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From international relations to international operations: Kristopher Klaich, entrepreneur, development specialist, and IWP alumnus

Klaich 1“All my things are still in suitcases,” says Kristopher Klaich, an IWP continuing education alumnus who has recently returned from eight months spent traveling the globe.

Kristopher, who came to IWP for a few classes with Prof. John Tierney shortly after completing his undergraduate work at the University of Rochester, has been doing international consulting work and founded several consulting companies of his own. Kris decided not to pursue a graduate degree at the time, but knew that furthering his education in international relations and history would benefit his career immediately.

Kris first fell in love with international affairs at the University of Rochester, where he majored in history as an undergraduate. “After taking a few classes in their international relations certificate program, I came to DC to get my feet wet,” said Kris.

After a brief stint interning at the Atlantic Council of the US, Kris landed a job at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I got to see the legislative process and hearings, and Senators interacting with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense,” said Kris. Former IWP Professor Mark Lagon, who was working for the Committee at the time, told Kris about the Institute.

While he was spending his days in the Senate, where almost everything seemed partisan, Kris enjoyed coming to Prof. Tierney’s class at IWP. “His teaching wasn’t pushing an ideological point of view, but was a measured point of view based on years of experience. It was a very different take than I’d been used to.” Kris has taken lessons from these classes to his professional life, both on the Hill and in the contracting world.

Klaich 2One contracting project that Kris found particularly fulfilling was the development of a program to train Afghan miners in the use of drilling equipment in the summer of 2013. “It was the first time since the Soviet invasion that Afghan drillers were using Afghan equipment to pull Afghan core out of the ground,” he explained. Kris led a team of mining geologists and engineers to develop a three-month curriculum to train 25-30 Afghans to use this equipment.

Kris commented, “It was cool to see the program happen from start to finish, but sometimes it’s sobering and discouraging to see how far behind the Afghans are. It’s been a couple of generations since they have had these types of capabilities.”

In his first consulting job at a larger company, Kristopher did not get to see the results of his work in such a hands-on way. When overseas work with Deloitte became a possibility for Kris, he jumped at the opportunity. “I had wanted to work outside the country, and this work was much more strategic and high level,” he said. “I could see the results of my work, and things were implemented directly.”

Soon afterwards, Kris co-founded his first consulting company, which focused on helping companies set up operations in places where they had not previously done business or that had particular regional challenges.

“I had a desire to do something on my own and not be bound to a corporate structure,” remembered Kris. “But having your own company requires a lot of self-motivation.”

In this capacity, Kris did some operations and logistics work for the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan. Kris and his colleagues were not bound by government security protocols, and this flexibility allowed them to travel more freely and work more easily with locals to conduct logistics work. When asked if he was ever worried about safety, Kris said, “It’s fine for a few weeks, and then a bomb goes off and you have to go to the safe house, put on your flak jacket and get your rifle.”

Kris recently founded a new company, Innovato LLC, which is more broadly focused on international development and enabling its clients to tackle a variety of complex issues focused on the extractive and health care industries. His next project with Innovato is focused on developing an auditable and accountable prescription based medicine distribution system in Zambia to supply vital drugs to rural clinics and hospitals. The work is planned eventually to encompass an optimization of the entire medicines and provisions supply chain system.

“The immediate goals of this project are to facilitate and allow vital medicines and supplies to reach individuals in need around the country more efficiently and effectively and allow the Zambian government to track and gather important metrics that will allow it to better focus the efforts of international donors,” comments Kris. “Eventually we hope to help our clients become self-sustaining by developing avenues to generate funds so that they will not be dependent on international donors.”