Alumni Interview: Will Kruger
Year of Graduation
Why did you choose your program at UBC and what did you enjoy most about it?
It was an easy decision to make, for two reasons. First, I’m personally fascinated by history as a subject matter in general. Second, I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue for a career post-university, so I figured that I might as well study in an area that genuinely interested me.
My main reasons for choosing to study at UBC included (i) the university’s strong reputation and (ii) the campus’ close proximity to the Whistler ski resort.
What were some of your most meaningful experiences at UBC?
Ranking right at the top are the history classes I took with Professor Courtney Booker. Professor Booker brought the history of medieval Europe to life. It’s thanks to his lectures that I decided in the years following graduation to travel to places of historical significance to the medieval era, including a trip I made to Aachen, Germany in 2017 to visit the palace of King Charlemagne.
Ranking right alongside the lectures with Professor Booker was my decision to take part in the Go Global Exchange Program. Studying abroad in Leuven, Belgium for a full year was one of the best ways to combine my history degree with an immersive and cultural European experience in a medieval town famous for brewing Stella Artois beer.
What choices did you make at UBC that contributed to your career success / journey?
During my time at UBC I learned the importance of being selective about the subject matter that I chose for my studies. I found that my level of interest in a subject usually had a direct positive correlation with my academic results. Although this might seem rather intuitive and come across as a ‘no-brainer’ type of observation, what’s key is that this experience taught me just how much more effective and satisfied I can be when working in areas that align with my personal interests. It’s for this same reason that I recently made a pivot in my professional career in order to focus on renewable energy.
What was your first job after graduation and what other jobs did you have before your current position?
Upon graduating from UBC, I decided to obtain a degree in business before considering future potential career moves. I would eventually land a job as a management consultant in 2013 after completing business school.
Although the business degree did help set me up for a career in business, I would argue (very) strongly that it was in fact my history degree from UBC that equipped me with the most important tools, knowledge and experiences that I actually get to use on a day-to-day basis in my job. Here’s why…
If you know history, you have a better chance of anticipating future developments. This can be useful in business.
If you know the history of the particular country or region that one of your clients or colleagues comes from, then you have a unique and meaningful starting point for an initial discussion with that person—a valuable skill to have in the world of business.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Study history, study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” If I may, I would say that Churchill’s advice could apply to business just as well. If you know the history of where your client comes from, and if you know what has historically informed his/her culture and views, then both you and your client stand to benefit from it.
Is your current career path as you originally intended? What challenges did you face in launching your career?
Not at all. I meandered my way to where I am today. I initially entertained the possibility of becoming a lawyer after graduating from UBC. But legal is not the way I went. Instead, I ended up doing management consulting, which is anyways a much better fit for me (I wish I knew this before I took the LSAT). Four years after starting my career in consulting, I decided to take a break and move to Berlin to study renewable energy. My plan was to become a subject matter specialist in solar, wind and energy storage, so that my career could contribute to, and benefit from, the unfolding energy transition. Today, I’m still a management consultant, but my specialty is renewable energy, so I can say that the temporary move to Berlin paid off.
The greatest challenges I faced in launching my career came when I was trying to secure job interviews during my final year of business school. More specifically, the challenge I faced was the fact that my resume had little by way of professional work experience, having not pursued any internships or co-ops during my studies. By focusing almost exclusively on my grades throughout undergrad, I effectively put myself in a position where my resume was missing some key ingredients, and this made it much harder for me to land job interviews. Only through networking did I eventually get the job interviews I wanted.
What do you like about your current job and what do you find challenging? How does it relate to your degree?
I like the fact that I’m working on the cutting edge of the energy transition. At first glance one wouldn’t think that my history degree from UBC relates to the work I currently do, but look a little bit closer and the relevance becomes clear. On an almost daily basis I’m analyzing the state of the renewable sector across various countries globally, and I frequently collaborate with people from those countries. If you are familiar with a country’s dynamics from a historical vantage point, somehow one feels a sense of familiarity when dealing with the same country in a modern business context.
Furthermore, a history degree teaches you how to hone certain essential skills that come into play every day as a management consultant. These include critical analysis, writing, reading, and research.
From your experience, what has been the value of having an Arts degree?
I’ll pick the most important thing, and that’s PERSPECTIVE.
It’s perspective on how people behave and think, on how countries interact, on how politics evolve, etc.
What advice would you give to students and alumni interested in breaking into your industry?
1. Spend a little less time studying, and spend a little more time networking for career opportunities. It’s great to have an A average (because it says a lot about your work ethic and drive), but it can be of little use if you haven’t spent quality time during your university days networking with companies, industry associations and other prospective employers.
2. Employers today are hungry for grads who demonstrate strong writing and research skills. This is because our modern-day focus on the STEM courses has resulted in a significant shortage of applicants who bring the required level of writing and critical thinking skills needed in today’s fast-paced, competitive and interactive business environment. So, if you come out of university with a history degree, know that this degree is one that employers do value highly. You don’t necessarily need a degree in business if you want to break into the world of business. In fact, you might set yourself apart from the competition by choosing history over business.