporting your career goals?
Booth is providing the network and resources to ensure that I am fully representing myself in the best light during recruiting. I’m building knowledge in areas that interest me and filling gaps in some others as well. Meanwhile the AFG is complementing that by providing tailored advice and mentorship for investment banking recruiting.
What is your favorite part about Chicago?
Chicago is second to none when it comes to gorgeous architecture. Not to mention I love heading out to one of its incredible steak houses for a nice dinner with my husband, family, or friends. Luckily, because of our proximity to so many family members and friends that’s easy to do.
Any advice for transitioning veterans that are applying to Booth?
Seek out as much advice from MBA Veterans, students, and faculty to learn as much as possible about the culture at Booth and make sure you have a personalized “why Booth” answer. Try to set yourself apart and present yourself in a unique light with a personal story or experience you’ve had in the military, and do not get discouraged by the admissions process. It can be confusing and sometimes seem strange, but the right school will see your value and select you as a candidate.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Veterans have many skillsets that the private sector values and desires for their workplace. Stay confident and figure out where you want to be for continued education and be proud of your service no matter the duration or nature of your job. My admissions to Booth demonstrated that they saw that in me, and I’m confident that other veterans, or active military members, will see that too!