2018 Best EMBAs: Brendan Downing, University of Chicago (Booth)

Brendan Downing

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Entrepreneur who enjoys solving problems that have a positive impact on our society.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Boston, MA

Family Members: Gigi (wife), Jesse (brother), Janelle (sister), Ann-Marie (mother), and Jack (father)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Maryland, Bachelor Degree in Finance

Where are you currently working? LastingBook, CEO and co-founder

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Social Venture Partners (SVP), Member
  • Hyde Park Angels, Investor and Deal Lead
  • Lacrosse and Golf Enthusiast

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During the Executive MBA program, I sold my healthcare technology consulting business that I started in 2010. The sale was a culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by our team of 135 professionals. I am proud that we were able to receive many accolades, such as Fastest Growing Consulting Firm by Consulting Magazine and an industry award for Best Revenue Cycle Consulting Firm by KLAS.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Leadership Capital by Linda Ginzel. The course is a quasi-capstone course that sums up all of our leadership related coursework, but Linda’s lecture style really makes students think beyond just how leadership is applied at the office. The course delves into our personal traits and how we can structure our own personal and professional lives to be good leaders and not just good executives.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I really wanted to go to a school that would challenge me academically and push me outside my comfort zone. After sitting in on a class as a perspective student, I was hooked by how intense the coursework was and how other students provided so much value from their own unique professional perspectives.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Academically, Booth gave me an ability to clearly explain and think through complex business issues analytically. As an entrepreneur, I felt like Booth’s curriculum was perfect in giving me great breadth and depth that I can apply to my current and future businesses.

From a relationship perspective, I feel very blessed to now have a global Booth family. Over the 21 month program, I was able to develop deep relationships with other students and faculty.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During my second quarter at Booth, I was deep into diligence for the sale of my business. It was hard for me to focus on Financial Accounting and Statistics when I was so stressed with making sure our deal stayed on track. Fortunately, I had an amazing study group that helped pick up the slack and filled-in some of the gaps when I had to step out to take urgent calls. My amazing wife also made sure I had a supportive environment at home that gave me the flexibility to focus on my studies.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would highly recommend an executive MBA program, or really any advanced business education that can broaden your perspective. You will gain knowledge and develop skills to become not only a better business professional, but also a better, more empathic leader.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not interfacing more with the full-time and other evening/weekend programs at Booth. The Booth Executive MBA program is somewhat sheltered from the rest of the school, but I should have tried to develop deeper ties and connection with those other programs.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? During our last semester, one of our pregnant classmates had an emergency delivery a few months earlier than expected. She stayed at the hospital with her baby in Chicago for three months, which was a 4fourhour drive from where she lived. Amazingly, she continued to go to class and finished the program on-time with the rest of her classmates.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I had gaps in my business knowledge and was too proud to ask for help.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…searching for business knowledge in books and podcasts.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term goal is to start a business that goes public.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Curious

Favorite book: Homo Sapiens

Favorite movie or television show: Breaking Bad

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Learn to fly an airplane
  • Learn to kite surf

What made Brendan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“During the program, Brendan taught classmates far more experienced than he what it means to be an empathetic and thoughtful leader. He continued to make an influence on his classmates while continuing to be successful in his own career. He now focuses on entrepreneurial ventures and will continue to be successful and give back to Booth for many years to come.”

Patty Keegan

Associate Dean, Executive MBA Program


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