2016 Best EMBAs: Kirsten Castillo, Duke University (Fuqua)

Kristen Castillo Duke Fuqua

Kirsten Castillo

Duke Fuqua School of Business – Global Executive MBA

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be sleepwalking through life.”

Age: 43

Location: Lake Elmo, MN

Family Members: Husband: Sergio; Children: Austin, 16, Alexia, 15, Abby, 14, Alexandra, 12, Javier, 12, Isabella, 5

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Minnesota, Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Where are you currently working? CEO, Logistics Planning Services

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • United Way Women’s Leadership Council — Board Member and Head of Fundraising and Events Committee
  • Active volunteerism in many local organizations: Feed My Starving Children, Open Arms, Salvation Army, Angel Tree Ministries, others
  • Launching the Ladies in Logistics group at LPS, January 2016
    • Our mission: Provide a forum for women engaged at LPS to network. Empower women to become leading professionals in the industry through educational and social engagements

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It would be my active involvement with The United Way Women’s Leadership Council which addresses self-sufficiency for women in our community. There are several underemployed women with children, working 30 or more hours a week and yet struggling to make ends meet. Through mentoring, workshops on topics such as financial management, resume building, networking, and having a social support network, women are empowered to find higher-paying jobs. We are creating a program in our community similar to the Women Achieving New Directions (WAND) program in the Twin Cities metropolitan area specifically designed to help underemployed single mothers increase their incomes and avoid welfare dependency. This program has proven results: 72% increased their earned income by an average of 44% within one year of entering the program. We had a very successful inaugural fundraiser in 2015 that has created momentum in defining our three-year plan, including our launch of the program in 2017. My hope is that the women who come out of the program can be candidates to find work at my company and the many other local businesses that need to continue to improve diversity in our workforce.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My role in the success of my company Logistics Planning Services. This is my family’s business which started in 1987, and I joined in 2010. Second-generation businesses are likely to fail: Only 30% of family businesses make it to the second generation and only 12% make it to the third generation. Not only have we survived, we feel like a 30-year-old startup company, celebrating in 2015 the 5-year Honor Roll on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies, and many other awards that are the reflection of the TEAM at LPS that has worked so hard the past five to six years. We have been fortunate enough to receive multiple recognitions, Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, Fast 50 of MN, Best Places to Work of MN, and finally being recognized in the Impact50 — The Top 50 Women-Led Companies in America for revenue growth and job creation.

None of that matters. What matters is job creation and social commitment. Every single hire we make at LPS reflects our core values. We added 47 people in 2015. The greatest part of having a successful business is that it enables us to be socially responsible with giving back our time, talents, and resources in the local and broad community! (Ship LPS).

Favorite MBA Courses? Global Markets and Institutions, Strategy for the Global Executive and Leadership for the Global Executive.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I was convinced I wanted to be part of a team-based learning environment, specifically Team Fuqua. My husband was a student in the Duke Nicholas School for the Environment when he was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2011. As I battled to study and research how to save his life, he was thankfully distracted with finishing his master’s degree in Environmental Management. At the time, I didn’t understand it, but his classmates, faculty, and staff were the team that actually gave him the support he needed to survive, to get through cancer treatment and to graduate. I did not even contemplate another option, Duke would be my number one and only choice for my Executive MBA because of the evidence of team I was able to see through his experience.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Learning how business is done in a foreign land, learning about life in a different culture, enjoying the discovery with new friends. The friendships I have gained are extraordinary. I have so enjoyed getting to know each and every one of my classmates and I have so much respect for all of them. I am eternally grateful for the people, each and every one of the faculty, staff, and colleagues who have made this experience memorable.

What was the hardest part of business school? This is not a novel response, but balance is definitely the most difficult part of business school.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? If you have decided to apply for a program at the Fuqua School of Business, congratulations. It will be one of the best decisions of your life. Rip up any expectations or specific objectives for business school, and get ready, as you will be changed. The team-based approach to learning at Duke is fantastic. This is how work gets done in business.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I sat in the Wallace Wade Stadium, listening to Melinda Gates and watching my husband graduate in 2011. It was a wonderful moment of pride and I pictured myself on the field.

If I hadn’t gone to business school …” I would be sleepwalking through life.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? My dad put his family on the line when he decided to be an entrepreneur in 1987. This took guts. He had a great management position at 3M, where most people would work for 30 years and walk away with an amazing retirement plan, but corporate bureaucracy was not for him. He decided he could do it better. In addition, my mother, who supported him the entire way, left her job at 3M to go help his business in 1996. She took over finance, HR, and anything that needed to get done. She gave up a great deal to support him and amazingly they are still married after 48 years.

What are your long-term professional goals? To continue to learn and grow and to make a difference. Eventually, I want to help other businesses by serving in a board position. Increasing the number of women on boards is necessary globally. I will continue serve in nonprofit work. My social commitment is steadfast. I hope to mentor and give back, as I have had many great leaders and mentors who have helped me get to where I am today. Finally, entrepreneurship is on my radar.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My team. My team is a big group of people. Without them I am nothing. It starts with my husband Sergio and the kids, Lori and Brian, all of whom have had to be forgiving of my time and support me through this. My team in Minnesota who supports my role as mom with home-cooked meals, caring for children, driving, cleaning, and laundry. It takes a village! I’m also grateful for my team and family at LPS who backed me up when I was away. Then there is my team at Fuqua, starting with my first team, Super Cinco, who made an impact on me forever, a group of people who won’t accept mediocrity, pushed each other to be better every week, and taught me that it’s about TEAM more than anything else. There is also my entire GEMBA16 team and the women of GEMBA, all of whom I am so proud — many receiving promotions and new jobs along the way. Also, I want to recognize my team of staff and faculty who pushed me beyond my boundaries, enabling me to see the world through a different lens and creating an environment where the content of what we learned was not the most important; it was the way in which we learned through TEAMWORK.

Fun fact about yourself: When I grow up, I want to be a pilot of fighter jets …

Favorite book: “Camille,” Alexander Dumas. The Holy Bible

Favorite movie: Top Gun

Favorite musical performer: One is impossible. Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Madonna, Journey, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan …

Favorite television show: “Downton Abbey”

Favorite vacation spot: Tuscany, Italy

Hobbies? Hot yoga sculpt every chance I get to offset my passion for wine, cheese, and chocolate. Any free time I have is spent watching my kids in their various activities, which I truly enjoy. I also cherish our time in the summer with all of the children and creating travel memories each year.

What made Kirsten such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Kirsten Castillo has had a very meaningful and positive impact on the Duke MBA Global Executive Class of 2016. First, she brings a very impressive professional background to the cohort, which enables her to contribute to business discussions in a meaningful way. She is the CEO of Logistics Planning Services, a transportation services provider that has been experiencing tremendous growth over the past five years. Her experience in helping reinvent a 28-year-old family business has brought a unique perspective to the class. In addition, Kirsten has shown tremendous commitment to the program and the experience of her fellow classmates. Since Kirsten’s husband’s family is from Panama, she embraced the opportunity to provide her classmates with a unique Panamanian experience when the program residency took place in Panama City. While there, she organized various activities that had significant cultural takeaways for her classmates. Her dedication to the program and sincere interest in the experiences of her classmates was very apparent through these interactions.

“Finally, Kirsten is extremely dedicated to servicing her community in meaningful ways, which truly embodies Fuqua’s goal of creating leaders of consequence. She is VP of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council in Minnesota, which focuses on helping single mothers upgrade their job skills in order to find better jobs and provide for their families without assistance. Kirsten’s broad range of experience, passions, and her ability to channel that into her program experience and the co-created experiences of her classmates has made her an invaluable addition to the Class of 2016. She has been the source of positive energy for the program, faculty, and staff that have had the pleasure to interact with her.”

John Gallagher
Associate Dean, Executive MBA Programs and Professor of the Practice
Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

DON’T MISS: CLASS OF 2016: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST GRADUATING EMBAS