Profile: Mariann Kurtz '92
For Mariann Kurtz '92 business is a battleground
Kurtz listened raptly to the war stories shared by her classmates
at her 10-year Kellogg reunion last May.
of her peers had remained stateside since graduation, and
few had emerged unscathed from the 1990s. Kurtz heard tales
of boom and bust, fortunes won and lost. "I felt lucky
to have escaped some of the things that my classmates had
been through," she says.
likely would have said the same thing about her.
past 11 years, Kurtz has lived and worked in some of the world's
most volatile hotspots, including the Balkans, Central Asia,
Russia and Eastern Europe. She has conducted business under
the drone of NATO warplanes, evacuated staff as an anti-U.S.
mob threatened to decimate an office in Bosnia, and sweated
over the safety of staffers moving through war-torn regions.
part of the job for Kurtz, a 1992 Kellogg School graduate
and privatization expert who is passionate about helping improve
the business environment in transitional economies. "It's
been a real privilege to have been a part of the vast transition
that's happening in these areas," she says.
has been a critical link in that transition. For the past
three years she has managed SEED, a technical program in Sarajevo
aiding small- and medium-sized firms in the Western Balkans.
She meets regularly with government officials, makes presentations
about the importance of small businesses and reviews business
plans from entrepreneurs seeking to expand or launch new ventures.
about the transfer of capital and knowledge," she says.
"These are obviously very bright, capable people, but
they have lived under a system where they didn't experience
the things they would have in a market-based society."
adventures began in the summer of 1991, when she "fell
in love" with business development in transitional economies
during her Kellogg summer internship in Poland. As an intern
for a small privatization firm, she spent three months traveling
the country on "rickety, smoky local trains, visiting
local factories and trying to figure out what to do with them."
returned to Poland after graduation and spent the next several
years working for KPMG and then PricewaterhouseCoopers. Privatization,
training and corporate governance work took her to Poland,
Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Pakistan before
she joined SEED in 2000.
Kurtz draws inspiration from her staff, most of whom are lifelong
residents of the former Yugoslavia but who have rejected the
ethnic hatred that fueled the region's conflicts during the
what makes my coming to work every day so special —
these people," Kurtz says. "Most of them lived somewhere
else during the war, but they've returned because this is
their country, because their families live here and because
they believe in the future. There is a lot of power in that."
inspired Kurtz to remain in Sarajevo during the Kosovo crisis
in 1999 and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Though the times were anxious, Kurtz says she never felt personally
all a matter of figuring out the rules of the game,"
she says. "You realize that when people celebrate, they
fire guns in the air. You don't go outside when that's happening.
If it's not paved, you don't walk on it. There are mines everywhere."
may need to unlearn some of those rules as she moves to a
new but familiar place: Washington, D.C. She will remain with
the International Finance Corp., which manages SEED, and will
continue working to develop small businesses in high-risk
areas around the globe.
the logical next step in a career that has known no boundaries.
"In this position, I won't be geographically limited,"
she says. "To have the whole world open up is really