Michael Henry, Business Architect on the Digital Experience Strategy team, is leaving Appirio after 4.5 years with the company to pursue an MBA full time. Molly Lauck and Michael sat down to discuss the journey that brought Michael to Appirio and some of his future plans.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, but we moved to Chicago when I was 4. My father got a job offer in tech consulting in the windy city with a small firm, called Kanbay, which was an early adopter of its time, focusing on outsourcing work to India.
What schools did you attend growing up?
I was in a small Montessori school before transitioning into the Chicago Public School system. I attended Lane Tech College Prep High School. I was a shy kid, very quiet, and didn’t start coming out of my shell until college.
Where did you go to college?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I was pushed out of my comfort zone in a study abroad opportunity in Japan when I was a sophomore. I spent a full year in Japan, learning fluent Japanese as well as the local people and culture. I set a daily personal goal to talk to someone new every day -- and I did it! This exercise helped me gain confidence in doing things that put me out of my comfort zone and taught me that I could talk and connect with anyone.
What did you want to do after you graduated college?
At U of I, I was heavily involved with Illinois Business Consulting (IBC), where for the first time I experienced real-life consulting through internship opportunities. Learning how to think creatively on the fly, building a confident stage presence, making decisions under pressure -- I loved all of that. I loved consulting and knew that’s what I wanted to explore as a potential career
Unfortunately, like many young professionals starting out, I struggled to find a job in the consulting world. But I was persistent! Through the job application process, as an undergrad and post college, I eventually applied and interviewed for over 40 different opportunities. Right after college, though, I accepted a position as an insurance claims handler at the Hartford Insurance Group in the catastrophe division in Aurora, IL
I helped people through devastating situations, like helping families find places to live after their home had been destroyed by a tornado or a hurricane. Just talking to these people and hearing what they were going through was a humbling experience. It made me want to make the overall process better. After work, I would go home and work on a plan to do that. After three months, I proposed a new process to leadership, supporting data on expected results for the new process, and even a change management plan. I was fortunate that they listened and gave me the green light to move forward with the proposal. I rolled out the new process as well as a training plan to my internal team.
What did you do with this newly gained experience?
Well, now I had some relevant experience and a real-life example to start applying again to consulting firms. Some showed interest but never enough to pull the trigger. It was beginning to look like things, once again, would not work out, but then I caught a break. A family friend connected me with Chris Barbin, former CEO and founder of Appirio.
Chris was great, and we had a great conversation about my career goals and experience, and he encouraged me to apply for an open Business Analyst role. After an extensive interview process, switching to a Salesforce Associate Consultant interview track -- and a trip to Indy for a final in-person interview, I proudly accepted my first consulting position, an opportunity with Appirio.
I told my dad with tears of joy because I had finally made it into the consulting world. I was totally ready for this change but was also very appreciative of my experience in the insurance catastrophe division. It created a solid foundation for consulting, teaching me how to make human connections, lead all different types of people, and work with empathy while still getting results.
Would you share some of your Appirio experiences?
Sure. I moved to Indianapolis to start at Appirio in August 2014 in data migration. My first project was as a data architect and with the help of Herb Whitacre (Data Architect at Appirio), I was successful. From there, I continued to learn as much as I could, taking on larger clients, leading data resources until September 2015, when I accepted a role as a Business Analyst -- part of a new strategy team out west. So I moved to San Francisco, where I joined the newly formed Digital Strategy team as an Analyst. While in SF I also served as a co-lead within Appirio's BA CoE (Business Analyst Center of Excellence) and was eventually promoted to Senior Business Analyst in April 2017.
What brought you back to Chicago?
The San Francisco office was closing. I had been out there for two years, and the timing felt right to move back to Chicago, to be closer to my family. Appirio fully supported this decision, and I moved back in April 2017.
What were your goals once you got back to Chicago?
I started looking into MBA opportunities. I have a long term vision to help people in leadership positions and to be able to guide change within an organization starting at the leadership level. With my liberal arts background and transitioning into cloud computing, an MBA will provide me with the core foundational understanding of business that I feel is needed to put myself at the next level from a career standpoint. The knowledge, the education, this will help me to connect with the C suite and executives.
Where did you decide to pursue your MBA?
After quite a bit of research and conversations, Chicago Booth quickly became a top choice because of the shock value when meeting the faculty, current students, and alumni: the environment, the people, and the program are relaxed, humbled, self-aware, fun, people with relatable personalities. It felt right, in my gut. The program itself is prestigious, and it’s also one of the most flexible programs from a top school. As a student, you have the freedom to choose your own path, which is very appealing as I can steer courses towards leadership and managerial studies as well as tie in core business foundations which directly align and support my future long term career goals.
I feel lucky to not only be accepted into the MBA program, but they’ve also offered me a scholarship.
What happened when you shared this news with your Appirio colleagues?
The support from Appirio after sharing my decision has been absolutely overwhelming. People are coming out of the woodwork, including Appirio alumni, reaching out with their supportiveness and encouragement. We have a desire to see the people around us succeed. I will always be appreciative of my Appirio experience, especially after I told people about my new venture.
When is your last day as an Appirian?
June 7. Classes start in September, but I’m going to participate in Booth’s Summer Startup program as well as their “Random Walks” -- opportunities where I’ll travel to network and connect with other incoming MBA students. The Summer Startup program pairs students with a Chicago Booth alumni where they work with them on their startup for 7-8 weeks. I’ll be working at a local startup distillery this summer, called Apologue Liqueurs, where I will be focusing on Content Strategy and Community Outreach activities.
Thank you, Michael, for all that you’ve done for Appirio and for taking the time to share your story. June 7 will be a bittersweet day for Appirio, but we can’t wait to follow your next chapter!
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