For Chicago city leader Rachel Burke, being a city leader comes down to helping businesses, making connections, and problem solving.
Rachel is a former Intelligence Analyst in the Army National Guard and is currently wrapping up an MBA at DePaul University in Chicago.
“The way I think about this role is that it’s an opportunity for me to use what I’ve learned in my MBA program and apply it in the real world to help these businesses that are the future of the American economy,” Rachel said.
In addition to providing direct support, being a city leader also means serving as a central connection point for individuals and businesses in the local community who want to support veteran entrepreneurs. Whether it’s making a connection to someone who wants to connect with the current WeWork Veterans in Residence cohort or working with a company that wants to host a Bunker Brews, “The core of this position is to help people help this community,” Rachel said.
One story that has stayed with her started with an inquiry from a member of the venture capital community. He reached out to Rachel looking for someone with expertise in Defense Department selling. Rachel knew of a veteran-owned company in the Bunker community that worked with the Defense Department as a core element of their business and was able to make the connection.
Another notable success involved a veteran who had recently separated from the military and moved to Chicago. He was interested in starting his own business and joined the Bunker Labs community. As a regular at Bunker events, he quickly became integrated into the Bunker community and Chicago as a whole. He wrote Rachel a note at Thanksgiving to thank her for taking an interest in him, for doing so much for his personal and professional development, and for immediately involving him in the veteran community in Chicago.
The leadership role with Bunker Labs has also filled an important need Rachel felt after leaving the military. “It’s exciting to be part of a military-affiliated organization again. I really missed my tribe, I missed my home,” she said.
Going forward, Rachel anticipates using the skills she has developed with Bunker Labs in her corporate career and in a potential return to startups someday.
“Whether it’s organizing events, answering questions about Bunker and what it does, or selecting the next cohort and helping them on their way, it’s a position that will stretch you and help you grow as a leader, as an organizer,” she said.
“Long-term, I like the idea of using this as an opportunity to see what startups do well, what startups do not so well, and to develop my skill set so that one day I can either sit on a board of a startup or be one of the founders or help lead a startup as a chief operations officer. I see a lot of opportunity here to do some really, really cool things.”