EU Alumni Perspective: James Kutkowski
Name: James Kutkowski
Graduation Year: 1999
Major: Social Sciences & History double-major
Current Position: Director of Training and Development
City and State: Chicago, Illinois
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I am the attorney director of training and development for Deighan Law, LLC, the premier bankruptcy law firm in the country. My role consists of developing and implementing curriculum to be certain that our staff can communicate with clients effectively and compliantly. I also manage a sales team of five and represent firm clients in the Northern District of Indiana and the Middle District of Pennsylvania because we have had to tighten our belts during the pandemic. Safe to say it is never boring.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
This is a tough question because there are so many. There was this event called the Scott Hall 500. Basically, classmates pushed each other in shopping carts and then had to hop out and do physical challenges ranging from push-ups to eating something from the notorious grab bag. There was a girl who lived in my dorm who could talk me into trying anything; I probably wouldn’t have tried anything goofy without her involved (I’m convinced every teenage guy knows at least one girl like this, they are our kryptonite, in a good way). We were doing well and were close to the end of the race when we got to the grab bag. Even though it was her turn to go, there was no way I was making Heather eat anything from that bag. So, I jumped out of the cart, reached into the bag, and pulled out a jar of hot peppers. I have a northeastern palette, which means I don’t do well with spices not named salt, something my W1N dormmates took advantage of when pulling pranks. This time, the choice was mine; there was no one spiking my food with hot sauce or other nasty spices. There was also no way I was wimping out in front of Heather, so I wolfed down the hottest thing I had ever eaten in my life. Heather jumped in the cart and somehow I pushed her across the finish line with my mouth on fire, my eyes tearing up, and my stomach revolting against the hot peppers… then I yakked. During my time at EC, I didn’t get in many photos, but somehow a picture of me hurling made it into the yearbook… thanks for that, yearbook. Even so, every time I look at that picture I remember how fun my sophomore year was.
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
It didn’t. I wish I could say I had a road to Damascus moment at EC, but it didn’t happen. Russians generally keep their feelings tight to the vest, and I am no different. My sister-in-law refers to it as being emotionally constipated, and she is probably right. I was at EC during the greatest evangelical revival in my lifetime and got absolutely nothing out of it. I didn’t actually come to faith until I was 31. I thought I was a Christian, but I didn’t learn until later what it meant to believe and be a fervent follower of Christ (don’t feel bad Professors—it wasn’t your fault, some of us take longer to get it). What Evangel did was give me the tools I needed so that when I finally figured out what I was supposed to be when I grew up, I was ready to roll.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
My speech class gave me the most useful tool for my career. I used what I learned in that class to turn on my Northeast Pennsylvania charm and win over juries, something I couldn’t have done that without the tools I got from speech class. When representing criminal defendants, I remember what I learned in Dr. Gary Liddle and Professor Randy Tate’s class that “All truth is God’s truth, but not all truth is in the Bible.” I’ll add, “It usually isn’t in the prosecutor’s mouth either.”
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
Buckle up. You are entering the work-force at a time where business has changed rapidly. We shunted 30 to 40 years of progress into two because we had to. If you told me that I would be a fully remote employee in January 2020, I would have laughed at you; but since March 2020, I have been fully remote and my firm is not looking back. There are going to be people like me who have been in the work-force for 20+ years now that are still adjusting to the paradigm shift in the business world. The 2022 and beyond business world will likely be the only business world you know. As an aside, in October 2019, one of my training classes was late getting back. It was a beautiful, warm day, and we don’t get many of them in Chicago, even in the summer. I called one of the trainees and as the phone starting ringing, I saw that they were heading back into the office. I heard one of them say, “Oh no, he was born in the 70s, he still uses his mobile phone to make calls.” This is who you will be working for.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
I want to see tenacity. What impresses me most is a transcript that shows constant improvement and challenging oneself. I have reviewed enough transcripts to see where fluff courses were taken to pad grades. In my mind, your IQ is not as important as your I-Can, and a student who has improved his or her grades from their freshman year to graduation already knows that if they want to succeed, they need to want it every day. We are always recruiting sales staff and Evangel graduates are pre-disposed to be great it (I was the top salesman for 2 years), so feel free to reach out to email@example.com if you are interested.