Canfield BHP Alumni Kevin Curry Discusses His Entrepreneurial Journey

From management consulting to social media marketing to entrepreneurship, Canfield Business Honors Alumni Kevin Curry has a host of experiences under his belt. After graduating from UT Austin in 2004 with degrees in Canfield BHP, Management Information Systems, and Hispanic Studies, Kevin led a career that resulted in the creation of a fitness and nutrition blog unlike any other: Fit Men Cook

While Curry works solely for Fit Men Cook now, it was not always his main gig. The blog began as a side hustle– a way for Curry to document his eating habits and crowdsource ideas on how to live a healthy lifestyle. 

“I was at a point in my life where I really wanted to lose weight and I was tired of spending all this money on personal trainers. I realized that I was tripping up a lot more in the kitchen, so I went to Half Priced Books and bought every single book they had about nutrition and fitness and I just started to just consume the content,” he said. “The stuff that I learned from BHP kicked in– the hustle– and I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to pay for personal training, so maybe I can find a way to crowdsource my diet.’ The idea was to start up a blog and post every single meal I eat and to talk about my whole life transformation. It seemed like the perfect way to get the internet to tell me what to eat for free, but then the reverse happened.” 

Before even beginning this blog, Curry explored management consulting, law, and social media management at KPMG,  Shea & Larocque, Dell, respectively. In the midst of all this, he also spent a year abroad in Ecuador and later earned his master’s degree in Strategic Management and Political Advocacy & Leadership from the Harvard Kennedy School.

“Right out of (undergrad) I went to work with KPMG and I did consulting with them, but I really wanted to do something to help change the world” he said. “I wanted to find a way to combine my public sector interests with my private sector competencies. So I went to grad school in Boston for two years and then I wanted to go into politics or maybe even as something else, like social entrepreneurship.”

Curry’s journey then brought him back to Dallas, where he worked for the city before joining the social media and marketing team at Dell.

“I had a rude awakening and realized that (working for the city) wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. At the same time, I was heavily involved in marketing with some of my friends from grad school and some people I met up in Boston,” he said, “I did this project with them for a hip hop campaign and it went very well. Then, an executive over at Dell saw it and said, ‘Looks like you’re pretty good in this marketing and social media stuff. Would you come and work for us and become the global social media manager for Dell Services?’ and I said yes.”

It was during his time at Dell that Curry began working towards living a healthy lifestyle and had the idea for Fit Men Cook. 

“I just fell in love with (Fit Men Cook). Once I started, I realized there are people out there just like me who are tired of the same boring, bland foods,” he said. “I was just learning and cooking and putting stuff together and people just loved it and learned from it and I began to cultivate a community.”

While he enjoyed working at Dell, Curry felt like something was missing after he found his passion for Fit Men Cook. He said he wanted to create real value for individuals, but he was often too far up the corporate chain to see that value in action, so entrepreneurship was especially appealing.

“I want to be able to make a difference. I want to feel that. I think that’s something many people really crave,” he said. “There was something really special about me posting a recipe that I just made and then having literally somebody in Sweden email me an hour later, ‘Hey, just tried this for dinner. It was great– thank you so much!’ Wow. That shows the power and global impact of social media.”

Curry eventually left Dell and turned down a job opportunity at Google to pursue Fit Men Cook full time. Now, Curry’s Instagram boasts 1.5 million followers and his blog has hundreds of recipes for all to enjoy. His advice for budding entrepreneurs is that there is no perfect time to start a business– it always takes a bit of foresight and a leap of faith.

“There’s not really a perfect time to go ahead and start working on stuff you actually love, but there is a wrong time to start, and that’s when you haven’t prepared. As long as you’re planning for it and you make the necessary adjustments to your life, you have to just go for it,” he said. “You’ve got to bet on yourself and your own dopeness and know that you are dope enough to make it work.”

Curry said that Canfield BHP students come out of undergrad equipped to take entrepreneurial and career risks. When choosing between Google, Dell, and Fit Men Cook, he used his mentor’s words and past experiences to make the best decision for himself.

“Here’s the thing, especially if you’re in (Canfield) BHP, you’ve got to know you’re the cream of the crop and that if this doesn’t work out, you can go and do something else,” he said. “Some of the advice my mentor gave me was, ‘You’ll sit your grandkids down on your knees one day and say, ‘Hey, here’s this thing called Fit Men Cook. Here’s how I (gave) it all up.’ or ‘Here’s how I made it.’ Don’t let your passion be the thing that you look back on and wish you could’ve pursued.” 

Student Spotlight: Jada Davis

Jada Davis poses for a professional headshot

Jada Davis

Jada Davis

Class: Junior

Internship: Launch Intern at EY

Topics of Interest: iMPA, Accounting

Houston native, Jada Davis is a junior at UT and Canfield BHP. She is currently in her 3rd year as an iMPA student pursuing her master’s degree in accounting. Jada is a member of the Black Business Student Association and a member of the Master in Professional Accounting Council. Her motivations for becoming part of UT and Canfield BHP centered on Jada’s passion for business, math, and working with numbers. Ultimately, her interactions with upperclassmen at Discover Canfield BHP helped her make the final decision to be part of our program.

Jada’s passion for business and numbers doesn’t end there. Her interest in mentoring and helping her peers along their academic journey developed during her time as a camp counselor at the annual McCombs DYNAMC program. The week-long program features world-renowned faculty and keynote speakers, networking opportunities, a case competition, and much more. It’s made possible thanks to the support provided by fellow partners at EY, formerly known as Ernst and Young. The acronym stands for ‘Discover Yourself iN Accounting Majors and Careers’ and helps introduce students to the opportunities offered with a degree in accounting. Jada recalls when she participated in the program as a high school student.

“I was a part of the program when I was in high school, and I enjoyed being able to return and give back to those students. I remember how much of an impact it had on me in deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated from high school. I gained more exposure to all of the possibilities available.”

Jada and DYNAMC Camp Counselors posing for a picture at the stadium

Jada and DYNAMC Camp Counselors

As a camp counselor, Jada enjoyed advising high school students and answering questions about her first-year college experience as she assisted them with their projects. Her advice to high school students prepping for college is to get used to reading informational texts more.

“When I first got to UT, there was much more reading than I was used to. Even after taking AP and dual credit classes in high school, there was more material that had to be absorbed in a shorter amount of time. Another huge piece of advice is to go to office hours. Every semester, I encourage my friends to go because professors really want to help you succeed and understand the material. Being able to learn the material and see it more than once, in different ways, makes a huge difference.”

Through DYNAMC, Jada cultivated several key relationships as she networked with EY representatives during her time as a camp counselor. Overtime, Jada continued to work on those relationships she made and was eventually presented with internship opportunities with EY. Jada credits the resume building and networking skills she developed at McCombs and Canfield BHP for her early success.

“The classes like BA101H that we took early on had an impact on how I viewed myself professionally, helped me provide recruiters with what they were looking for, and enabled me to add my personal touch on things. There are so many opportunities here at McCombs. The advisors and career coaches at Canfield BHP are super invested in you and have played an influential role in my success.”

As Jada pursues her Masters in Professional Accounting through the McCombs iMPA program, she is preparing herself for an auditing track as her career of choice while maintaining a steady list of internships to develop experience along the way.

Jada and fellow EY Interns posing for a picture

Jada and fellow EY Interns

“Fortunately, this summer I’ll be interning with Phillips 66 to get a taste of what internal accounting roles look like. I’m hoping my experience gives me a little more clarity on how to move forward as far as my career decision so that I’ll be able to decide what I want to do once I get my master’s degree.”

Her advice to current Canfield BHP students, and those following an iMPA path, is to stay focused and learn good study habits early in your college career.

“Once you find what works for you early on, things will get much smoother. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers, academic advisors, professors, or even staff. Canfield BHP does a great job focusing on each student. The way we get to interact with our advisors and professors is awesome. All the resources they’re able to provide to students shows that they care.”

Canfield BHP Alum Cybil Zhang Discusses Her Career in Social Impact

For students who are passionate about social impact, Canfield BHP alum Cybil Zhang is a living example that it’s possible to turn your passion into a career. After graduating from UT in 2014 with degrees in Canfield Business Honors and Supply Chain Management, Cybil has had a host of experiences in her career.

Currently, Cybil works as the Social Impact and Strategy Senior Manager at Bumble, but she didn’t start working at Bumble right after earning her undergraduate degree. In fact, she started her post-UT journey working as a consultant.

“I started at Oliver Wyman and was in management consulting,” she said. “At the time, I think I was one of two people from UT who were hired there because they previously mainly recruited at Ivy League schools.”

Although she started her career in consulting, social impact work had always had a place in Cybil’s heart. Part of the allure of Oliver Wyman was that it provided her the opportunity to pursue a social impact fellowship in Zambia.

“I was interested in social impact and social enterprises, but I didn’t know what I would do with it, so I went into consulting, which is a very common decision,” she said. “But I didn’t want to lose sight of what I wanted to do longterm, so part of the appeal was actually the fact that people would leave consulting frequently. For me, that was a reminder to reassess what I wanted to do every couple of years. Beyond that, Oliver Wyman had a nonprofit fellowship program and I took advantage of that. I ended up going to is Zambia for about four months to do a volunteer consulting gig.”

The social impact fellowship was with TechnoServe, a firm that focuses on applying business solutions to poverty-stricken communities. After working in Zambia, Cybil applied for a grant with a friend and launched a solar light pilot in Southern Africa.

“We were primarily in Botswana and in South Africa for six to eight months,” she said. “That was a totally different kind of experience– much less consulting style on much more of an entrepreneurial journey and I loved it.”

When she came back to the United States, Cybil began looking for a new job and landed a position at Bumble, where she currently works as the Social Impact and Strategy Senior Manager. Cybil says her position is best described as a chief of staff to the Bumble COO. 

“I came back to the U.S. and that’s when I joined Bumble, which was like the perfect mix for me– working for a company that is unapologetically mission-oriented and getting to have a dedicated part of my role focused on building (the social impact side) out was really exciting,” she said. “I help focus our giving so that it is connected to our product, our users, and our brand. (I) also help create longterm partnerships, because we want to be able to use our brand to add value to our partners and we can do so much more than just give dollars.”

While Cybil loves her current job, she had no idea she’d end up in her current position when graduating from UT. Her advice for students who might not know what they want to do in their career is to keep passions closeby. 

“Not knowing (where to go in your career) is common. Even now, if you were to ask me, ‘how do you have a social impact career or what does that look like for you next?’ I honestly don’t know. I just think it’s super important to keep it as a part of your life in some capacity, even if it’s not your full-time job. In the example I had with consulting, I always knew I would do this nonprofit fellowship, and it led me to where I am now” she said. “Don’t forget about what you really care about and or become disconnected from your passion. Keeping it close is so important.”

Professor Spotlight: Jared Murray

As a statistician, Dr. Jared Murray is no stranger to uncertainty. In fact, he teaches STA 371H, which focuses on using probability, statistics, and data science to learn about the world and make decisions in the presence of uncertainty. In today’s climate, in which uncertainty seems to be a major theme, Dr. Murray emphasizes that he and his students must look for solutions, rather than problems, in the classroom and beyond. 

“The biggest thing, given everything that’s going on, is trying to have the attitude that we’re going to look for solutions, not problems, in this new format,” he said. “There are some things that I want to do that are just not going to be possible. There are some sort of modes of instruction that just don’t work anymore.”

For the past three years, Dr. Murray has been an assistant professor in the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management. Prior to teaching at UT, he worked in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University and earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Statistical Science at Duke University.

“One of the things that brought me here was the people’s potential for the collaboration in the (Information, Risk, and Operations Management) group. In fact, there are some folks here that I had already been working with and since I got here, I’ve explored even more collaboration,” he said. “One of the really nice things about UT is that it is enormous. Whatever you’re interested in, you can find it going on here at UT. That’s been a really good experience for me.”

This year, Dr. Murray is teaching three sections of Canfield Business Honors courses. Traditionally, his class is discussion and activity-based, with lots of student collaboration. With classes now online, he has altered his teaching style to fit the needs of his students. 

“It’s so important to try to remain adaptive and flexible and give ourselves and everybody else a break. I’ve really leaned into this model of having videos that students can watch before class and then really dedicating class time to conversation– group work and labs and things like that,” he said. “(Canfield BHP students) all learn really well from each other and it’s a really good way for them to see each other and interact with each other and get a little bit of that social contact that may be limited for a lot of folks right now.”

One challenge in particular that often comes with online classes is attendance, but Dr. Murray has been particularly impressed by his Canfield BHP students. Despite many extenuating circumstances, students have continued to show up and actively participate in his classes.

“There are some folks that I know are in dramatically different time zones or their living situations are difficult. It’s hard to have a lot of siblings at home when everybody is trying to learn online on a limited wifi connection. I’ve got a lot of folks that are way out in the middle of Texas and they’re like driving to places so they can sit next to a cell tower and you can get online,” he said. “It means so much to me that my students are going through all that just so they can get to class. I’ve been really impressed with their resilience.”

Student Spotlight: Jarod Tolbert

Jarod Tolbert posing for a picture
Jarod Tolbert

Class: Junior

Major: Canfield BHP

Topics of Interest: Multinational Corporations, Neurology, Paleontology, Healthcare

 

You’ve heard the phrase, “not all heroes wear capes”. This couldn’t be truer today given the facts on COVID-19. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines defending the rest of us from an invisible enemy and we need them now more than ever. As a top educational institution in the country, we must continue to produce the nurses and doctors that we need to keep the good fight going.

We’re interested to hear from some of our Canfield BHPeers who are gearing themselves up to be the future of our healthcare workforce – our lab coat heroes if you will. We caught up with Canfield BHPeer Jarod Tolbert, whose path in the program will soon lead him to medical school after graduating next May. Although he has many interests in science, his mind is laser-focused on the study of the human nervous system, neurology.

Jarod’s time here at UT and Canfield BHP has been spent prepping him for the moment he’s ready to take the MCAT. During his sophomore year, Jarod began taking pre-med classes that he felt would help him gain further understanding of the topics he’ll need to know eventually. Though, he admits there were times when he felt overwhelmed with classes like Organic Chemistry.

“You felt like you knew what you were doing but then when it came time to take the test, it was just overwhelming. It was manageable though.”

Jarod explained that there is no set path for most people interested in the medical field, but it helps to have friends with the same interests who support you along the way. “I started making pre-med friends, especially older friends and found out what I needed to do to get into medical school. I found out I needed to volunteer, shadow doctors, and work in a lab. Later, I started volunteering at St. David’s Hospital several hours a week during different shifts.”

Jarod explained that his motivation to pursue this path stems from two potentially traumatic experiences that he endured when he was younger. He explained that his little brother had to have several extensive ear surgeries as a child due to being born with a bad eardrum. “I was 7 or 8 and it was tough to see my younger brother in so much pain. It was intense and I felt helpless.” Then, when Jarod was in the eighth grade, he experienced a spinal injury while playing sports in school. Jarod had a herniated disc and another compressed disc on his spine. He was forced to quit sports after doctors explained that further injury could cause him to become paralyzed one day.

“I was a 13-year-old kid and it really scared me, but this also caused me to research a lot and got me interested in neuroscience. It fascinated me. The complexities of the nervous system in our bodies is amazing.”

Although Jarod’s goals are hinged on him becoming a neurologist, he is still on the learning path and understands that it can take him anywhere. He is open to other fields as he learns more about them. “My policy right now is to test different things that I’m interested in. Currently, the nervous system fascinates me but I recently shadowed a head and neck surgeon this past summer at M.D. Anderson who is one of the coolest and most awesome doctors I’ve had the opportunity to work with so I wouldn’t mind being that kind of a doctor either.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic has been top of mind for Jarod. It has heavily influenced his thinking about the type of medical path he wants to take moving forward. Unfortunately, it has also influenced when Jarod can take the MCAT. “I was supposed to the MCAT on April 4 but that got canceled. It’s all up in limbo at this point. I don’t know if I’ll be taking the exam in August either. Chances are I won’t be able to take the MCAT until next fall.”

It’s been a surreal experience for Jarod. “If I’m going to be a doctor one day, I’m going to have to deal with diseases and pandemics like this because the situation will call for every available doctor to help. For a guy that doesn’t like germs at all, it terrifies me. I’ve been very protective of my family. I bought hand-sanitizer in mid-February before everyone thought of doing so. I was ahead of the curve there. But this is an honorable field at the end of the day. These people are putting their lives on the line to help people and that is very inspiring to me.”

When he receives his MD., Jarod’s primary goal as a doctor is to give everything he has to help one person at a time. In general, his passion is to help people.